Experience vs stuff: are you part of the Experience Economy?

In ye old days we all loved a bit of stuff; in fact the accumulation of things led to a living room so packed with the kind of things you would find at a village car boot sale, there wasn’t much room left for living.

Escapism and experience is what we are all about, so we decided to take a closer look at the rise of an experiential movement; where more of us are caring less about stuff and more about human connection and experience.

stuffocation: the accumulation of things

Collecting and hoarding things was pretty standard in the 1900s. Partly because people applied more value to stuff after the war, but also because owning the best things was a great way to elevate your social status. Believe it or not buying a house was also commonplace once upon a time (yes, really!). Rather than going on adventurous escapades we would save our pennies and work on building up our nest egg. The perfect house, matching Ikea furniture, unnecessary throws and decorative bits and bobs that made us feel at home; safe and secure. Now, many of us are tenants and used to a lack of permanency, which means we care less about the things that occupy our homes and more about the people we meet and experiences we have while we live in them. With that in mind the question is . . .

How important is stuff to us now?

As robots prepare to take over the world and more of us default to measuring social status by the number of likes, views and comments we get; is stuff losing its purpose or appeal?

We need human connection & experience

According to an array of researchers who know their stuff, the answer to that last question is yes. In fact, psychologists have linked materialism to personality disorders and emotional illnesses like narcissism, social anxiety and general dissatisfaction with life.

They found that people tend to adapt to a new purchase in six to eight weeks or up to a maximum of three months. Following his own study in 2003 Ryan Howell, Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University, explained:

“That means the initial pleasure we get from a new possession generally fades in a matter of months.”

In his book 'Stuffocation: Living More with Less', the futurist author James Wallman delves further into the reason for a new experiential movement, he explains:

“Experiences are more likely to make us happy because we are less likely to get bored of them, more likely to see them with rose-tinted glasses, more likely to think of them as part of who we are, and because they are more likely to bring us closer to other people and are harder to compare.”

Think about it. When you reminisce about milestones in your life, such as birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas – what is it that comes to mind? The presents you received or the presence of your loved ones around you; and that ridiculous thing that happened or the moment you ran down the stairs to a pile of presents around the tree. 

Experiences make us feel alive, distract us from worry or fear and help us feel connected to loved ones. Those elements lead to something we strive for – happiness.

An experiential movement driven by millennials

Apparently this generation not only highly value experience, they are increasingly spending more time and money on them, according to a 2013 Millennial report:

“Living a meaningful, happy life is about creating, sharing and capturing memories earned through experiences that span the spectrum of life’s opportunities.”

The combination of this generation’s interest in events, and their increasing ability to spend, is driving the growth of the experience economy. 

There is no doubt that technology has helped steer this shift. Not only are we trying to escape the digital noise and craving more human connection, we are also looking for more interesting moments to share with our friends online. We used to measure people based on what they own. Now we measure them on what they experience and share.  

A sentiment that Founder and CEO of Charitybuzz touched on in his 2015 article on four reasons to prioritise experiences over goods, which were:

  1. Lasting satisfaction - lasting happiness and memories.
  2. Better for the planet - a more sustainable option
  3. Shareability - sharing memorable moments
  4. Quality time - experience that leads to memories

What are you waiting for? Go buy some memories!

If you haven’t already caught onto or considered the value of experience over goods then maybe it’s time to start collecting some new memories?

Put that deposit down on your next wayward adventure or find out more about our escape games for a real treat. It’s time to start living your life more with less.

You can join the conversation on Twitter #ExperienceEconomy @Handmade_Mysteries.