While studying material culture, we (as a class) have observed individually what is important to us. These items spoke to functionality, sentimental value, and entertainment while revealing information about each individual’s personality and personal history. We’ve researched objects that have had historical significance (or lack thereof), and through the project, we each have a personal attachment to our respective items. We’ve read articles that have broadened our perspectives on what material culture is, how to approach material culture, and where it affects our thought process.
In American society, materialism is a layered reflection of individuality, socioeconomic status, and unified belonging. What I mean by this statement is that we collect objects for several reasons. On a personal level, it could be as a hobby, as a business, for a sentimental purpose, or for functionality. There’s another level of materialism that displays to the world that as an individual, you can afford all of the latest technology, nice furniture, a large home, an expensive car, or a certain brand of clothing to show that you are well-off in life (or you’re a pretty great liar). To obtain these possessions adds the third layer of belonging. Exclusion or exclusivity, which is another part of belonging, is important in marketing and branding. We’re unified in excluding the people who don’t have what we have. This way of thinking usually develops into an ideology that produces a community, allowing the consumers to be consumed.
Take the iPhone, for example. You either own some version of an iPhone, or you’re weird, poor, or not tech-savvy. (Yes, Android users are weird in this instance.) Everyone has an iPhone. The cooler and the newer your iPhone, the better. Those who don’t have one aren’t a part of normal society. Once you’ve bought into the Apple brand, you’re a part of its community, however loosely your connection may be. The marketing of the Apple brand has been fantastic enough for us to buy into this idea. This example is an exaggeration of my point, but the connection can be made.
Of course, necessity does drive our desire for inclusion in society. In order to thrive in life, humans need relationships and connections with other human beings. Even if it’s just an agree-to-disagree relationship, we crave attention in this way. To belong to someone(s) is a comforting feeling, and who doesn’t love comfort? So, at the root of wanting all the things is the needing of all the love. Maybe if we showed love a little more, then the things would not be so prominent. But until we figure this out as a society, we’ll just keep buying into some idea until there are no more ideas. Or there’s a rebellion, whichever comes first.