This year I saw Christmas decorations before even Halloween and Black Friday setup at Walmart early Thanksgiving with signs saying not to touch until 6 pm. A few friends went out to shop at midnight and found out most places were closed, the whole thing happened on Thanksgiving evening without much notice. We’re already two months into the Christmas selling season and there’s not much of the usual excitement in the air.
This might just be 2016. It’s been widely acknowledged that this year has been sub-par. The length probably also plays a factor. Being excited about the Christmas season is harder when it’s three or four months long. Being excited about Black Friday is harder when it’s over a week long. I make the point now and then that scarcity increases our feeling of value in other domains, but it comes into play here, too.
I think in addition, though, there’s a dying excitement in consumerism. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not a big fan of consumerism. But I do appreciate nice things like excitement, even if they emerge from something less nice. Should buying unnecessary things be the focus of our celebration? No. The excitement is still nice. Hearing about the door-buster mega-blowout super-sale and seeing people excited about a cool new thing is nice. And I do still see it in some domains. Long-awaited movies and games that come out can get people excited. (In fact, pretty much all of my examples are cultural things. Books, TV shows, etc. also come to mind.) 4K TVs are making less of a splash than 3D which made less of a splash than HD. I don’t think they’re less cool, either. (I can’t see 3D, so maybe I’m wrong, but that sounds like a huge thing. If I had to choose between seeing more clearly and seeing in 3D, I’d pick 3D.) But the attitude has shifted from “Hey, come check out our awesome stuff!!” to “Buy our crap and get out.”
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