Consumerism And Self Worth: Part Three

February 02, 2010

Part Three: The Consumer Trap

As humans, being told we have fallen for a trap does not sit well with us. We don’t like feeling duped and for good reason! Any perceived attack to the ego often gets automatically rejected and labeled as irrelevant regardless of how applicable it may be to our self awareness and growth.

Rather than responding defensively, I instead ask that we review the pertinent information with an open mind and cast the ego aside.

Only by looking at how we have fallen for consumer trickery and contributed further to the problem in the past can we truly become aware and consciously choose what we consume in the future.

How Food Advertising Targets Minorities

The fast food industry is notorious for targeting low-income ethnic minorities in their commercials – in the United States, this is mainly seen with our African American, Native American, and Latin American communities. It is in these communities that fast food establishments are the most concentrated and the lack of nutritious, healthy food options is truly abysmal.

With virtually no plant based, whole foods options, we run into the national epidemic of food deserts in these disadvantaged communities. Fresh produce is difficult to come by while nutrient-poor, calorie-rich convenience foods are abundant.

Food oppression is a very real thing, folks. How else are these industries to keep their target consumers in a state of lack and coming back for the very thing making them unwell?

fast food by Jon Bunting.jpg
Image Credit: fast food by Jon Bunting is licensed under CC by 2.0; Source: link

Combine this message of stretching the dollar as far as possible with the plethora of readily available convenience foods, sprinkle on a dash of racial profiling in commercials and subliminal messaging, subtract the presence of healing plant based options and we’ve got the perfect formula for keeping people ill and addicted.

Considering that these foods are engineered to be highly addictive and have no inherent nutritional value, isn’t it odd that none of the individuals in fast food commercials are overweight or incredibly unwell? Obviously it must be genetics making us obese and sick, not the food (read: with a sarcastic flare).

How Food Advertising Targets Children

Furthermore, these giant food corporations are known for targeting young children and starting the cycle of addiction and brainwashing early on. Kids meals with free toys? Indoor playgrounds? Kid-friendly characters in commercials? Perfect for starting the food addiction young.

That beloved children’s breakfast cereal with virtually no nutrition, a crap ton of sugar, and occasionally randomly added fiber is marketed by a lovable character who is simply dying to show your child the way to a good time. And guide them down the road to early onset type 2 diabetes and sugar addiction.

Obesity in children by Joe 13
Image Credit: Obesity in children by Joe 13 is licensed under CC by ND 2.0; Source: link

Major food corporations also partner with school systems and offer their products at a discounted price. What we don’t see however is the hidden price our children pay later on in life as they contend with their food addiction and health problems. When parents subscribe to a school’s food plan, we often are not aware of the “food” our kids are actually being fed.

How like a predator to attack the young and target the disadvantaged.

How Media Programs The Subconscious Mind

When we watch television shows, we often bond with certain characters on a deep level. We devote much of our free time to engaging with these characters and watching them enjoy life. We regard specific characters as extensions of ourselves because we relate intensely with them and often come to appreciate them as we would a close friend in our lives.

Just as our bodies consume substances like food and drink, our minds likewise consume media content and images.

It then makes sense that behaviors we see our favorite characters engaging in are behaviors that we tend to emulate. Naturally, when we see our “friends” on TV guzzling beer like there’s no tomorrow and eating like they’ll have the health of a 21 year old forever, we follow suit.

When we watch how these shows portray holiday celebrations like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, we see extravagant displays of food, gifts, and questionable behavior. Naturally, we grow to believe that holidays are all about the “stuff” we bring to the table and how we can be as flashy and impressive as possible rather than the more subtle heartfelt sentiments that are truly important.

Watching Zoolander by Vincent Diamante.jpg
Image Credit: Watching Zoolander by Vincent Diamante is licensed under CC by SA 2.0; Source: link

Take a show like How I Met Your Mother (one of my previous guilty pleasure watches), for example.

When we watch Barney the  misogynistic f*ckboy womanizer, Robin the workaholic commitment-phobe, Marshall the goof-ball with shallow emotional depth, Lily the shrewd manipulative master-mind, and last but not least, Ted the self-pitying dysfunctional serial dater having a grand old time, we wonder why we too can’t have a ball with life.

When we don’t have a squad to hang out with at the bar every night and our shenanigans seem rather dull compared to the elaborate story plots on TV, we begin to question the legitimacy and success of our own lives. We measure our behind the scenes lives to the carefully crafted highlights-only storytelling on a screen. It’s no wonder we feel inadequate. But, do go out and drink yourself into a blackout state – that’ll help!

We sometimes think that in simply watching the shows and browsing through our phones during commercials, we avoid the manipulation tactics of the advertising industry. As we just examined, even watching the behavior of our most beloved characters influences our minds in some way or another. I am unapologetically about to burst your bubble even further. (Sorry, not sorry.)

Ever heard of product placement? It’s the practice of strategically placing products in shows and movies (for example, your favorite pizza giant) so companies and brands have a wider, more far-reaching grasp on the public. Of course these companies pay a more than modest sum of money for these placements. There’s a reason why it is called television programming, friends.

Let that sink in a moment.

How Lack Of Fulfillment And Poor Self Esteem Fund Consumerism

Just as the pharmaceutical industry can’t profit off people who are healthy and well, consumerism similarly cannot thrive off a population that feels fulfilled and self satisfied.

The Consumer by Sean Lynch.jpg
Image Credit: The Consumer by Sean Lynch is licensed under CC by 2.0; Source: link

So what can we conclude about what consumerism needs from us to continue thriving?

First, it has to make sure we spend money on their products. What is the best way to ensure this occurs? They must make sure their products are a necessity, or at least appear that way. And if it is not a need, then it is at least an extremely strong want. How can they accomplish this? Hello shameless advertising targeting our psychological weaknesses and insecurities. I need this product to feel better about my physical appearance. I want this product to fill a certain hole in my life.

Secondly, consumerism needs to get us hooked on their brand. This is achieved by promoting individuals in their advertising that fall into the demographic they hunt for. Subsequently, they weave the image of excitement, beauty, and novelty into their brand to make their brand something you don’t particularly relate to, but instead strive to be. By generating loyalty to their brand, this makes the third objective more attainable.

Thirdly, consumerism needs consumers to continue buying their endless production of things. This means constantly fluctuating what’s in style and what’s out. And to make sure we buy into their idea of needing these things in our lives, marketing terrorists make sure we are in constant doubt about ourselves and what we actually need to feel whole and worthwhile.

February 02, 2010 by Erin Nekervis.jpg
Image Credit: February 02, 2010 by Erin Nekervis is licensed under CC by SA 2.0; Source: link

This all being said, it is important to state that the only ones who have control over what we deem necessary and vital to our happiness is us. This is not intended to be an attack on material goods, but merely a portal to awareness for how media influences and shapes how we view these things. After all, they are just things, and bring no tremendous value to our lives for the most part. Only we have the power to determine what value objects have to us.


Hey loves! This is the third part of my series, Consumerism And Self Worth. Stay tuned for Part Four next Wednesday! 

Interested in this topic? Read Part One here. Read Part Two here. Share this post with a friend. Thoughts, questions, comments? Start a discussion in the comments section below!


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