Author Topic: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?  (Read 9785 times)

lifejoy

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When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« on: April 22, 2014, 12:00:19 AM »
We have some deep thinkers in this community, and I love knowing your thoughts.

If a person buys things that are visible commodities, does self-gratification actually equal a desire for external gratification? And when does a desire for external gratification stem from insecurity, vs. simply enjoying the fact that others appreciate what you have?

In plain English: how to tell if people want to keep up with the Joneses, or they just independently like the things they like?

I am finding it difficult to articulate this query, but perhaps you'll know where I'm going with this and fill in the blanks for me :)

dragoncar

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2014, 12:56:07 AM »
Well, when I look back at the conspicuous purchases I have made in the past, I have enjoyed them to some extent for their own sake.  But I also notice that I sometimes regret those purchases because they didn't result in any/much/enough external gratification (e.g. a few people say "ooh nice car" but not that many, and I don't get much satisfaction from the compliments).  In that respect, going forward, I will try to be hyper-aware of the minimal value of those kinds of gratification. 

gooki

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2014, 01:06:16 AM »
The biggest giveaway is when they make "excuses" for the purchase.

frugalmom

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2014, 01:12:29 AM »
The biggest giveaway is when they make "excuses" for the purchase.

agreed.

Also when every element of lifestyle must be kept at a high level.

When one has a focus of spending, I find it more likely that actual pleasure is being derived from the purchases. 

roboto

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2014, 03:56:16 AM »
In plain English: how to tell if people want to keep up with the Joneses, or they just independently like the things they like?

Keeping up with the Joneses examples (that I can think of):
  • Buying because friends said you HAVE to buy this, especially if the friend also wants/own the thing in question (could be during shopping trips or just water cooler talk)
  • Already have an iPhone 5, but first in line to queue up for the iPhone 5s
  • Clothes have to match the purse, which have to match the shoes, and don't forget the watch!

Independent liking:
  • Audiophiles
  • Basically every other hobbyist that splurges or buys a bunch of stuff in one specific category

Rural

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2014, 05:48:02 AM »

If a person buys things that are visible commodities,


My emphasis added above. If the items in question are visible commodities, 99% of the time you have your answer. It's showing off, and that's related to insecurity.


People who like the things they like tend to ... um ... like the things they like, not what everyone else likes, so their expensive items tend not to be the "hot," visible items. There's some room for the popular things to be liked independently, but not much room, and if the person seems to like every popular thing, it's not independent liking. That's why my WAG percentage of 99% insecurity above. Leaves some room for independently liking some popular things, but not every person, and not all of the things.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2014, 05:50:04 AM by Rural »

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2014, 05:54:56 AM »
Independent liking:
  • Audiophiles
  • Basically every other hobbyist that splurges or buys a bunch of stuff in one specific category

Although I've seen lots of conspicuous consumption in audiophilia and other specific hobbies (e.g., computers, gaming, instruments) too; the conspicuity is simply online through forums rather than in person. For example, in the headphone arena, lots of folks on Head-fi have the same three or four headphones not because they sound the best, but because everyone else does, and it's a way of fitting in or standing out, depending on the person's desires. Ditto with, say, MacForums, where people are constantly talking about upgrading to the newest gear not because they need them, but simply because they want to feel included  while impressing their e-neighbors. Same show, different venue.

Rural

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2014, 05:59:45 AM »
Independent liking:
  • Audiophiles
  • Basically every other hobbyist that splurges or buys a bunch of stuff in one specific category

Although I've seen lots of conspicuous consumption in audiophilia and other specific hobbies (e.g., computers, gaming, instruments) too; the conspicuity is simply online through forums rather than in person. For example, in the headphone arena, lots of folks on Head-fi have the same three or four headphones not because they sound the best, but because everyone else does, and it's a way of fitting in or standing out, depending on the person's desires. Ditto with, say, MacForums, where people are constantly talking about upgrading to the newest gear not because they need them, but simply because they want to feel included  while impressing their e-neighbors. Same show, different venue.


+1

Thegoblinchief

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2014, 06:49:54 AM »
Unless they are a family member who might ask you for money later on, why does the motivation behind consumption matter?

Make your circle of concern match your circle of control and have a happier day :)

A mom

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2014, 07:04:08 AM »
Unless they are a family member who might ask you for money later on, why does the motivation behind consumption matter?

