Material Culture

How dominating is material culture in our contemporary world? Material culture can be defined as the physical objects, resources, and spaces that people use to shape their culture and define it. All of these physical objects of a society determine the behavior and the perceptions of the individuals in it. The value of certain physical aspects may vary greatly among different places in every corner of the world. However, with our increasingly global and interdependent world, cultures around the world are becoming very much alike, and so is material nation. Over the course of history, material culture has worked as complementary aspects of a culture, such as tools and technology. The problem arises when material culture dominates the individuals, and the culture becomes dependent of the physical aspects.

Increasing developments in technology is one of the principal factors of the increasing dependency in the material aspects of our culture. Teenagers nowadays –millennials- influence more greatly the creation of their own materialistic culture. These millenials are the ones who teach their parents to use a computer, or the ones that innovate their house with new technology in it, but why are teenagers in the need to “innovate” their houses by making their parents buy more and more things with better updates? What makes children have that desire of always wanting the latest iPhone or 3D television? Teenagers nowadays have been creating this identity with technology that is getting more and more remarked among their generation and being characterized by it. Materialism has become something common, but it still doesn’t mean that it’s correct. Materialism is separating social relationships between friends, families and in general social communications in daily basis. For example, say in a family, even toddlers have become dependent of technology. The well-known toy company, Fisher Price, recently created a toy for children in which an iPad fits the toy and makes it an easy entertainment. The problem is that instead of children developing their abilities with physical objects and games that are the ones that kids should supposedly play with, they are now playing with iPads since their earlier stages.

Principally, the materialistic culture of current young adults is based on technology. Technology advances as you are reading this; in fact, it progresses so speedily that it gives humans more commodities than they need. This is one of the reasons why this generation is referred as the lazy one. It originates from the baby-boom generation, and that is why teenagers are now given everything they want way too easily; because of the care their parents have shown them. As technological commodities have become easier to obtain because of the great amount and diversity there is, other areas have become more challenging because of the tools existing now that help solving problems. Previously, there was not as much competition as there is today, but in the present, teenagers have to compete with each other in order to win a spot professionally, socially, among others.  The X-Y generation is a generation defined by technology, especially the one easy to operate, like smartphones, computers, tablets, mp3’s, etc.

These popular gadgets contain numerous applications that use the Internet as their engine. Most of these applications are social ones, in which people post their lifes publicly. These websites vary, some post pictures, others opinions, ideas, drawings, art, music, videos, products to sell, etc.  It has become something extremely normal and trendy to believe others have interest in knowing how you are spending your time, regardless if you are studying, sitting in the traffic, eating, etc. Times have changed, the mystery in wondering about others lifes has become extinct. Now, ultimately the material culture of the x-y generation is based on technology, which is used for communication. Communication has revolutionized in the past few years, reinventing to fit this generation’s expectations.

Over the last few decades the dependency on material culture is increasing drastically. People place more importance on their material property, rather than placing happiness and values on top priority. As our material culture becomes more important among each new generation, the definition of happiness in life has managed to change and fit the materialistic and consumerist society we live in now. The ideal of a happy life has changed. As of today the idea of happiness is based on how much material property an individual possess. Skim a magazine, and you’ll see that happy families are those who have achieved a top place into the highest socio-economic classes; a happy family is portrayed as the one where there is a happy married couple, with a certain amount of children, the land rover parked in the garage, and a Labrador with a dangling bell on its neck running around the courtyard. But is this the only way of being happy? Consumerism and propaganda has implanted into the young minds of our world that this is the objective, to be successful, get a Labrador and a fancy SUV. However, I bet there are millions of other ways of being happy. For example, take my carpenters life. He is very well educated, he could have studied whatever he wanted, but he decided to be a carpenter nevertheless. He now lives humbly in a house he built on his own; he has two children and a happy wife, and owns one bicycle. He says he doesn’t need nothing more, he is happy with what he lives, his children are happy, and they get to spend the whole day with their parent. This is a happy life as well, Daniel doesn’t need all the material possessions in the world, he is happy with what he has and that will never change in him. Daniel is an example of an alternative way of happiness, but today no one dreams with living on a wooden house, building wooden accessories, and owning a bicycle.

As you can see, the contemporary culture we live in is placing possessions over happiness whatsoever; individuals believe that having the most expensive assets will make them happier. This causes a materialistic and consumerist society. The material culture has defined our society and as the world develops the coming generations are more dependent on their material culture.



BY: Sebastián Flores, Camila Haldemann, Juan Ignacio Pazmiño



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