Bright Shiny Object Syndrome


Today I want to explore what some might think is a sickness in our society, one which drives the prosperity of our global consumer society. It’s often called the ‘Bright Shiny Object’ (BSO) syndrome.

It goes along with the age old adage ‘the grass is always greener’ and what we used to know in the UK as ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’

Namely, it’s the feeling that we’re missing out on something if we don’t have the latest technological development, the newest automobile, the expensive status symbol.

So the question I want to pose is

‘where does this love of BSOs come from?’

And it is here that I want to relate a story…

When my children were just babes in arms they, of course, used to awake in the middle of the night. In order to give my wife a rest I used to get up and try and get them to go back to sleep. (Some of you will know this feeling only too well)!

The simple answer, I found, was to take the recalcitrant sleeper down to the kitchen and show her the pots and pans. She would reach out with her hand as I swept her too and fro in front of the gleaming copper and aluminium saucepans.

It unfailingly worked. Within the space of ten minutes she would be dozing on my shoulder and happy to be put back to bed.

Since then I’ve seen a lot of babes in arms do this, and not just at night. Humans are intensely curious from the moment of birth. We want to reach out and explore the world around us, first with our mouths and then, as we discover the sensory limits of our limbs, our fingers.

Have you seen a baby try to reach out and grab anything within reach? And, if it can grab hold of it, how it immediately stuffs it into its mouth?

Not because it is hungry but because the mouth is the first organ of exploration of the world around us. If we can see something attractive we want to grab it, feel it, smell it, taste it. It’s our way of discovering new things.

This intense curiosity has led humans to be the most populous species on the planet. So don’t knock it.

Except that, nowadays, our curiosity about the world at large is satisfied by the media – the answers are always at our fingertips.

So, instead, we start to look for material things that meet our desire to grab, feel, smell and taste. And those are the things which are most attractive to our eyes – the Bright Shiny Object.

A simplistic explanation, perhaps, but food for thought.

And maybe a concept I’ll return to later.

About the Author Peter Comeau

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