Diderot Effect and Why We Like to Keep Upgrading Our Stuff

Have you ever experienced the feeling after buying a new pair of shoes that you suddenly urge to buy a new shirt or new pants to go with it? Or after buying a new TV set, you felt your TV table, and the curtains seem suddenly too old, so you wanted to buy something new?

If yes, then you already experienced Diderot Effect.

Diderot Effect is when buying a new item will lead to buying more new items to match the latest ones. This effect is critical to understand if you want to curb overconsumption and avoid spending money on things you don’t need.

Diderot Effect and Overconsumption

The Diderot effect is dangerous because it can be one of the reasons why more people are falling into the trap of overconsumption and even debt. 

Think of online shopping apps like Lazada and Shopee. They always offer a wide variety of stuff to choose from. When you buy something new, your mind may think that the other things you own are old or worn out, which will lead to buying more newer stuff and going on and on. This can be an endless cycle that is evident to many people.

We need to understand that our possessions should not be tied to our self-worth.

Overcoming Diderot Effect

Overcoming Diderot Effect is mainly behavioral. It does not need the most brilliant minds but the willingness and desire for legitimate change. Here are the things that I use:

Acknowledge this tendency. The first thing you need to do to overcome the Diderot effect is to acknowledge that it exists and can affect you. Knowing is the first action that you need to do. There are times when we think that we are “too smart” to fall into the trap.

Reduce social media consumption. The Internet is filled with crazy ads that tell you that you need newer and better stuff to replace your current items. Opt-out of Facebook groups that show you the next “Budol” item so that you will not be influenced to buy.

Follow a One In, One Out Policy. My practice regarding my possessions, such as clothes, is only to buy a new one if there is something it will replace. So one of my pants is worn out and is no longer presentable, I will buy a new one, but I also have to dispose of the old one. This way, my closet size will not explode.

Function over fashion. I believe that the items that I bring into my life must have a specific role and should not be bought entirely for their aesthetics. Sure, we can buy a few cute and beautiful items, but it should only be a few.

Practice gratitude. In a world that wants to have more than what is needed, having a grateful heart can change our perspective. Once we realize that we have more than enough, our perception of our possessions may also change.

Final Thought

Diderot Effect is only a symptom of a more significant societal issue. We buy things that we don’t need to supplement or replace those we already have because someone on social media says it is a “must-have.”

We need to understand that our possessions don’t completely reveal who we are. In fact, they may even become a facade of who we want other people to perceive we are.

You must remember to love people and use things rather than to love things and use people.

Fulton J. Sheen

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