Mimetic Desire explained in exactly 500 words - Deepstash

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Our Needs And Wants

Our Needs And Wants

Like all animals, we know what we need. Nourishment, safety, sex. Our needs are limited. Instinctual. Natural. And in today’s world – almost guaranteed.

Our wants, on the other hand, are more complex. Whimsical. Time-consuming. We create them by choosing from a menu of possibilities that changes along with our environment. And boy, has our environment changed. For millennia, we foraged in the wild. Today, we’re being suffocated by abundance.

This abundance makes it fair to expect individual desires within a modern tribe to be totally random. Unique, even.

But they aren’t.

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Keeping Up With The Joneses

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Everywhere you look, you’ll see groups of people who want the same things. The newest iPhone. Gucci handbags. Yeezys. Expensive degrees. And lately ­– pixelated JPEGS.

Like a bunch of neighbouring metronomes that spontaneously synchronize, our desires coalesce with those of our social group. We desire what other humans desire. In other words, our desires are mimetic.

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The Reasons For Our Mimetic Desires

Firstly, our wants are confusing. It is impossible to know what to want when there’s an endless, ever-changing list to pick from, with no reference point provided by evolution.

Secondly, we are wired to play status games. High status had evolutionary advantages in our time as hunter-gatherers – it gave us easier access to resources for survival and mates for reproduction.

Thirdly, we’re signalling machines. By imitating the desires of a person we look up to, we signal to others that we possess some of the qualities of that person

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The Reason For Living

Mimetic Desire is the reason we become like the people we spend time with or look up to. They shape what we choose to want, often unconsciously.  

Since our time is limited, it pays to pay attention to our desires. Escaping them is a futile endeavour for those of us that aren’t monks. Reordering them is more realistic.

So find desires that stand the test of time. Those that don’t result in zero-sum games where you compete with your peers. Those that aren’t in conflict with other desires. Find desires that can create a journey you will enjoy, for the destination is never guaranteed.

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