Author: Katelyn Shiring, Goucher College ____________________________________________________________________________________
The Huffington Post calls Black Friday the, “Animal Instinct of Consumerism.” The Holiday season brings a whole month of various compulsive traditions: overeating, overbuying, and overindulging. This culture of extreme indulgence has grown to be associated with the holiday season as much as other traditions such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and saying Grace before the meal. Black Friday shopping in and of itself is actually quite barbaric; waking up at ungodly hours of the morning to rush to the nearest department store, trampling over other shoppers to snag the last flat screen TV, and becoming obsessed with locating the last Elmo doll. The Black Friday stampedes, although humorous to watch from the comfort of one’s own home, exposes a greater problem in America’s culture of consumerism.
Although most of the purchases made during this insane ritual of holiday shopping are for loved ones as gifts, it is important to remember that not all are made in the spirit of giving. Studies have shown that excess materialism takes a toll on one’s daily life and well-being. The holiday season creates an infectious desire and need for things, and promotes an unhealthy attachment to material objects and the meaning they bring rather than the meaning truly associated with the holiday season. Some call Black Friday the worst example of extreme American consumerism, a tradition that taints the true meaning of the holiday season. The question of why Americans are so obsessed with material objects has been chalked up to our lack of personal connection with other humans and our social deficits regarding feeling un-loved. Therefore, we feel we have to replace those non-existent human connections with inanimate (and expensive) objects. Another psychological reason for this over-consumerism is the need to control and predict object’s actions and behaviors, which is impossible to do with real humans.
We are falling in love with possessions, and the passion we feel for our beloved cars and gadgets is encouraging a sense of material wealth that is detrimental to the true meaning and spirit of the holidays. In 2013, total sales for Black Friday and Thanksgiving as released by CNN Money was 12.3 billion dollars. There has also been an annual spending increase of about 2.3%.
The gluttonous attitude of America has moved far past the healthy consumerism associated with capitalism and has morphed into a disturbing out of control, market driven object fetishism. This even puts some responsibility on those who scoff at the Black Friday extreme shoppers; are we any better, watching the mobs of shoppers on our flat screen televisions? There comes a time where we must ask ourselves; are we insane?