Materialism in the Non-Material World

How many customers have you served at your café on Facebook, and how many friends have gifted you fertilizer or plants on FarmVille? The growing movement of social activity in the virtual world includes a great deal of very real economic activity, report researchers at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology.

While many futurists believe that the growth of virtual worlds would encourage movement away from consumption, materialism is apparently trumping nonmaterialism. As people spend more time online socializing, they are also spending real money, such as making micropurchases of heart or balloon icons to favor their friends, family, or celebrity idols.

The reason is simple: Humans behave as humans whether it is in the corporeal world or online, notes infotech researcher Vili Lehdonvirta. What we buy proclaims our identity and denotes our status, and we want to have status online just as we do in real life.

The advantage that consumption may have in the nonmaterial world is that it permits economic activity with reduced environmental impacts, says Lehdonvirta.

SOURCE: Helsinki Institute for Information Technology