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Pursuits not of our Own

 
 
Khethil
 
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 09:28 am
Good Morning,

Over the last few days I've had a thought pingning around I'd like to toss out for discussion. We are social creatures that - on the whole - have a desire for what is perceived as "good", attractive and healthy based on our sources of input.

  • 1a. In the western-industrialized world; since the early 20th Century, media exposure has influenced our lives.
  • 1b. This influence acts at both the conscious and subconscious levels
  • 1c. The types of media are vast: Billboards, signs, television ads, programming itself, email, web pages, popups, logo visibility, etc.
  • 1d. The more one is exposed to media types, the more one is influenced by media content (ref 1b).


  • 2a. Media content is greatly influenced by the ability to sell advertising
  • 2b. The goal of advertising is to convince potential consumers to purchase their goods and services
  • 2c. Various strategies are used to convince consumers; among the most influential are the most subtle - those that make their way past our skepticism filters of the obvious.
  • 2d. Advertising's methods are vast (a list of some of them can be found here)

Conclusion: Much of we esteem to be good, right or desirable has been tainted by various overt and subtle advertisements. The more one is subjected to media influence, the more ones own values are likely bent towards those valuations that motivate us to "buy stuff". I find it repulsive that much of what I'm holding dear - right now - has been borne of the media exposure I've had.

Implications: We're not a happy lot. We worked hard to get those shiny chrome wheels, those plump lips or that motorbike but they weren't very satisfying. The titillation of the shopping trip was nice, but now I sit amongst the bags and wrappers and I don't feel very different. If the sources of contentment and happiness don't come from purchasing, then why am I pushing to buy, buy, buy? Could it be I've been misled?

Solution: The more you would like your own system of values to be of your own making, the more you should limit your media exposure... or perhaps someone thinks they're immune?
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Bones-O
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 11:39 am
@Khethil,
Spot on, sir. I had this epiphany some while back. When you're constantly subject to media persuasion, it is difficult to know when you're being told something or when you're being told to think something. I came to the conclusion that people watch television and read magazines, newspapers, et al less for information about the world and more to determine their own courses of action. The TV is the new Church!

As a result, I pulled the cable out of my television about 4-5 years ago and have never plugged it back in. Recently I spent a few days at a friend's of mine and, he being a normal person, much of our activity centred around watching television. I was pretty appalled at what I saw. Having been away from it for so long now, I saw how much of it really did revolve around subtly adjusting our minds. For instance, the UK economny is pretty poor at the moment - What did I see on TV? Three programmes in a row were:

1. A holiday programme that, contrary to their previous stances (in my recollection) and my own personal experience, made it pretty clear that going abroad is absolutely rubbish and the best holiday should be had in Britain. If you leave the Isles, you're the one missing out.

2. A property programme showing how happy someone was to not buy an extravagant mansion in the US but instead by a dilapidated barn in East Anglia despite it costing more. (Of course, renovation of unsaleable properties is a way to help the economy above buying them in the first place.)

3. A Gordon Ramsey (chef) programme that, contrary to the tradition of cookery programmes (learn to cook yourself), went on and on about how we must eat out more (also contrary to all those 'undercover' documentaries that showed us why we should eat out less).

Coincidence?

Well, anyhow, you've hit on yet another of my bugbears: the dominant characteristic of a citizen is that of being a consumer. I was surprised when, after refusing to ratify the Kyoto agreement, Bush's explanation was along the lines of: We want to help protect the environment, but not at the expense of the American consumer. I was more surprised that I heard nobody speak of this description of Americans. How depresssing to be one.

Since turning away from TV and newsprint (there's not a single paper in the UK that can tell you news without telling you what to think about it), my new thing is material possessions. I had a lot, got rid of most and am still whittling them down. If you get out of the habit of attaching yourself to material goods, it makes it a lot easier to ignore people trying to sell you more.

You've reminded me of Pasolini's view that advertising and consumerism were extensions of fascist government (clearly this line is easier for Pasolini, an Italian under Musolini, to draw than for me). In his view, after WWII it became clear that controlling people with force was not an option: the Nazi's had given it a bad name, I suppose. The use of propaganda on all sides during the war provided the launch pad for a much more peaceful and effective method of control. The application of this principle to the homeland manifested itself in advertising. We've been happy shoppers ever since.

Sorry, that was a long post. You've just hit a topic I have a lot to say about, I guess.
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hammersklavier
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 03:22 pm
@Khethil,
Also I have noticed that many people (me included) read the newspapers and watch the TV programs that tell them to think what they want to think. For instance, there is a conservative paper here, The Bulletin (not that other Bulletin, which was a masterpiece of journalism) whose headlines are so revoltingly far-right conservative that I am repulsed by them (even though their local architecture critic is superior IMO)...Strangely, this paper seems to be become more and more popular. Also I watch news on MSNBC (and Comedy Central if I'm up late enough) and eschew Fox News sources, so yes, I have noticed a certain feedback cycle at work here: people tend to only want to hear information, esp. news, disseminated in the format they are already personally inclined towards, which makes the disseminators disseminate news inclined towards particular demographics rather than the general market--in other words, news has become so polarized because the demographics most in tune with the news are the most polarized demographics--the lunatic fringe on both sides now controls the market...

