The growth of social networks indicates a fundamental shift in patterns of human behavior. The unsustainable practice of ever-increasing consumption of physical goods, and expressing oneself through what one purchases and displays, is being replaced by increasing consumption of virtual goods through virtual channels. This is good news for the sustainability of our economy.
Thorstein Veblen, in his groundbreaking work The Theory of the Leisure Class, published in 1899, posited that humans use displays of wealth to broadcast status to society. . .
Throughout the last century conspicuous consumption meant buying cars, boats, larger houses, jewelry, art, and meals in restaurants. Keeping up with the Joneses required a lot of energy—and produced a lot of carbon and waste. More and bigger became our mantras. The average size of the American home leapt from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,080 in 1990, increasing roughly 20 percent per decade. The number of cars per U.S. family saw a similar 14 percent growth rate per decade over the same period. . .
This shift from material goods to self-expression and social capital is heartening, but the real story is not in the coffee shops in California, but in villages in India and small towns in China that are just beginning to get online. Jared Diamond notes that Easter Island’s fatal fad for giant stone effigies—one well-known example of conspicuous materialism—didn’t travel well at all. But the newest form of conspicuousness is instantly transferable across geographies and cultures, and is spreading much faster than consumerism did. . .
Read on at Good.is