Here is a paper I wrote for my Television & Culture class - I'm not sure if it's what my professor was looking for, but it makes for a good blog! (and that is, after all, what really matters lol)
The phrase ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ refers to one’s need to stay ‘on top’ of what the neighbours are doing – where they are taking their holidays, what kind of car they drive, what type of school they send their kids to – and engage in an often futile attempt to ‘keep up’ with that lifestyle, which always seems just out of reach. With reality shows invading our television Networks and our fascination (or obsession?) with the rich and famous, there are new ‘Joneses’ in town, and they go by the name “Kardashian”. And it is through watching these shows and applying the same need to ‘keep up’ that once applied only to our white-picket-fence neighbours that we find ourselves perpetually wanting more, which leads to feelings of discontentment, anxiety, and depression.
The Kardashians aren’t the only ones offering us a glimpse into their over-the-top lifestyle, there’s also Kimora, Giuliana & Bill, the cast of Jersey Shore, and the oh-so-enduring women of The Real Housewives – to name a few. And because there are so many people showcasing their extravagant lifestyles, us ‘commoners’ begin to think that lifestyle is not only normal, but that it is attainable and even deserved, so we set out on our journey to ‘get what is rightfully ours: fame and fortune. And so the shopping begins: new shoes, new clothes, new car, new house – the purchases get bigger and bigger. Then onto cosmetics: fake hair, fake nails, fake tan, fake body.
And as the bills get larger, what do we do? We work harder. This results in several possibilities. First, if parents are expected to provide these things for their children, then they have no other choice but to work harder, which means less time at home, and a weaker family unit. Second, as children become teenagers and then move into young adulthood, the price tags are now their problem, and so they have two choices: get multiple credit cards and max them out, hoping mommy and daddy will come to the rescue, or follow their parent’s example and just work really hard.
The outcome is a culture in which people are overworked and unfulfilled, never reaching the ‘goal’ because the goal is constantly moving further and further away. As the rich get richer and acquire better toys, faster cars, and bigger houses, we fall further and further behind. And the more we work to try and keep up, the more unfulfilled, anxious, and depressed we become. However, despite what we commonly believe, these feelings are not the result of “not having enough”; they are the result of sacrificing everything of substance in order to chase after ‘enough’ in a context where enough doesn’t even exist. We think if we could just save up and get that car/do those renovations/go on that holiday, then we won’t be so stressed, tired, and depressed; but, in reality, we are simply fueling the flame, because there is no ‘enough’, there is no finish line, there is no maximum.
It is not the lack of things that fuels our anxiety and depression, it is the sacrifices we make in order to acquire those things. Fulfillment doesn’t come from fulfilling our desires (though on the surface it seems like it should); fulfillment comes from accepting what we have and appreciating it. Having Louboutins on your feet won’t make you happy – at least not in any lasting way – but achieving a sense of gratefulness and contentment with what you have will. We’ve lost our sense of contentment to our desire to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, and this is nothing unique to our generation, but what is new is that the modern Joneses are no longer our clean-cut neighbours in their white capris and argyle sweaters; the Joneses are Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney, and a game that could never be won in the first place has now become that much harder.