It is in our nature to persevere in living the life we know, often insensitive for new treasures appearing on the horizon. Throughout history sudden uproars or unorthodox thinkers were needed to open the eyes of the conservative masses. In general a society chooses for homogeneity, often failing to see new opportunities waiting to sustain businesses and a positive lifestyle.
In the current global uncertain situation, we should open up for the magic a new era can bring, without fear to say goodbye to a dysfunctional past. Already scientific and technological developments have brought a pioneer spirit among us and have changed our lives. We may have taken for granted that laptops, smart phones and tablets a.o. gave us the possibility to work everywhere, but are we realizing that digital camera’s, 3D printing and online retail make it possible to produce, advertise and sell goods for a low cost price – for personal use – but especially for small businesses?
Are we at the point of leaving the term “consumers” behind us, becoming “utilizers” of products and services? Technological developments carry the possibility to transform us from followers of fashion, led by designers and marketers into creators, producers and users of our own products and services. One might think the term “prosumer” would come in here, introduced by Alvin Toffler in 1980 in his book “The Third Wave”. Partly it does, but prosumer still mainly holds the act of selling new stuff within its definition. Although it has different meanings, “consuming” is always in it, be it pro(fessional)sumer or pro(ducer)sumer.
In today’s world with multi-options, yet also of multi-problems a simple merge of supplier & buyer is not sufficient: we need cooperations and innovation we can depend on. The act of solely making money, selling new stuff is not up to the mark to deal with an ever growing secondhand market, swapping & re-use or the fact that we have to start taking environmental and health related issues serious (…and I mean really serious).
It may sound very old fashioned, but in this respect the concept of guardianship comes in, we can’t continue claiming there is no end to growth on a globe with limited resources. There is a chance to continue growing, but we’ll first have to invest in more than expanding in financial means. Without investing in global education giving every world citizen the chance to understand the consequences of dumping indissoluble waste in the environment, without restoring a balance in power relations dominated by fortune rather than reason, without seeing the analogy of well-being and prosperity, there is no chance to establish a society that can provide our children and grandchildren a sustainable and reliable future.
Since the beginning of the global financial crisis, things have changed at a rapid speed. When we are forced to reflect on our past actions, one tends to focus more on “what really counts” in life: family & friends, good food, health, tranquility and piece of mind … We start to become individuals in the good sense of the word, releasing “individualism” from it’s negative connotation that was linked to turn-off-the-century hedonism.
The last decades we had to fit a picture with the necessary spending that came along. Therefore mass production was needed to make dreams come true! Companies like Ikea, Zara or H&M gave us the possibility to live like a king and look like a movie star for a budget within reach of many. Let’s put it mildly, change is in the air: when you’re fashionable today, you look like yourself and not like some singer or actress.
From an economical point of view, there is a growing group of young people, known as the Millenials (approximately born between 1980 en 2000), starting to become the most interesting group in society to follow and to base future scenario’s on. Where the baby-boomers were focused on creating a better life than their parents had, mostly expressed in material wealth, the Millenials are less attached to matter, yet challenged by experience and well-being. Not to say that they are not interested in cool sneakers, a funky coat or an Ipad, they simply don’t care wether it is new, secondhand, borrowed or rented. In other words, they definitely consume, yet along contemporary guidelines: from expensive and new to cheap and secondhand.
This detached mindset and flexible way of living is partly directed by the crisis: when there are no jobs in Barcelona … let’s move to Amsterdam, and in case buying a house is out of the question, opting for a “nomadic” life definitely has it’s charm. Most of all, their multi-focus on life is a result of their upbringing, raised in an environment with all the possibilities to be educated to the max and let’s not forget they are the first generation growing up with computers since birth.
One could say that Millenials in their twenties are showing us the blueprint of a society where consumers also have the option to become utilizers of products and services, rather than consumers alone.
In the past, experience would lead to stability. Being young in today’s world could be the condition to empower a positive attitude needed to see endless, infinite options. How to be guardians of a future with a multiple view on growth, leading political and economical decision making processes.
I strongly believe that an amazing generation is growing up, leading us to an economy where people will be more and more self-supporting, relying less on large organizations and institutions, following their own individual path of life instead of one dictated or dominated by the media, marketers or money. On top of that by replacing the concept of “consuming” by “utilizing”, conservative economists and politicians will start seeing that on Ebay business is booming, apartment swap is cool, not pitiful and that a pleasant society where every citizen on the globe can live a decent life is to be preferred to shareholders profit for just the happy few.
This article is also published in the “Infinity” issue of Second Sight