The case of Me versus Stuff (excerpt)

In 1982 Fiji, TV did not exist. I played outside. I read Enid Blyton. I didn’t read the newspaper. And I can’t bring to mind any specific billboards of that time, even though I’m sure there were a few in the city, where I did not live.

Today, at forty-four years of age living in the era of affluenza and having a disposable income, advertisers know my attention is priceless. Yet, they get it on the cheap. This is despite my creating an anti-advertising bubble to cushion me: In 2014, I deleted my Facebook account. In 2017, my Twitter account. While I have Instagram, I do not use it. And I rarely watch commercial TV.

The ads for stuff don’t just infiltrate this bubble—they gush in. Into my inbox, even when I didn’t sign up for the next celebrity’s latest self-help book because I am something to be fixed. On my phone, when I receive a text promoting a sale of 15% off TVs all day today (and today only!). On trams, trains, buses, buildings, freeways…

The humble bus shelter does not escape from being turned into a billboard either. When I walk my dogs, I pass one that tells me I can “drive away in a Polo Urban for only $16,990.” (Do I need a new car? After all my current one is nine years old, although it is running smoothly. Hmmm…) The posters on this shelter change weekly. It does not allow me the grace to become immune.

Even if I could construct an impenetrable bubble, it’d be pointless. The Internet and its cookies would see to that.

These cookies know—and remember with unfailing memory—what I desire (printed yoga leggings!). And they flaunt my desires by dangling carrots in front of me, whether I’m reading an online article, watching a video on YouTube, or searching on Google.

And if the Internet tempts with its cookies, then it decidedly seduces with its availability. I can now stare at the blue light on my ever-ready smartphone and make decisions to buy yoga leggings whenever I want.

The perfect time to do just that is before I flop into bed, after a long day’s hard work, cooking dinner, washing dishes, and watching an episode or two of my favourite show on Netflix. I should feel elated when I hit the buy button, but I find myself getting into bed not only with my husband, but also with guilt and a larger credit card debt.


This is an excerpt of an article that was shortlisted for the New Philosopher Writers’ Award XVII – Stuff. An edited version of the full article is published on Tiny Buddha. Read the full article.

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