Materialism and Loneliness: A Dangerous Shopping Cycle
In a new article published in the Journal of Consumer Research, professor Rik Pieters explains why shopping can make us lonely and why, once lonely, we turn to shopping to relieve our anti-social symptoms.
In a new article published in the Journal of Consumer Research, professor Rik Pieters explains why shopping can make us lonely and why, once lonely, we turn to shopping to relieve our anti-social symptoms. First, a definition of materialism: “Economists have suggested there are actually three flavors of materialism: ‘acquisition centrality, possession-defined success, and acquisition as the source of happiness.'” According to Pieters, the two latter kinds of materialism are the worst because they were associated with increases in loneliness over time.
What’s the Big Idea?
Surprisingly, the first kind of materialism, i.e. shopaholics who relieve symptoms of stress by buying something at a local shopping mall, actually relieved symptoms of loneliness over time, perhaps because shoppers bought goods for the purpose of social gatherings. “What does that actually mean for lonely shoppers? Understand that when you buy a shoe, you’re not buying that one missing slice of happiness. … You are buying…a shoe. You like shoes? Go buy shoes. It might even make you happier. But a shoe is just a shoe. There is a kind of intellectual honesty to the purest brand of materialism.”
Science, along with evolutionary theory, may soothe the human soul in ways similar to religion by promoting a vision of the universe that is not random and chaotic but rather orderly and deterministic.