Make your circle of concern match your circle of control and have a happier day :)

Well I think it matters because it can increase your compassion towards those whose consumption seems excessive if you sense that it is coming out of deep insecurity. At least I know I am more likely to feel more kindly disposed towards overconsumers if I think of the matter in this way.

roboto

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2014, 07:46:11 AM »
Independent liking:
  • Audiophiles
  • Basically every other hobbyist that splurges or buys a bunch of stuff in one specific category

Although I've seen lots of conspicuous consumption in audiophilia and other specific hobbies (e.g., computers, gaming, instruments) too; the conspicuity is simply online through forums rather than in person. For example, in the headphone arena, lots of folks on Head-fi have the same three or four headphones not because they sound the best, but because everyone else does, and it's a way of fitting in or standing out, depending on the person's desires. Ditto with, say, MacForums, where people are constantly talking about upgrading to the newest gear not because they need them, but simply because they want to feel included  while impressing their e-neighbors. Same show, different venue.

great POV on the flip side of the coin. it's definitely not cut and dried. there are always black sheeps in the family :P

in every aspect of life there will always be people trying to fit in. even alternatives like being a hipster has become mainstream. maybe it stems from the innate human desire to be loved? I shall not hijack the thread any further!

Clover

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2014, 08:11:54 AM »
And when does a desire for external gratification stem from insecurity, vs. simply enjoying the fact that others appreciate what you have?

I think these two things are directly related.  Some people enjoy shopping as a form of retail therapy.  It provides a temporary escape or high.  There's the "I deserve this" moment  (insecurity), then when others notice and appreciate the purchase the behavior is validated and the cycle begins again.

iris lily

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2014, 08:44:30 AM »
Stuff is definitely a status marker aiding ideas of self-worth in many cases.

Hanging onto stuff because the stuff defines a social place is just as sad as going into debt in the first place to gather the stuff. People your age are acquiring the stuff. People my age are being squeezed out of their houses  by the over-accumulated stuff. 

I remember years ago a friend of mine saying "I don't keep books because books have to be displayed."  hunh? Books are, in my life,  things to be used.  I  think she is right on for not accumulating books. I don't either with a major exception (that's what the library is for)  but to think of them as status markers showing how intellectual/refined/knowledgeable/whatever I am, that's not cool.

I often do an exercise, sit in a room in my house and think about which things I would really drag along if I moved. I ask myself: Is my attachment practical? (the sewing machine) or emotional? (my father's dresser) or aesthetic? (nothing in this room.) So out of this room I'd bring the sewing machine, a handy little portable that is indestructible. I'd bring a trunk that is full of memorabilia, and that's pretty much all I allow myself for "memories." The rest of it could be jettisoned.

zurich78

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2014, 09:12:44 AM »
Well, I really think it all boils down to living within or even below your means and accepting that.  And that's going to result in varying levels of "conspicuous consumption" to different people.  For instance, if you're a multi-millionaire, I think it is perfectly acceptable to buy a $30,000 car.

I guess I'm saying that I don't think we all need to be riding a bike to work to be mustachian.


RyanAtTanagra

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2014, 11:55:14 AM »
This is a good question but it can be hard to tell externally the reasons for people to do what they do.

Currently we don't own a car and use zipcar when needed.  A few months ago we had some family visiting and we needed a car for a day trip.  Usually I just get the cheapest option, but since we were going to be in the car all day and we had guests I grabbed an Audi G5 (only like a $20 difference for the whole day).  That car was awesome.  I loved everything about it, how it rode, how it drove, the layout of all the controls.  Even the dog liked that car more than the ones we usually get.  I have a lot of financial goals to meet before I could justify buying a car that expensive (if ever), and when we inevitably have to buy another car I'm hoping to keep the cost under $6k, but I could definitely see myself doing it.  If I did though, it would have nothing to do with external validation, but from someone else's perspective there would be no way to tell that.

Consumption level vs what they can afford could be an indicator, but not always.  Some people just buy what they want regardless of if they should.  Doesn't necessarily have to do with others.

The whole picture could give you an idea as well.  If I bought an expensive car, but lived in a modest house, rarely ate out, gardened, still used my bike as primary transportation, all other things mustachian, etc, it would be easier to surmise that I just like having a nice car and am not trying to impress others.

bwall

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2014, 12:53:45 PM »
As of yet, no one has defined conspicuous consumption actually is, or at least the OP should say what it means to her. I think that would go a long way to answering the question.