And I'd still sooner smoke than watch O'Reilly or Beck or any of that ilk for any length of time.
WithoutReason
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 10:27 pm
@hammersklavier,
Consumerism and materialism are simply a part of who we are as people. The reason the ads work is because the people who watch them already desire the sort of lifestyle they offer, and the ads simply inform them how they can satisfy their desires. But given the way consumerism works, one is never truly satisfied with the amount and quality of material goods they have. They always want more than they have, and this is why we feel the emptiness after purchasing material goods. We realize they are not enough, so we decide that maybe buying more will fill the hole the previous splurge failed to fill, and the cycle continues.

Most of my life I have been anti-materialist, but I am wondering if perhaps I'm going about it all wrong. I have never actually thought material goods would bring me happiness, and maybe this is the problem. Lately I've been wondering if I do need to make my goals more goods-oriented. Nothing else has left me with the lasting satisfaction we all seek, so maybe what I strive to avoid most is what I actually need to embrace in order to find it.
Joe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 11:05 pm
@WithoutReason,
I'm not sure if this is true, by I read somewhere that in certain cities when the crime rate goes down, The media coverage of crime goes up. A fear based society is an easy sell for consumerism.
Bones-O
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Feb, 2009 01:30 pm
@WithoutReason,
WithoutReason wrote:
Consumerism and materialism are simply a part of who we are as people. The reason the ads work is because the people who watch them already desire the sort of lifestyle they offer, and the ads simply inform them how they can satisfy their desires.

I disagree, but that's difference of opinion. I think it overlooks the psychological impact of propaganda. You can make people want something they didn't want before. Derren Brown did an interesting show on this, where he subjected people to propaganda images without making them aware they were seeing them and, as a result, they desired the things they'd unknowingly seen. WWII propaganda worked on the same principle. I think the key issue is not that people want the things they consume but that they want to be told what to do, what to think, what to buy, what value to place on things. The pursuit of cool, of validation, of ease of mind. But the side effect of this is you can make people give you their money for crap they don't need and would never have wanted if they hadn't been told they wanted it. That's advertising - that's consumerism. <--- That's a slogan! I should be in advertising!!!

WithoutReason wrote:

Most of my life I have been anti-materialist, but I am wondering if perhaps I'm going about it all wrong. I have never actually thought material goods would bring me happiness, and maybe this is the problem. Lately I've been wondering if I do need to make my goals more goods-oriented. Nothing else has left me with the lasting satisfaction we all seek, so maybe what I strive to avoid most is what I actually need to embrace in order to find it.

I'd say you're bailing, personally.
0 Replies
 
Bones-O
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Feb, 2009 01:31 pm
@Joe,
Joe wrote:
I'm not sure if this is true, by I read somewhere that in certain cities when the crime rate goes down, The media coverage of crime goes up. A fear based society is an easy sell for consumerism.

That makes sense, since it was fear that propaganda originally preyed on. I think that people are easier to control in general when they're afraid. Frightened people don't feel they have nothing to lose, otherwise they wouldn't be frightened.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2009 04:04 am
@Bones-O,
Good thoughts, all

But I wonder to what extent has advertising actually changed what we eschew as important. WithoutReason: You have excellent points I'd agree with, but I'd like to key in on one if that's OK. Although I think this is, to some extent, correct:

WithoutReason wrote:
... The reason the ads work is because the people who watch them already desire the sort of lifestyle they offer...


... I fear that by mentioning one side of the coin we ignore the other - perhaps more destructive - side. Allow me to illustrate:

MY PRODUCT: New Model XYZ-Car

EVENT FLOW

  • I want to sell my new cars
  • To help sell more, I will advertise
  • In this particular case, I will use positive association
  • I will show my product being fawned over by happy, smiling, well-dressed successful people in their driveway with humorous banter


DESIRED ASSOCIATION: Enjoy my product and you, too, can be this happy.

COLLATERAL ASSOCIATIONS:

  • Being happy means being well-dressed
  • Being healthy means having whitewashed teeth
  • Being beautiful means being hairless
  • Well dressed people smile a lot; they do so because they're happy
  • Success comes from being well-dressed, whitewashed, hairless and confident
  • Good happy people, who smile a lot and don't stink live in the suburbs

VALUES AFFECTED: Values enter us subtly, I think. When we digest advertisements - whether we actually 'pay attention or not' - these associations sink in to our subconscious. I believe this to be almost unavoidable (unless you somehow avoid ads all together).

