Return of Kings has an interesting article on what they call the “hedonic treadmill.” titled “Are You On A Treadmill Of Materialism That Goes Nowhere?”

Prepare yourself because it is only going to get worse. The giant marketing machine that is the modern media will become even more pervasive and insidious as technology continues to evolve. There will be nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. If you live at all in the digital world the drumbeat for material consumption and accumulation will never stop. Through electronic tracking and sophisticated algorithms you will be increasingly targeted. The goal, of course, is to forever separate you from your hard earned money by keeping you on the Hedonic Treadmill.

In terms of materialism, the Hedonic Treadmill means that “enough will never be enough.” In other words, corporations are well aware that it is human nature to become accustomed to higher and higher levels of material existence and wealth. The tendency then, is to then seek out further improvements and upgrades to maintain a certain level of satisfaction and enjoyment. As if on a treadmill, anyone who assesses their identity through material means will never really get further ahead in this regard; one’s self-worth will always spring back to par, thus the need for constant consumption to maintain worthiness, status and pride.

It’s worth noting one thing. Materialism isn’t just about “stuff,” and in many ways the name they give this kind of existence – the hedonic treadmill – is far more accurate than the title.

It’s not just about the nicest car, the latest TV, the latest computer, the latest game console, the nicest house, the new shiny set of golf clubs (blech…. ), or the latest AR-platform from Springfield Arms or JP rifles

It’s about living for the “experience.” Travel to exotic locations, nice meals, vacations when you can’t afford one, etc. ad nauseum. Why?

It’s not the pleasure – we all need some contentment in our lives. And yes, even moderation must sometimes be practiced in moderation.

It’s the mentality of the “bucket list” in the first place. The only difference is that instead of a tangible good, you get an ephermal experience – possibly with pictures. Maybe, just maybe, waking up to see the sunrise on the east coast, and flying to see it set on the California coast is fun, but compared to what you could have built, or simply meditated on staying at that morning shoreline? All you did was spend a bunch of money so that you could say you did. If you’re planning a getaway, sure, go see the Grand Canyon (have some nice pics myself), but trips to go see places should be about the trip, not about getting to cross the destination off the bucket list.

It’s not necessarily a firm line. Everyone needs some time in nature, to themselves. My favorite was to get a cabin rental around Gatlinburg near the smokies for a few nights (roughly the same cost as overpriced hotel rooms, much cheaper for groceries vs. restaurants, and far more solitude), drive into the park and hike a trail, usually to a waterfall. Hang out. Come back. Shower, grill, and watch the sun set over the hills. Spend some time reading. Walk the tourist strip one night and get a dinner and some taffy.

So where is the line drawn? I’m not sure. One flag, as the article notes for materialism in general, is when you’re spending more than you can afford. Another is that you care more about the event for how it makes you look – though I’ve seen people camouflage that by then talking about how enlightening/etc. the experience was.

While we’re at it – consider how colleges these days are determined to sell the “experience” of how much fun they’ll have.