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The Diderot Effect: How Buying Fuels Itself

History of the Diderot Effect

History of the Diderot Effect

The French philosopher Denis Diderot became a wealthy man at age 52 and was able to afford small indulgences.

He started with a scarlet robe and continued with other items, because they were not matching the elegance of that robe. The joy of everything he bought was short-lived. Piece by piece, Diderot replaced every item in his home.

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The Diderot Effect: How Buying Fuels Itself

The Diderot Effect: How Buying Fuels Itself

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Key Ideas

The Diderot Effect

It is a term that characterizes the tendency for purchases to generate new purchases.

Example: We set up a gym membership, and then we think we need better workout clothes, headphones, towels, a combination lock, and a bag to carry everything.

History of the Diderot Effect

The French philosopher Denis Diderot became a wealthy man at age 52 and was able to afford small indulgences.

He started with a scarlet robe and continued with other items, because they were not matching the elegance of that robe. The joy of everything he bought was short-lived. Piece by piece, Diderot replaced every item in his home.

When the Diderot Effect loosens its grip

We live better lives than Denis Diderot and his peers and yet we always crave for more. We decide our refrigerator isn’t nice enough; not when the latest models are wifi-enabled with touch screens.

But our situation is more forgiving. We can always simplify. We can downsize into modest homes. We can shop less and give away more.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Minimalism
Minimalism

It means focusing on and committing to the fundamentals, instead of wasting time, money, or energy on details.

A minimalistic approach can be applied to consumption, goals,...

The Diderot Effect

Obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption which leads you to acquire more new things.

As a result, we end up buying things that our previous selves never needed to feel happy or fulfilled.

The paradox of choice

When it comes to getting things done, options aren’t always a good thing.

When everything is a possibility, it actually becomes harder to make the right choice. Meanwhile, when we place a constraint on ourselves, it can become much easier to get something done.

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Exercise Defined

Exercise is a  movement of the body to enhance physical fitness. 

Most people know that exercise is important for the physical development of the self, yet a majority of them are sk...

Decrease in Human Strength

Historic evidence suggests that for many thousands of years, human beings were more active and stronger than today. 

The early humans had increased movement and activity, like going for long and tiring hunts, walking long distances that took weeks, making the prehistoric humans fitter than the best athletes today.

Technology as the Culprit

Technological breakthroughs have reduced our activity to a great extent ( vacuum cleaners, washer-dryers, self-cleaning ovens, and even cars).

The rise of the internet gave us a whole lot of technology, curbing our need to move even more.

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Insomnia
Insomnia
  • Thoughts and restlessness are a product of stress and worry and lead to a common problem: Insomnia.
  • Being unable to sleep can cause further mental health issues like chronic anxiet...
Music And Sleep

Music of various minimalistic and calm genres has the ability to silence any sleep-preventing thoughts, with the positive distraction of music being safer and as much effective as a sleep medication.

Ambient beats, dreamy landscapes and delicate strains of the piano or the sitar (an ancient Indian guitar) naturally imbues positive mental states, infusing rhythmic color and emotions and creating hypnotic pulses that promote sleep.

A Sonic Environment To Doze Off

Though any slow music can promote sleep (provided it has around 60 to 80 beats per minute) classical music goes further and even impacts the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’ of the body, which is responsible for resting and digesting food.

Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturnes, 21 solo piano pieces that transform the mind into a dream state, are masterpiece compositions that even mimic the oncoming of sleep by ending without any ending, similar to how one never registers the exact moment one falls asleep.

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The two tales about houses

The one story we tell ourselves about homeownership is it is a path to a more stable, equitable future. The idea is that it is a responsible decision that requires commitment and hope. It is center...

Owning a suburban home

The idea of owning a suburban home was fed to Americans by people in power: Suburbia has always been suitable for industry.

Big houses = big appliances. This fed the coal, steel, and automaking industries. With it came cars and oil that made the postwar American suburb possible. It is all as much a creature of government as of the market.

Reconsidering the suburban house 

The climate crisis and carbon dependency make potential homeowners reconsider the effects of suburban sprawl.

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and the market crash of 2008 sowed a sense of instability and propagated fears.

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Read widely, with maximum curiosity

The clearest thinkers tend to be those that draw from multiple disciplines.

Develop the habit of reading and eliminate/reduce the things that might stop you from doing that (e.g. mindl...

Put reality first and theory last

Confusing models with reality is a cardinal sin of clear thinking. 

If you believe too strongly in your models of the world, you can start to ignore evidence that your model is wrong.

Campbell’s law

The basic idea is that when you reward people for a particular measure — clicks, dollars, likes, etc. — people will find a way to “game” the system.

For example: If journalism is fueled by clicks, journalists are going to write sensationalist clickbait.

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Excuses Breed More Failure

When you are disappointed, you have two choices on how to respond:  You can find out how you could have done it differently, or you can tell yourself that you were not at fault.

Personal Responsibility Breeds Success

Making excuses allows you to externalize your failures and blame something else. It also demotivates you when you feel the outcomes in your life are out of your control.

Taking up responsibility does the opposite: It leads to introspection where you can analyze what you could have done differently. It will motivate you to work better and harder.

How To Stop Making Excuses

It all comes down to the stories you tell yourself when you feel overwhelmed or fail.

If you work too much and don’t have time for fun, do you tell yourself that people demand too much from you? Or, do you tell yourself you don’t prioritize your own time well enough?

In one story you are in control, and the other you are not. Focus on the story you can control.

Buying endless stuff

Before the internet, we had to set time aside to walk and browse a physical store, which was only open for a certain number of hours.

Now, it has become effortless to buy things online from a...

Dopamine and online shopping

According to research, we get a dopamine surge from buying stuff that causes us to want more and more.

Delayed gratification when the order arrives a few days later also makes is more physiologically rewarding than shopping in stores.

Online shopping 

Some online shops have made it especially easy to shop with a one-click buying process. Most major retailers offer free shipping, and only one in ten consumers return stuff they've bought online.

Americans are also taking up more space with all the stuff they are amassing. Self-storage units are rapidly increasing too.

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Loneliness before quarantine

We crave intimacy. And yet, long before the present pandemic, with its forced isolation and social distancing, humans had begun building their own separate cells. 

Before modern times...

Loneliness is a form of grief

It is an umbrella term we use to cover for all sorts of things most people would rather not name and have no idea how to fix.
Plenty of people like to be alone. But solitude and seclusion are different from loneliness. Loneliness is a state of profound distress.

The evolutionary theory of loneliness

Primates need to belong to an intimate social group in order to survive; this is especially true for humans.
Separation from your group (either finding yourself alone or finding yourself among a group of people who do not know and understand you) triggers a fight-or-flight response.

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Attention and Mindfulness

Life passes us by in a hurry, and if we pay close attention, even to routine and boring chores, we are slowly able to get insights, which weren't visible before.

Zen-like attention

To pay attention is to be present, not just in the body — but also in the spirit. Paying close attention, and being mindful invokes a different feeling, and unpeels the outer layers of life.

A Million Distractions

Compared to the earlier centuries. the modern world has millions of things that demand our attention. Previous century works of poetry and literature are almost inconceivable now.

In this present age of distraction, it is even more important to preserve and nurture your precious attention.

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