Compare and Despair: Social Perceptions

Compare and despair is where we compare ourselves to others, mainly to our peers; then find out we have some kind of fault and that we are some how less than our peers. We go into a cycle of depression ( This can happen any day, at school, work, or even at a social gathering. I wanted to find out why we, as individuals compare ourselves with our peers, knowing that it may lead to our own destruction. I believe that there are several reasons why this phenomena happens. I will explain each of them later. First, we live in a world of materialism and consumerism fueled by advertisements telling us to consume the latest things on the market. Second, we value the Darwinistic idea of ‘survival of the fittest’. The social food chain is very much on my mind. Lastly, we are in love with fame and fortune; the thought of money means everything to us. All of these reasons are interrelated.

We live in a world of material goods and the more new things we have implies we have status. We want status because we want fame and fortune. That means that we want to compete with others to see who comes on top of the social food chain. Who ever has the most expensive things make us feel on top of the world.  How many times have we seen the phrase ‘NEW and Improved car’ and descriptions such as, ‘a class leading fuel economy and more room than before’ in stock? In order to understand compare and despair, we must understand people’s love for dichotomies- new vs. old, beauty vs. ugly. The companies who made the products we buy capitalized on this knowledge to engineer phrases to exploit our feelings because they know people prefer new things versus old things and beauty vs. ugliness. Those who have old, obsolete or near obsolete goods are inferior.

This is even furthered by our own sense of identity; we are so aware of our social status in society. Anne Norton, a researcher on consumerism explained it best, we want to know “what the garment means” (Norton 105). Because we become aware of what our clothes we wear, and what society thinks of us, we tend to feel inferior to society if we don’t match up. For example, we have a preconceived notion that Polo Ralph Lauren is associated with the upper class ($$$) and status. If our friends have R. Lauren shirts and we don’t then we would feel inferior and depressed because we prize our image very much. In other words we are becoming more of a materialistic society and thus we experience enormous social pressure to come out on top, making us feeling less than others if we don’t.



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