Materialism In America

December 8, 2011
By Molly Pappert BRONZE, Auburn, New York
Molly Pappert BRONZE, Auburn, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Americans today seem to be more and more interested in spending money on the next big thing. Objects like iPads, iPhones, brand name clothes, Coach purses, Blackberry’s, Kindles, and the newest video games. Does this not give the impression to foreigners that American’s are self absorbed and greedy? Because of this, I agree with Robert Kohls and his claim that America is, indeed, an extremely materialistic society today (Values Americans Live By).

Materialism can prove to be both unhealthy for the individual as well as to the society itself. In fact, materialism is what causes other countries to view America as selfish. In an online post it is stated “People do things because of benefit, Americans do too. In the World War One, American corporations sold goods to both sides to earn as much as possible. Near the end of the war, President Wilson and the American government jumped in the Allies side when seeing the Allies would win” (Why People Hate America). This is just one major historical event that could sway foreign opinion of America and Americans as a whole. It represents the opinion that Americans are solely concerned with making a profit and coming out on top, it also makes any contradiction extremely difficult to argue. It’s events similar to this that encourage such a highly negative outsider perspective.

Also, there have been multiple studies preformed that show that Americans buy more goods when have feelings of low self esteem or unhappiness. People try to compensate for their unhappiness with the instant gratification of purchasing themselves new items. (Crown Financial Ministries). They oftentimes spend money they don’t even have on things they don’t really need, which in the long run causes more problems than it fixes (Vanessa Bush). However, I do relate and understand that fitting in tends to become the top priority for most people. That the clothes that you wear, the phone you carry, and the video games that you play define where you stand in society. Teenagers especially struggle with this and fall victim to materialism because of it. Due to the constant judging in the school hallways and on social-networking websites, children in their teens tend to have a decrease in their self esteem leading to more compulsive buying habits. Hence, an increase in materialism during these ages. This is why we, as individuals, we should think twice before making a rude comment based on what another person owns, because it can start that person out on a slippery slope that can soon avalanche in their adult life.

Also, the enormous amount of advertising done between infomercials, gigantic colorful posters, movie trailers, and online ads doesn’t help to stop the problem very much either. In fact, it’s these things that are influencing Americans to become compulsive buyers and training us even at a young age to become consumers. In fact many times you can find colorful posters or ads at a young child’s eye level giving them the opportunity to become familiar with the product and give them the desire to ask for it. In a Wikipedia article the author describes an advertisment change on billboards, it is stated “ the tobacco settlement of 1999, all cigarette billboards were replaced with anti-smoking messages. In a parody of the Marlboro Man, some billboards depicted cowboys riding on ranches with slogans like "I miss my lung, Bob.” (Wikipedia). Events similar to this occurred due to studies showing that there was a correlation between children smoking and the amount and way that tobacco was depicted to the public through advertising. The simple truth of the matter is, anyone who was born and raised in the United States was probably highly influenced to buy or ask for certain products due to the heavy influence set on children these days.

In fact, children demand the newest things so persistantly that their families oftentimes will stand in line for hours at a time to purchase them things for Christmas. Take Black Friday for example. Thanksgiving is meant to be a day to gather with loved ones and appreciate the things that we are all blessed with, and yet many parents will leave their family dinner together to stand in line to make sure that they get the newest Playstation for their children or even for themselves. This is yet another example of how Americans have difficulty spending just one day appreciating what they already have.

Another problem that materialism brings about is a lack of spirituality as a whole. When is the last time you heard a young child say that their favorite part of Christmas was celebrating the birth of Jesus? In fact, many children wouldn’t be able to tell you why we celebrate the holiday that is Christmas every year in the first place. These days the focus of such holidays is not religion. The attention is oftentimes completely focused on buying and selling expensive items. It’s all about the big green tree and the gifts underneath it today. It almost makes you think that Americans can’t appreciate things that they already have because all they can focus on are the things they want, and the things they have yet to buy. We are exposed to so much new technology every year that a new video game system is the norm and anything less expensive and new is a disappointment.

All in all, I believe that we have taken materialism to the extreme in America today and until we begin to make some changes it will only become progressively worse. Who wants to be seen as the most selfish and greedy people in the world? Something needs to change in the business world before we are seen this way. America was founded on the belief that if you worked hard you had the right to become wealthy and have the things that you truly wanted, that we had the rot the pursuit of happiness in this country. Not to just buy extremely expensive things just simply because we desired it even when we couldn’t afford it.

Works Cited

“Article: Marterialism vs. Self Esteem.” Crown Financial Ministries 14 Nov. 2011: n. pag. Google Search. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <>.

Bush, Vanessa. “Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy.” Rev. of Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy, by James Roberts. The Booklist 1 Nov. 2011: 6. ProQuest Online. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <>.

Committee on Communtications. “Children, Adolescents, and Advertising.” From the American Academy of Pediatrics. From the American Academy of Pediatrics, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. <>.

Tabacco Advertising. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. <>.

“Values Americans Live By.” Values Americans Live By: n. pag. proquest online. Web. 4 Dec. 2011. <>.

Why People Hate America: n. pag. Google. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>. The next reason people hate America because Americans are the most self serving and greedy. People do thing because of benefit, Americans do too.

The author's comments:
This essay is about how materialism in America is ever growing and can have very negative effects on society. Also it explains how this is the main reason that foreigners find Americans to be greedy and self absorbed.

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