Jamesqf

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2014, 12:57:53 PM »
Unless they are a family member who might ask you for money later on, why does the motivation behind consumption matter?

Because there are all sorts of benefits to understanding humans and their motivations.  I may not (lucky me!) have to deal with someone who's consumption-motivated today, but who knows what tomorrow may bring...

lifejoy

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2014, 01:50:44 PM »
As of yet, no one has defined conspicuous consumption actually is, or at least the OP should say what it means to her. I think that would go a long way to answering the question.

Hmm to me it means stuff you buy that other people can see... But perhaps someone else could define it better?

DSA

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2014, 01:59:38 PM »
As of yet, no one has defined conspicuous consumption actually is, or at least the OP should say what it means to her. I think that would go a long way to answering the question.

Hmm to me it means stuff you buy that other people can see... But perhaps someone else could define it better?

Yeah -- along those lines, I think it's a helpful heuristic to imagine: "Let's imagine that you could buy this thing you want to buy, but you would not be allowed to show it to anyone, and no one would be allowed to know of your ownership of it. Does that make it more or less likely that you'll buy it?"

MrsPete

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2014, 02:02:05 PM »
Looking at the people around me, I don't think insecurity is a top reason for conspicuous consumption; rather, I think the biggest reason is simply a failure to stop and plan one's purchases, a failure to make informed, thoughtful choices.  I'd say most people spend impulsively -- until the money's gone.  A part of that may be buying what other people have, but I still think most of that is just thinking, "Oh, Bob has this -- it's nice!  I want it too."  Not necessarily feeling insecure that Bob owns something that I don't.

warfreak2

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2014, 02:17:10 PM »
Yeah -- along those lines, I think it's a helpful heuristic to imagine: "Let's imagine that you could buy this thing you want to buy, but you would not be allowed to show it to anyone, and no one would be allowed to know of your ownership of it. Does that make it more or less likely that you'll buy it?"
That means boardgames are right out!

lifejoy

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2014, 03:36:08 PM »
As of yet, no one has defined conspicuous consumption actually is, or at least the OP should say what it means to her. I think that would go a long way to answering the question.

Hmm to me it means stuff you buy that other people can see... But perhaps someone else could define it better?

Yeah -- along those lines, I think it's a helpful heuristic to imagine: "Let's imagine that you could buy this thing you want to buy, but you would not be allowed to show it to anyone, and no one would be allowed to know of your ownership of it. Does that make it more or less likely that you'll buy it?"

That is fantastic! I'm going to use that line of thinking when I'm shopping.

chesebert

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #22 on: April 22, 2014, 06:49:33 PM »
Independent liking:
  • Audiophiles
  • Basically every other hobbyist that splurges or buys a bunch of stuff in one specific category

Although I've seen lots of conspicuous consumption in audiophilia and other specific hobbies (e.g., computers, gaming, instruments) too; the conspicuity is simply online through forums rather than in person. For example, in the headphone arena, lots of folks on Head-fi have the same three or four headphones not because they sound the best, but because everyone else does, and it's a way of fitting in or standing out, depending on the person's desires. Ditto with, say, MacForums, where people are constantly talking about upgrading to the newest gear not because they need them, but simply because they want to feel included  while impressing their e-neighbors. Same show, different venue.
I have to disagree with you on your Head-Fi assessment. It is not surprising that many people end up with the same few high-end headphones after a while. The fact is that the market for $1k+ headphone is simply too small for most headphone makers. Also, just because a headphone costs $1k+ doesn't mean it sounds any good. As a result of the limited supply/availability of high-end headphones, it is not surprising that most people seeking high-end headphones end up with the same few models.

I am sure there are people on Head-Fi that are e-impressing others, but I think by and large most are still seeking quality audio reproduction.

You should feel free to attend local meets - a great way to meet new friends and listen to some stunning gear.


MrsPete

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #23 on: April 24, 2014, 10:48:55 AM »
Yeah -- along those lines, I think it's a helpful heuristic to imagine: "Let's imagine that you could buy this thing you want to buy, but you would not be allowed to show it to anyone, and no one would be allowed to know of your ownership of it. Does that make it more or less likely that you'll buy it?"
That is a great idea.  Let me think . . . if I couldn't show my purchases to anyone

- I'd still be driving my same car.
- I'd still be planning the same house we're going to start building in the relatively near future.
- I'd still own the outfit I'm wearing right now. 

