Impacts of Instant Gratification and Consumerism Essay Example

  • Category: Psychology, Theories,
  • Pages: 8
  • Words: 2049
  • Published: 13 April 2021
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Glancing around their house, an individual views the following: a large television, a model kitchen, impeccable tile and carpet, and beautiful bedrooms and bathrooms; still, this person continually wishes for more than they presently possess. Today, many individuals believe that material objects that were once considered to be luxuries, such as televisions and cell phones, are necessities (Mayell). This has caused the market for consumerism to increase greatly. Likewise, with increased access to technology and immediate access to information through the internet, individuals can obtain unlimited information whenever they desire it.

This constant stream of digital information can cause humans to gradually become less and less patient when facing events in everyday life. This is because instant gratification builds an individual’s need for immediate satisfaction, and causes them to become angry or frustrated when they are not instantly appeased (Conti). A parallel can be made between this concept and one present in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, Brave New World. As Huxley warned in his novel, consumerism and instant gratification are indeed principal socioeconomic issues present in today's society; enabling issues including negative impacts on an individual’s mental health, a negative impact on the environment, and a detrimental impact on an individual’s overall happiness.

Instant Gratification

Instant gratification can be extremely detrimental to an individual, as it can cause them to forget the satisfaction that comes from having patience. For instance, the fact that instant gratification decreases a person’s potential for patience is salient: "With the world at our fingertips, it’s hard to learn patience when everything is an instantaneous fix. If we become ill, suddenly search engines are filled with a possible diagnosis" (The Duke Perspective). With the ability to almost instantaneously obtain knowledge from multiple sources on basically any topic, humans are often driven to access information online rather than socialize. This fact has an extreme impact on human interaction, as individuals’ need for relationships with other humans declines. People can receive and even instantaneously consume products that are marketed online.

They can also be instantly gratified through online entertainment, and through social media portals. The forewarning of what is to come when dealing with instant gratification is present in Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World. In this novel, one of the main characters, Bernard, attempts to stand up to the societal norm of succumbing to the temptation of instant gratification: Lenina was still sobbing. “‘Too awful,’ she kept repeating, and all Bernard’s consolations were in vain. ‘Too awful! That blood!’ She shuddered. ‘Oh, I wish I had my soma’” (Huxley 78). Lenina does not understand that immediately giving in to the government’s suggestions can have negative consequences; but Bernard does, and he is trying to resist this calling. Bernard wants to stand against the standards set in his society, even when doing so causes him to appear to be an outlier in society.

Whenever they feel a strong emotion, citizens in Brave New World have been conditioned to take soma, a calming drug, and allow all of their emotions to fade into contentment. This is a poignant example of instant gratification, and proves that although desire for instant gratification is strong, it sometimes comes at the price of being able to experience deeper emotions. Interestingly, various studies have been done that have proven that people are more likely to make better long-term decisions rather than short-term ones when they are tempted by instant gratification: "If you offer them a choice between $10 today and $11 tomorrow, they usually choose the smaller amount. If the choice is between $10 a year from now and $11 a year and a day from now, most people choose $11” (Harvard Health Publishing).

This statistic illustrates that people are better at making long-term beneficial decisions rather than decisions in which they are tempted into wanting instant gratification. This is likely due to the fact that they see smaller instantaneous rewards as more beneficial than a slightly larger reward which they must wait for. This is detrimental as it may cause a person to be unable to wait; therefore, causing them to never be able to reach their fullest potential. Overall, there are many examples of instant gratification that can be found in today’s society; however, these many have negative consequences and should be avoided to the best of a person’s ability.

Impacts of InNegative stant Gratification

Instant gratification can have extremely negative impacts on an individual’s overall health and well-being. For instance, when people are overwhelmed or unhappy, they often turn to material outlets as a way of relieving their stress and obtain instant gratification or what they perceive as relief. These outlets may include drugs, alcohol, or other unsafe behaviors. Like in Brave New World, many people in today’s world become easily upset if things do not go their way. Instead of having the patience and the mental stability to realize that obstacles are merely part of life, people turn to other sources for instant gratification (The Duke Perspective).

As the want for instant gratification grows, people who are not immediately rewarded for their actions and who do not receive what they feel they deserve, become upset. This may cause them to turn towards harmful coping mechanisms that generally have only temporary benefits. These mechanisms can turn into addictions and can have a very negative impact on an individual's life. Consequently, in Brave New World, when Bernard decided to give into his temptations and sleep with Lenina, he states, “‘Oh, [spending time with you (Lenina) was] the greatest fun,’ he answered, but in a voice so mournful, with an expression so profoundly miserable, that Lenina felt all her triumph suddenly evaporate. Perhaps he had found her too plump, after all” (Huxley 64). Although Bernard enjoyed giving in to his deepest desires, he was still able to see the negative impacts that this had on his life and warned the reader of these detriments. His views allowed him to see the benefits of withstanding the temptations that instant gratification provides while holding out for something more valuable.

Additionally, instant gratification is known to cause addictive and impatient behavior. In one study done on this topic, scientist Walter Mischel set up an experiment known as the "Marshmallow Test," which was conducted with children. Researchers told the children that they could either receive a cookie and marshmallow at that moment, or they could wait for the researcher to return after a certain amount of time, and they would then receive two marshmallows or cookies. It was proven that children who chose wait earned higher SAT scores later in life, that they were less likely to have behavioral problems, and that they were more likely to succeed in school. Likewise, researchers learned that the children who successfully waited were likely considering the "cool" (intellectual) aspects of the situation while children who were not able to wait were likely considering the "hot" (emotional) aspects of the situation (Conti).

