We have a society intent on replacing experiences with objects. We are under constant pressure to buy more stuff, to sit in ever bigger houses on ever bigger piles of things we mostly do not use. The average car is used for about thirty minutes a day, I gather, but we should all aspire to own one so that for the other 23 hours and thirty minutes it can sit there, taking up space and expressing our identity. Adverts tell us that objects are shortcuts to the things we want – the right object brings friendship, respect, love, sex, a happy home and a well behaved family. With the right object, we can do anything. Have you bought in to that?
So we cut back on experiences. We don’t go out as much. We rely on computers for both entertainment and social contact. Sedentary lifestyles make us bodily ill, but that’s ok because we can buy things to help us with that. Slimming products. Flattering clothes. A bigger sofa. I take online surveys, and I notice that I am frequently asked which products I’ve been discussing with friends and family in recent days. This is also an aspect of objects replacing experiences. We are now expected to talk about brands, because what else is there in your life?
When a society is experiential, you can have a rich culture that reflects on those experiences. A culture coming from experience helps us make sense of our experiences, gives them context, and offers us ways of sharing them. Experience is richer for being explored culturally. Books, music, art, film, dance, even television reflecting on life lived and the possibilities surrounding us, helps us get more out of life and is a source of experience in its own right.
What happens when you have a society that is all about objects, not experiences? How do you make culture out of a discussion around the latest app, the make of your car, the exact shape of your mobile phone contract? You can’t make anything rich and rewarding out of such thin and empty material. Culture based on a life of objects is going to be no culture at all. Plot free movies full of CGI effects, explosions, pathetic dialogue and 2d characters. Endless ‘reality’ TV shows full of freak show takes on life because so many people don’t have much of a real life anymore and thus find this interesting. Endless talent shows that give you the illusion of being important by letting you vote for the winner. News outlets that feel no obligation to report truthfully, and ignore half of what’s going on. Books commissioned by the marketing department.
This is what we get when objects replace experience.
It is absolutely essential that we stop being this ever-hungry, always consuming zombie apocalypse, and start living our own lives again.