Research published in 2011 in the journal, Human Communication Research, found that television programs that show social affluence had a significant effect on the viewer’s own material values and their life satisfaction. Other research has found that heavy viewers of television believe that there is greater prevalence of luxury product ownership, a higher level of income occupations such as doctors and lawyers, and higher levels of social affluence in general. My hope is that they’re not all watching Gossip Girls (look it up, it’s pretty trashy). Materialism, and even seeing others living in a material world, despite Madonna’s protestations, is not good for life satisfaction.
Many studies have concluded that experiences are the best path to happiness, as opposed to the acquisition of stuff. Experiences are more likely to be shared in a social context, provide great memories to be drawn upon, and allow people to develop internal narratives that reinforce their individual and social identity.
But research by Jia Wei Zhang and his colleagues found that materialistic people did not necessarily achieve greater happiness from using their money to buy experiences. It seems that materialistic people don’t achieve much happiness whether they are buying experiences or material objects. Zhang et al use the phrase, “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” to sum up the conundrum facing materialistic people.
Perhaps the only solution is to stop materialistic people from being materialistic, but that would undoubtedly require a fair bit of therapy, which would cost money, be an experience, and not lead to a positive outcome. Or would it?
* May not apply to all people