Even as children, humans begin to develop their attitudes towards instant gratification; these continue to impact them for the entire duration of their lives. If a child is unable to see value in waiting to accomplish large goals, then they may struggle later in life. This is an extremely negative impact of instant gratification, because a lack of patience can lead to various adult struggles such as anxiety and depression. So, it is very important that individuals, especially children, understand that, although instant gratification is tempting, it is better to hold out for something that in the long run will be more beneficial.

Consumerism

Increased consumerism can have an extreme impact on the environment and contributes to the depletion of natural resources. For example, in her article "As Consumerism Spreads, Earth Suffers, Study Says," Hillary Mayell references a quote by Gary Gardner, a director of research for Worldwatch. He states: "The report [on the impacts of consumerism on the environment] addresses the devastating toll on the Earth's water supplies, natural resources, and ecosystems exacted by a plethora of disposable cameras, plastic garbage bags, and other cheaply made goods with built in product-obsolescence, and cheaply made manufactured goods that lead to a "throw away" mentality" (Mayell).

The “throw-away mentality” allows people to believe that it is okay to pollute the environment, as long as they can obtain what they desire. This mentality is seemingly selfish and contributes greatly to pollution around the world. In the long term, this can cause people to be unable to see the value in preserving resources for future generations. This same theme is present in Brave New World. For instance, when John speaks of his life on the reservation, he states, “When he tore his clothes, Linda did not know how to mend them. In the Other Place, she told him, people threw away clothes with holes in them and got new ones” (Huxley 87). In Brave New World, the theme of consumerism is very strong as the government requires consumerism to thrive.

Due to this, they require their citizens to continually consume and produce waste, not caring that they are causing irreparable damage to the environment. On the savage reservation, natives value the environment, so they scorn John for continually needing new clothes. One real-world example of these impacts can be seen when considering consumerism in China. It was stated that, “China provides a snapshot of changing realities. For years, the streets of China's major cities were characterized by a virtual sea of people on bicycles, and 25 years ago there were barely any private cars in China. By 2000, 5 million cars moved people and goods; the number is expected to reach 24 million by the end of next year" (Mayell).

Over the past 25 years, consumerism has greatly increased due to the rise of advanced technology. In this instance, the increased number of cars in China has greatly impacted their environment. Currently, China is very polluted; as consumerism increases, it will likely continue to become more polluted. With an increased demand for cars, there is also an increased demand for the natural resources necessary to produce a functional and safe car. Eventually, these resources may become scarce due to increased consumerism. In summary, although it is very tempting for individuals to purchase new products whenever they desire them, this increase in consumption is not worth the negative impacts that it has on the environment.

Opposing views claim that consumerism and instant gratification allow people to be happier because they can access information and purchase products without having to wait and become frustrated. One cannot deny the fact that it may seem as if instant gratification and the ability to constantly consume more products would allow a person to be happier. However, research has proven that people who succumb to the temptations of consumerism and instant gratification are not necessarily happier, or more successful than those who do not; in fact, consumers often experience mental issues due to this gratification.

For instance, it has been found that "the increase in prosperity is not making humans happier or healthier, according to several studies” (Mayell). Additionally, “findings from a survey of life satisfaction in more than 65 countries indicate that income and happiness tend to track well until about $13,000 of annual income per person (in 1995 dollars). After that, additional income appears to produce only modest increments in self-reported happiness" (Mayell). Although it may seem as if instant gratification may make people happier, research shows that this is largely untrue.

This is likely because people who succumb to instant gratification are unable to feel true satisfaction for their actions since they may not have to work very hard to achieve their goals. This may also be because these people are never satisfied with what they have and instead are constantly wishing for more and more. The continual need for more and more can even have an extreme impact on an individual’s mental health. It has even been proven that humans who are bombarded with constant information may resort to escapism techniques which may be extremely detrimental to their health; even causing a person to develop mental disorders such as anxiety and depression (The Duke Perspective). Therefore, although it may seem that instant gratification would make individuals happier, it has been proven that this is not so, and that increased consumerism and instant gratification can instead lead to mental issues.

Overall, as Huxley warned in his novel, Brave New World, consumerism and instant gratification are principal socioeconomic issues present in today's society; enabling issues including a negative impact on an individual’s mental health, a negative impact on the environment, and an increase in risky behaviors. Instant gratification can cause both mental and physical determinants to an individual. Consumerism pollutes the environment and causes people to continually want more, even when they have everything that they need. Additionally, instant gratification does not cause individuals to become happier; instead, it may cause them to develop mental health issues. In closing, humans must attempt to be aware of the impact that their increased consumerism and need for instant gratification have; not only for themselves, but for others around them, and the Earth as a whole.

Works Cited

Conti, Regina. “Delay of Gratification.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/science/delay-of-gratification.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Deferring Gratification: The Battle in the Brain.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Deferring_gratification_The_battle_in_the_brain.

Mayell, Hillary. “As Consumerism Spreads, Earth Suffers, Study Says.” Earth Suffers as Consumerism Spreads, 26 July 2018, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2004/01/consumerism-earth-suffers/.

The Duke Perspective. “Instant Gratification Causes a Society Stricken with Addictive Personalities.” The Duke Perspective, 17 Sept. 2018, sites.duke.edu/perspective/2018/09/17/instant-gratification-causes-a-society-stricken-with-addictive-personalities/.