As I’ve wasted countless hours on social networking sites, television, and once had a pretty crummy diet (apparently), I got to thinking about our consumption habits and the relationship to the products we’re supposedly consuming.

Supersized!

Our health is being devoured by the consequences of our diet.  We eat overly-processed food high in fat, artificial flavoring, and lord-knows-what-else, which have resulted in epidemics of obesity, diabetes, high blood-pressure, and cholesterol.  More health problems also drive up our overall health care costs which, unless you have amazing insurance, eat away at one’s pay checks or savings to pay for deductibles and other non-covered costs.

Our economy is also being destroyed in part by our need for manufactured goods which are no longer made in the USA due to outsourcing (to keep profits from consumerism high).  Without manufacturing to balance our export/import ratio, we fall further behind economically by sending money to other countries but bringing less and less in from foreign buyers.

Financially, we’re chronically in debt.  Credit card debt (to fund our consumerism) devours our livelihood through high interest rates or even the inability to pay at all.  As wealth inequality has grown over the past several decades, we willfully took advantage of easy credit to participate in an illusion of prosperity.

The financial sector’s greed for more and more money led to shakier and seedier investment deals that ultimately threw us into a full-blow recession that ate $12 TRILLION of taxpayers’ wealth.  (Were the financiers held accountable? Hell no—many were even rewarded! But I digress…)

Further, school loan debt now exceeds credit card debt in the U.S. and was acquired in pursuing an education because every employer wants a college degree (despite falling standards in the U.S. educational system).

Information is a bit more complicated in some ways.  There’s a lot more information accessible in the digital age, so much in fact, that we seek ways to limit our exposure to avoid being overwhelmed by it all (or allow our search engines to limit it for us—without our consent).  We still surf the Web and spend many hours on social networking sites, texting, and other virtual activities.  This can come at the expense of actual interaction with real human beings; my favorite example is when I witnessed the family of four out to dinner all clacking away on their portable media devices rather than talking with each other (I wonder if they were texting each other?).  We expect instantaneous communication in all things thanks to the digital revolution, and this erodes our understanding of how real-life interaction works.

Our attention spans seem to have been cut down to a Tweet or less—anything longer seems interminable for some.  It’s even affecting how we watch movies; I was at a documentary recently about the financial collapse, and many in the audience (a more “experienced” generation) thought it was too long (at only 120 minutes to describe a complicated series of events stretching over 30 years).

We seem to want our information summarized (the sound-bite phenomenon), and this seems to come at the expense of ability to critically analyze those statements for validity, logic, or even rationality.

I’m not some naysayer of consumerism in an absolute sense; I just think we need a dose of moderation in how we go about it and perhaps put some thought into the long-term consequences of our actions.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to expanding my virtual manor that I can’t afford in real life.

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