I can't think of anything I do "to show off".  There's probably something, but it doesn't come to mind right now.

tmac

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #24 on: April 24, 2014, 12:19:30 PM »
Interesting exercise. I can think of a couple of friends who could make use of it to gain a little self-awareness. They definitely over-consume because they're insecure. Every time they buy anything -- vacations, clothes, shoes, cars -- the first act is to post it on Facebook. If it's not posted, people can't admire it, so it didn't happen.

The last purchase I posted about on Facebook was a $2 Goodwill t-shirt with my favorite beer logo on it.

For myself, the only thing I can think of is my graduate degree. Total luxury item. I don't use it professionally, and its primary function in my life at the moment is to show people, "Look how successful I am! I have a brain!" I seem to use it to counteract people's negative opinions of me based on my frugality (small house, old car, basic clothes, etc.). "I look and behave this way on purpose, not because I can't afford to do otherwise." Interesting insight.

soccerluvof4

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #25 on: April 24, 2014, 01:11:54 PM »
"Let's imagine that you could buy this thing you want to buy, but you would not be allowed to show it to anyone, and no one would be allowed to know of your ownership of it. Does that make it more or less likely that you'll buy it?"



Bravo!



dragoncar

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #26 on: April 24, 2014, 01:33:59 PM »
"Let's imagine that you could buy this thing you want to buy, but you would not be allowed to show it to anyone, and no one would be allowed to know of your ownership of it. Does that make it more or less likely that you'll buy it?"



Bravo!

So my dildo collection is totally mustachian?

warfreak2

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #27 on: April 24, 2014, 01:57:46 PM »
So my dildo collection is totally mustachian?
Well, it isn't now that you bragged about it!

Katnina

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #28 on: April 24, 2014, 02:02:54 PM »
This article has been mentioned on the forums before, but it is quite fascinating and may answer some of your questions about conspicuous consumption & the messages 'designer' labels send:
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/why-do-poor-people-waste-money-on-luxury-goods

onehappypanda

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #29 on: April 24, 2014, 03:36:26 PM »
Others have brought up really great points. Just one thought to muddy the waters:

We assume that the motivation to impress others is external, and we compare it to internal motivation (liking what you like because you like it). But what if the motivation to impress others is based on the internal need to connect with people? Humans do seem to have an innate need to connect with others, some choose to do so through the purchasing of unnecessary things. In that sense, people are still fulfilling an internal motivation in a sense, or at least they're attempting to fulfill it.

As we get older, I think some of us get better at choosing company that shares the values we want to have. Many of us enjoy this board precisely because it allows us to connect with others who share "non-mainstream" values regarding money. Similarly, those who enjoy buying things outside of the mainstream (hobbyists, etc.) often connect with others who have the same interests. The social motivation here seems similar, we just go about fulfilling it in different ways.

I don't think this necessarily conflicts with what else has been said, but I often think that those who spend unnecessarily for social reasons may be similar in their motivation to those of us who come on this board to talk about *not* spending, and the real difference may be the social norms of the company we keep.

pipercat

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #30 on: April 24, 2014, 08:48:30 PM »
To weigh in on the original question, I think it would be really hard to know other people's motivations with certainty.  Even if you ask the person, you may or may not get the full reason.  I'm curious why it matters.  If you think it would affect how you treat the person, I guess I get that.  So maybe just treat the person with kindness and empathy either way.

iris lily

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #31 on: April 27, 2014, 10:13:28 AM »
One of my friends has called us "reverse snobs" because we don't have cable tv or smart phones or all sorts of stuff. When we buy cars, we pay cahs and buy low end, simple ones. We don't show off in the usual way but he catches me bragging about some things such as what I scored at Goodwill. He is our friend and he knows us! haha.

Gerard

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Re: When does conspicuous consumption relate to insecurity?
« Reply #32 on: April 27, 2014, 01:03:15 PM »
I'm not sure how to determine this when dealing with other people's purchases (or why I'd want to), but I've recently realized it about myself, to some degree. My travel choices (even when low-key and low-budget) have been influenced by being able to tell other people about them, especially if I figured out a clever way to go somewhere "fancy" on the cheap ("Yeah, I got to that conference in South Carolina via Istanbul!"). I need to address this, I think.