May 1, 2018

Consumerism Is the Original Virtue Signaling

Our real values can be signaled only by our actions, not our things.

There’s a lot of talk about so-called “virtue signaling” these days. However, public expressions to demonstrate good character aren’t new: we’ve been virtue signaling with our sparkly new objects for decades.

Or perhaps value signaling is more accurate.

By showing off our fancy new toys, we think we’re communicating our values to the world, but we’re confusing our valuables with our values.

Our real values can be signaled only by our actions, not our things. And yet we continue to amass new bits and pieces, adorning an empty facade with regalia, hoping to impress anyone who sees it.

Emblem-laden handbags.
Nineteen-inch chrome rims.
Stainless-steel timepieces.

Consumerism encourages us to commodify our own identities. If we really want to dazzle others, though, we won’t do so via our possessions. Not in a meaningful way, at least.

So instead of trying to impress everyone with our valuables, let’s focus on impressing upon the world our values. And the best way to do that—make something meaningful.

Start a business.
Create a blog.
Write a book.
Record a song.
Build something tangible.

Creating is a better way to convey who we are. Flaunting our personal property signals that we care only about ourselves. But when our identities are shaped by creativity, our creations can be an honest way to signal to the world that we care about others, too.

“Here, I made this meal for you,” will always be more powerful than, “Watch me eat this in front of you.”

Published by The Minimalists in Lifestyle

Photography by Taylor Grote

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