I grew up without a television. Mostly because of the live-aboard lifestyle but also because my parents thought it was a bad influence. As much as it made me a social outlier, in the long run I am glad they did. But looking from the outside of American society is very strange. The things many people value as "needs" generally seem foreign to me. I missed out on the acculturation of consumerism.
Two of the most striking trends I have noticed, I have dubbed "disposable purchases" and "pointless consumption". Disposable purchases relates to the decline of quality of goods available for purchase and the mentality of throwing away an item after some arbitrary useful life. Pointless consumption is more about impulse buying or making purchases; less on some specific identified need and then researching if a product exists to fill that need, and more on finding purposes for items purchased.
Disposable purchasing is one of the worst problems we face as a society in my opinion. Often the products we buy generate more waste in the manufacturing process than the weight of the item itself. Settling for a lesser quality item that cannot either be repaired if it loses functionality or has a predetermined half-life straight out of the box, is agreeing to be apart of the business model of waste and environmental degradation. From paper plates, and single use plastics at one end of the spectrum to cars and computers at the other, the idea of a product being useful only once or only for a few years is beyond insulting to the natural environment that so graciously provides us with so much.
Pointless consumption is even more evil. In other posts I have written about the way marketeers (knowingly or not) violate your will through advertising to instill an urge to consume. (See "Television has ruined America".) If you have ever purchased something that you only used for a week afterward and then sat for months or years in personal space before becoming part of a donation to a second hand store or yard sale you have been the victim of this manipulation. If you have ever purchased a product that you "did know you needed" and felt remorse afterward, you have been victimized through subliminal influence directly to your pocketbook.
There are ways to fight back though; making shopping lists at home and sticking to them, researching products at home before purchasing them, "steeping" purchases by walking away from them in the store and coming back after several days if you still think that particular product would improve your life, seeking second hand options first, and lastly but most importantly ask you self if the business practices of a company are really worth supporting.
Buying one pair of shoes for $200 dollars that will last 10 years, is still cheaper than buying 10 pair of $25 dollar shoes that only last a year. Don't be manipulated by "seasonal fashion" that is nothing more than a blatant construct by companies to extort regular purchases out of you by playing off insecurities and vanity. Second hand products are often of higher quality than anything purchased new, partly because manufacturing standards has declined in recent years, but mostly because anything that has survived the consumer market once intact will most likely still retain its function for you. You have to take control of your life and your finances, because if you don't there is thousands of marketers out there who will gladly take it over for you.