On the first day of class, first-time college student Chris unloaded colored-coded folders, pens and bookcovers from a brand new schoolbag in style keeping with the present fashion. Her stylishly casual jeans and trendy quotation-bearing T-shirt made her feel completely in…
room, 10 appeared as if they might reach “right” status at some point in the future, with a little more money, a little more luck and a lot more social skills, but the final five were hopeless cases wearing decades-old fashions and carrying tattered old schoolbags in yesterday’s cuts. Chris determined this information through the use of a highly-honed ability to observe and mentally evaluate the sum total of the articles and clothing possessed by the people around her. Through this assessment (which includes not only the material price of each item, but it’s acceptability within the “now” trends) Chris was able to determine whether each classmate was of the “right” crowd or, if not, to what degree they were lacking. Like many people within a consumer society, Chris was creating her identity, and her impressions of the identities of those around her, on a purely material basis. Consumers today live what may only be termed “constructed lives” as they buy into the concept that consumption itself is a creative process.
Students such as Chris use materialistic cues such as style of dress, individual possessions and the ability to keep up with the ever-changing market trends to help them identify others sharing a similar desire to obtain something called the “right” life. “We want our lives to match our vision of the good life, itself largely a product of the media. We want to have the right clothes, the right car, the right house, the right job, the right spouse, the right children, even the right toothpaste” (Gabler, 1998). Because certain items have come to symbolize individual levels attained in the search for the “perfect” life, consumers strive to attain the material goods to create an appearance of living the ‘right’ life rather than focusing on creativity independent of worldly possessions. This means of establishing an identity by comparing your possessions with the possessions of others whom you perceive to be living ...
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