We live in a consumerist environment. Consumerism depends highly on this assumption: If only you had________, you would have the life you desire. That shiny new car will make you better looking, happier, and more successful. More products will give you more time, which you can fill by purchasing more products. And to clinch the sale, the commercial reminds us that everybody else already has one.
Former President Thabo Mbeki in his Nelson Mandela lectures says:
“the meaning of freedom has come to be defined not by the seemingly ethereal and therefore intangible gift of liberty, but by the designer labels on the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the spaciousness of our houses and our yards, their geographic location, the company we keep, and what we do as part of that company.”
We have become a culture of “everyone else has it.” Marketing and the media has done a great job of convincing us to know what everybody else is (supposedly) buying, how people are (supposedly) behaving, and what expectations others (supposedly) have for us.
Having more friends is equated with more fun, even more value. In a democratic society, more popular means more power, we used to call it networking now we call it Social Capital. The more and more people you know is the ticket to success.
The emphasis has shifted from quality to visibility, from good products to good marketing, from knowing to being known. There is no time, we need to get out there, be seen and be known.
No wonder we are constantly restless and always in panic mode, because we are constantly moving from one gadget, one TV series, from social media platform, one reality show to another, from thing to another and another. We are never really settled.
This “more” mode convinces us that solitude and reflection are too costly to risk. The train to “success” is in motion and if you want to succeed you need to jump in, be out there, flood the internet with you message, pop up on everyone’s screen, reach the people.
In a great little book titled Purple Cow, marketing expert Seth Godin argues that more advertising is no longer better, that people no longer see or hear the flood of messages coming their way. Instead of mass marketing a product, he advocates creating a remarkable product, a purple cow, that sells because it is not a part of of the more. His wisdom rings true for anyone who is sick of seeing penis enlargement spam on his computer screen.
I strongly believe we need a different kind of “more.” A more that comes with solitude.
For an introvert especially, movement away from the group allows access to a more independent, questioning, and honest voice, a voice that could make all the difference.