It seems that everywhere you turn these days the word “lifestyle” pops up.
Either there’s a new lifestyle trend, a new guide on how to embrace a certain lifestyle or a certain product or service pushing people towards a certain lifestyle. But what does the word “lifestyle” actually mean? And how do you decide if something qualifies as a lifestyle?
Taking the dictionary’s definition, the term lifestyle refers to
Considering certain established lifestyle groups, such as hippies, this definition seems indeed very fitting. But lately, the term is being used more and more loosely. So much, in fact, that it has strayed away from its original meaning. If I enjoy food and like to go to hip and trendy restaurants, I fall in the lifestyle category “foodie”. If I light a few candles and drink tea in my woolly slippers, I am part of the “hygge” lifestyle. Yet, if you stop to think about it, what sort of values does the “foodie” lifestyle reflect? Does any person who enjoy good food automatically qualify as a foodie? Or is there some sort of moral standard that a person must justify their love of food against?
In other words, are actions enough to justify a person’s falling into a certain lifestyle category? Or must these actions be backed up by an underlying value set?
In an ideal world, a foodie would be a person who fundamentally considers food as the essence of his health and well-being. Who regards food as, not just an essential source of nourishment, but also as an instinct component of their everyday life. This isn’t really the case. Nowadays, anyone watching Tasty videos and taking snaps of their smoothie served in a mason jar can call themselves a foodie. The term has been so overused that it’s on the verge of losing its original meaning. The question we need to ask ourselves now is: “can it be saved?” Or rather, must it?
Perhaps the loosening of the term “lifestyle” has come about with the loosening of borders and boundaries in general.
Cultures are diversified, customs and traditions are shared and communities are no longer formed on the basis of one’s ethnicity. Instead, communities are nowadays predominantly formed on the basis of a particular lifestyle. While some communities, such as the LGBT community, have a specific set of “entry criteria”, others, such as “foodies”, are more open.
Maybe the reason the meaning of the word lifestyle is changing is not because it’s being overused, but because it is being used in a more fluid context.
If a group of people that shares a “lifestyle”, meaning a particular hobby or interest, without an underlying value set is automatically a community, then anyone can belong anywhere. Not, only that, but a person can partake in multiple lifestyles at once. Maybe we need to stop trying to impose boundaries on terms and obsessing over “qualifying criteria”. Maybe underlying value sets are not as important as we once thought. Perhaps members of a certain community need not share the same values. At the end of the day, the values of a person should be unique to him or herself and to their own beliefs.
So, maybe the broadening of the term lifestyle is not a bad thing. If a certain value set is no longer a condition of entry to a certain lifestyle, then people are free to embrace certain lifestyles without altering their values.
Ultimately, the loosening of the term lifestyle might be the only way of safeguarding individuality in a world where communities are globalised and lifestyles become trends anyone can partake in.