The phenomenon of value varies from person to person, and it carries different meanings within different cultures. For some, what they value most lies within their loved ones: parents, siblings, friends, pets. For others, it takes an appraisal and comparison to decide what their most prized possession is. Whether value lies in self, others, faith, power, appearance, or something else, it can say a lot about a person.
Taking a deeper look into where people find value requires an investigation of societies. People are deeply influenced, and even manipulated, by the culture they are exposed to in regards to their preferences. This is especially important as our values impact our actions and help us decide what is acceptable in society and what is not.
If we don’t stop to think about where our outlooks on life stem from, we can miss the chance to form our own opinions about what we want to see from the world.
Societal Value vs. Individual Value
The Mona Lisa is one of the of the best examples of societal value. People around the globe recognize this portrait as Da Vinci’s most famous painting. Millions of visitors flock to its residence in the Louvre Museum in Paris to get a chance to speculate about the half-smiling, half-frowning woman and comment on the artist’s brilliance.
Featured in art history books and classrooms, many consider the Mona Lisa as Da Vinci’s best masterpiece. However, the Mona Lisa didn’t receive such recognition until the early 20th century after it was stolen from the Louvre. It was the excitement and attention from the scandalous event that originally got people around the world talking about this painting, elevating its societal value. Now, however, not everyone is familiar with the story, and many completely attribute the fame of the Mona Lisa to its artistic value and develop an individual value for the painting.
Before the Mona Lisa was stolen, it had very little significant estimation from the public — only as much value as lesser-known paintings of Da Vinci, such as the Madonna Litta, have now. Surely, if a sensational event around the Madonna Litta were to occur, it would draw attention to it, and the painting’s societal value would explode.
Similarly, many trends shoot their way through societies. Oftentimes, individuals don’t notice the depth of the impact society has on its tastes and preferences. Your favorite song, for example, can stem back to the question of nature versus nurture. Still, there is much knowledge to gain from inspecting value without branching into philosophy.
Another way to dissect value is by taking a look at different generations. Currently, millennials have proven to have much different tastes than their predecessors. Financial experts see a rising trend of people in their twenties and thirties renting their homes, rather than buying houses like their parents did. Likewise, millennials place a higher value on travelling and making memories over buying consumer products.
These generational discrepancies are likely due to an economic burden, as millennials face an abundance of student loans and stifled wages. Not only are millennials affected by what they can buy, but their family values are vastly different. Many young people are getting married and having children later in life or choosing to opt out completely.
While the differences may not be black and white and depend on individual factors, the generational differences between previous generations and developing ones are astounding. While not all millennial trends may be the smartest moves, the fact that they are reshaping their futures in unprecedented ways shows that they have the courage to think for themselves and live life the way they want to.
Value of Technology
The difference in the generational perception of value is heightened with technology.
Though recent generations have grown up with an ever-increasing amount of technology, older generations like baby boomers have struggled with the transition from pen and paper to screen and keyboard. Now, however, virtually everyone is connected to smart technology — especially smartphones.
A few major companies fight to become the leading supplier of handheld devices. People are willing to pay anywhere from hundreds to over a thousand dollars for the best smartphone, highly valuing the device as a multi-functional tool for daily use, and some even develop anxiety issues if they are away from their phone. For years, Apple produced the coveted phone of choice, but after the release of the iPhone X, even loyal iPhone holders started turning to Samsung and Google for other choices.
This is an example of companies trying to maintain the highest value with their customers, showing off different features and services. Oftentimes, the most valued product in society is not the most functional, but based mostly on the value of the brand. When it comes to approaching any decision in life — big or small — determining value in this way is not a constructive approach.
Taking an in-depth and introspective look at value can result in personal growth. Recognizing that the way we think can be manipulated, or at the very least influenced by society can prompt us to reevaluate the way we think and identify what we truly value.
Guest Author Bio
Geo Sique is a writer from Boise, ID with a bachelor’s’ degrees in Communication and French and a background in journalism. When she’s not travelling outside Idaho, she loves rock climbing, hot springs, camping, and exploring the world around her.
Website: Georgette Siqueiros