As usual when Sunday night comes, right about 11pm, I begin thinking (read: panicking) about, “What subject am I going to write about tomorrow?” which usually leads to several several hours of research (read: procrastination rituals) which ranges from chipping away at my night stand book, youtube video essays, and reddit comment threads all in pursuit of the weekly question.
This almost never works. Almost.
The Diderot Effect – a social phenomenon related to consumer goods that comprises two ideas. The first posits that goods purchased by consumers will be cohesive to their sense of identity, and as a result, will be complementary to one another. The second states that the introduction of a new possession that is deviant from the consumer’s current complementary goods can result in a process of spiraling consumption.
Being a minimalist, I was chuckling along through the video thinking “you consumer suckers, identifying with the things you own, what are you, new?” and then my ego smacked me across the face when I began thinking more deeply about what minimalism means to me.
Minimalism, for me, has been a reaction to an extreme event. A very very bad day. Kind of like the Joker’s monologue explaining his origin in “The Killing Joke”
It reminded me that I am not free from identifying with my possessions and maybe even more so given the things I’ve chosen to hold onto.
The minimalist as an art movement has been around since Goethe’s sculpture Alter of Good Fortune
However it didn’t take a hold of the literary world until 1913 just before the outbreak of The Great War as a characteristic of the Modernist movement and would remain influential across art mediums into our modern age. This reduction of all distracting elements in the arts feels like a collective psychological reaction to a world changing at an increasing rate, in the case of the modernists it was a reaction to a increasingly geo-political hostile environment. Again in our modern age, in the information age where we’re bombarded with overwhelming amounts of information from our screens. In an age where everyone has equal access to be heard and the individual is paraded as a hero for being an individual the only way a person can actually get attention is to make extremely precise and minimalistic pieces, the minimal amount of information presented stands as a stark contrast to the confusing array of incoming data.
A fellow wordpress blogger commented on this phenomena
Today, writing seems to be following along the lines of “saying more in fewer words.” The idea of conciseness has entered new levels, and it can be seen in both positive and negative lights. On one hand, the concept could encourage writers to pump their sentences with concise, skillful imagery that does its job well, thereby eliminating unnecessary fluff. After all, a minimalistic approach is rarely a bad one. On the other hand, long, thought-out pieces of writing are discarded more often than not, and great pieces of work are looked over without a second thought. Is the evolution of formatting worth the consequence?
Her concern is extremely valid, especially when we consider the “headlines phenomena” we see increasingly in the media where sound bites make or break a politician, convey the importance of a tragic event or not, and my favourite (one I am occasionally guilty of) the reddit titles for articles being taken for face value rather than reading the entire article. This phenomena is even commented on by today’s xkcd comic “Honey Pyramids”.
I think it’s an important subject to be aware of, something that is never far from my mind, but I’m extremely interested to hear from you. How do you feel about The Diderot Effect? How guilty of the “headline phenomena” are you? What are your thoughts on the newest minimalism movement?
Please leave a comment below if you have thoughts on the subject and if you liked this post, please share and follow. For more on the subject of personal minimalism, check out the book “The More of Less: Finding the Life you want Under Everything you Own” by Joshua Becker.