What is a LIFESTYLE? A LIFESTYLE is any place or setting that reflects a person’s predominant values, attitudes, behaviors, and orientation. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his famous 1930 book, The Case of Miss R. with the simple meaning of “a child’s primary personality as formed early on”. Since then, many related terms have been used including: family structure, role models, cultural matrix, and even the concept of the family unit itself.
With the advent of mass culture, the LIFESTYLE has become an empty, symbolic signpost without meaning or substance. In most societies, including the Western one, purchasing a ticket to a popular amusement park is one way for individuals to express their wealth, status, and power. However, the LIFESTYLE has become hollowed out and trivialized as a marketing device, which signifies nothing more than buying a ticket and spending one’s time at a theme park. And where else can this meaningless sign be seen but in mass culture?
The LIFESTYLE idea and its negative implications are linked to another popular concept – that of the balanced life. The balanced life is a positive concept based on the idea that all people live in a world with two separate and distinct parts: a physical body and a mental or spiritual one. To speak of a healthy lifestyle, one would speak of behaviors that promote the maintenance and sustenance of a healthy body and mind. And to speak of a LIFESTYLE, one would look at the products and services that promote a healthy lifestyle, such as: exercise equipment, weight loss programs, healthy food choices, healthy living, and so on.
The concept of a LIFESTYLE is linked to an even weaker statement of belief – that the wealthy and powerful should have a LIFESTYLE so they can continue to have a sense of luxury, which is linked to the feeling of social status and wealth, without the attendant debt. This means that a LIFESTYLE is only important for the wealthy and powerful because they are capable of spending it, and have the money to spend on things like vacations and fancy things like restaurants. This has long since given birth to the image of a LIFESTYLE as something that only wealthier and more powerful people can afford, something that is only important to them and not to anyone else.
The crux of the matter is this: many people have come to perceive the LIFESTYLE as a marketing tool for things like restaurants and resorts, rather than a positive lifestyle choice. The disconnect has been so great that many companies who sell LIFESTYLS have had to come out with different versions of the original idea in order to encourage people to use the word Lifestyle more productively. One example is OxyContin, which was once sold under the name of “Pain Killer”. After some researchers discovered that people were actually buying the drug for the social media buzz it created, OxyContin was changed to “Lifeline” in an effort to make it more meaningful to the target market. Other pharmaceutical companies have done this, too. This means that when you buy a Lifestyle item, you are actually indirectly supporting a cause, and not just using the marketing term as a marketing device.
The Lifestyle, at its most simple level, is a description of people’s personal and public life-style choices, which is often manifested through their consumption habits. Adorno believed that the meaning of the Lifestyle would vary from one individual to another, depending on their ability to create meaning out of their life-styles and how those life-styles influence others. This is why his theory of the culture industry came into being. He believed that there would be a need for a central classification system to help individuals understand how they related to the various aspects of the culture industry and, in turn, how they could help promote a more positive interpretation of the concepts of the industry to the outside world. This is what the Lifestyle has become today: a basic understanding of the cultural industries surrounding us and a set of practices and beliefs about how we live our lives to the fullest.