We live in a materialistic society. Take a trip to your local shopping center, watch television for a few minutes, or check out a magazine stand at a corner convenience store, and this fact will become quite evident. Our society places significance on what you own—not who you are. This reality prevails in most areas of our social fabric, but it is, without a doubt, most apparent in the mainstream media. The culture of materialism conspicuously presents itself on television shows, in magazines, in movies, and especially, in music videos. The influence of the mainstream media reverberates most with young people, who are generally more impressionable than persons of any other demographic group are. It is, therefore, conceivable that the media informs the values of many of our youth today.
Recent research suggests that young people of today are much more materialistic than their counterparts of the past were. All too common, among black youth, there is a palpable materialistic obsession the roots of which anyone can trace back to a popular music video—be it a new designer label or a new blackberry phone. Among many young people, the sense of self-worth is contingent on their possession of the aforementioned material objects. Such is the extent of influence that the media often has on young minds. It is very easy for a young person to become impressed by the constant exposure to the glorification of material belongings.
The mainstream media is incessant in its parade of materialistic conceits. Young people are constantly being told that they need to have those designer jeans or that new must-have cell phone model in order to gain the respect of their peers. Whether it is a music video or a reality show, the materialistic culture prevails. It is, then, little wonder that many of them tend to view the world through a materialistic paradigm.
Many problems may arise and often do when young people embrace this culture of materialism. Lacking the means to acquire the much-valued material things, some individuals develop low self-esteem. This is particularly true of those of younger age. Research indicates that there is a direct correlation between low self-esteem and materialism: as self-esteem decreases, materialism increases. Additionally, there are those who, also lacking the means to acquire the desired material belongings, turn to illegal activities to procure the funds to satisfy their unhealthy materialistic tendencies. The unhealthy desire for material possessions and the illicit activities it inspires has landed an exorbitant number of black youth in prisons both in Canada and in America.
These possibilities are just two of the potential negative effects of materialism. In order to instill positive values in their children, parents have to be cognizant of the negative influences that pervade our society—especially media influence. When they learn to understand the extent to which the mainstream media bombards the youth with enticements, parents will be better able to help them stave off the constant pressures they face on a daily basis. No doubt, given the state of our society today, it is a formidable challenge; but it is a challenge we cannot fail to meet. Our youth need to learn to value persons, not possessions.