An interesting way to learn about the causes and likely developments of a range of social problems which have started to mark our lives, and which might become ever more pressing in the near future is to keep on track with the work of trend forecasters.
Trend forecaster James Wallman recently published a book about a social problem set to reach epic proportions – stuffocation. The term is used to refer a state of over-abundance, where we stop thinking of “having more” as a positive thing, to start perceiving it as something which can make our lives worse, bringing us more stress, anxiety and hassle. Generally, stuffocation is the reason why innovators like Wallman believe we’ve had enough of stuff, and that now is the right moment to start dedicating to finding and constructing happier alternatives.
In fact, some of these alternatives for the future are already here, and with social networking becoming more and more pervasive, we may find alternatives will start to quickly jump into the mainstream. Nevertheless, speed should not mean that alternative models like collaborative consumption and experientialism should be taken for temporary fads. Instead, they should be perceived as components of a long-term transformation. After all, the materialistic model which has lead us to the problems of over-abundance and stuffocation has taken most of the 20th century to catch on. To speak of a search for happier alternatives is to speak of long term cultural change.
Recent studies show that rates of individualistic consumption in Western economies have started falling since the early 2000’s, and in many societies the decline of materialistic models has already started, giving way to the pursuit of status, happiness and meaning through sharing experiences and resources.
Connecting all this to our news patterns of communication, it appears that in the 21st century, status and wellbeing will be increasingly drawn from what we do and from how we connect than from what we own. And what’s more? We might even find that many of the positive experiences we can get will often cost us next to nothing – like getting to know our local communities, starting up a conversation with our next door neighbours, helping each other out, cooperating and engaging in social learning, thus making our own cultures more distinctive in positive ways. We can gain identity through a simple collaborative effort to avoid the effects of stuffocation.
Inspiring enough? Why not try out the three simple steps Wallman suggests?
1 – Destuffocate!
2 – Don’t restuffocate.
3 – Take the amount of money you’d normally spend to purchase material goods and invest it in experiences and connecting with those around you. You’ll probably feel happier, have more interesting stories to tell, and find your daily life can have more meaning than you’d think.