THE POINT: Yes people wanted to be happy in the first place. Yes, people already wanted to be beautiful before seeing my ad; that's not the point. Through the collateral effects of advertising's association, we have inculcated "avenues" to happiness, success, beauty, peace, solace, social success and family bliss that aren't of our conscious making. These warp values and bend them towards a consumption mindset. Consider my example above: Would anyone swallow the notion that folks who live in such places and wear such clothes are perpetually this happy? The conscious mind knows this is absurd, but I believe the value-associations sink in nonetheless. To the extent that this is true: How deep does it go? How much of what I think important is really of my own mind? How might I be different in how I interact?[INDENT]As I ponder the associative ad campaigns for products such as: Acne relief, erectile dysfunction, hair products, candy, breakfast cereal and clothes I have to also ask: What's wrong with going through a period with acne? Isn't the human hair's natural condition one that's not saturated with chemicals? Do superheros really believe that cereal constitutes health; a 'balance breakfast'?
[/INDENT]So this is food for thought; nothing more. I'm not a buff for conspiracy theories. If the effects I suggest are actually occurring - and I believe this to be true and widespread - then I'm not sure how much advertisers know or are much concerned about it.

Anyway, I hope this helps clarify what I'm suggesting. Thanks
WithoutReason
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2009 10:53 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
Good thoughts, all

But I wonder to what extent has advertising actually changed what we eschew as important. WithoutReason: You have excellent points I'd agree with, but I'd like to key in on one if that's OK. Although I think this is, to some extent, correct:



... I fear that by mentioning one side of the coin we ignore the other - perhaps more destructive - side. Allow me to illustrate:

MY PRODUCT: New Model XYZ-Car

EVENT FLOW

  • I want to sell my new cars
  • To help sell more, I will advertise
  • In this particular case, I will use positive association
  • I will show my product being fawned over by happy, smiling, well-dressed successful people in their driveway with humorous banter
DESIRED ASSOCIATION: Enjoy my product and you, too, can be this happy.

COLLATERAL ASSOCIATIONS:

  • Being happy means being well-dressed
  • Being healthy means having whitewashed teeth
  • Being beautiful means being hairless
  • Well dressed people smile a lot; they do so because they're happy
  • Success comes from being well-dressed, whitewashed, hairless and confident
  • Good happy people, who smile a lot and don't stink live in the suburbs
VALUES AFFECTED: Values enter us subtly, I think. When we digest advertisements - whether we actually 'pay attention or not' - these associations sink in to our subconscious. I believe this to be almost unavoidable (unless you somehow avoid ads all together).

THE POINT: Yes people wanted to be happy in the first place. Yes, people already wanted to be beautiful before seeing my ad; that's not the point. Through the collateral effects of advertising's association, we have inculcated "avenues" to happiness, success, beauty, peace, solace, social success and family bliss that aren't of our conscious making. These warp values and bend them towards a consumption mindset. Consider my example above: Would anyone swallow the notion that folks who live in such places and wear such clothes are perpetually this happy? The conscious mind knows this is absurd, but I believe the value-associations sink in nonetheless. To the extent that this is true: How deep does it go? How much of what I think important is really of my own mind? How might I be different in how I interact?
[INDENT]As I ponder the associative ad campaigns for products such as: Acne relief, erectile dysfunction, hair products, candy, breakfast cereal and clothes I have to also ask: What's wrong with going through a period with acne? Isn't the human hair's natural condition one that's not saturated with chemicals? Do superheros really believe that cereal constitutes health; a 'balance breakfast'?
[/INDENT]So this is food for thought; nothing more. I'm not a buff for conspiracy theories. If the effects I suggest are actually occurring - and I believe this to be true and widespread - then I'm not sure how much advertisers know or are much concerned about it.

Anyway, I hope this helps clarify what I'm suggesting. Thanks


I think I see what you are saying. Perhaps it might be viewed as more of a combination of both. We as people desire consumption, but those who control the resources of consumption tell us what consumption can achieve for us. Yes, I have always wondered how people can believe that those who are portrayed as happy when using product x are happy merely because they are using that product. You see a commercial showing a family sitting down to dinner with a particular brand of food, or food from a particular fast-food restaurant, and the implication seems to be that they would not be laughing and enjoying themselves as they are, nor could they be sharing the family moments they are sharing, if they were not eating the particular brand of food they are eating. Of course you seem to be referring to the posession of consumer products in general rather than any particular brand portrayed as causing the suggested effects.
0 Replies
 
stargazer phil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 09:09 am
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
We are social creatures..


I think that this assertion is at the base of this whole phenomenon and I think that the degree to which this is true is coterminous with the degree that people are effected by the consumerist model of society. within this model, success is wholly dependent on the degree that it is recognized by the people around the individual. And there is nothing to recognize unless the individual has something to show. The easiest way that people can measure an indivual within these parameters is by his suite of material goods. A house, for example, is a sort of prerequisite for having any social status at all. People are social animals, eh? Perhaps this is the truth of the matter, but I would also say that the folks that this applies to are easily shepherded. Personally, I never make the statement that we are social creatures because I don't agree with delusional foundational beliefs, even if they can be said to be true because so many people have lived according to them. For example, not all people are social in nature. Look at the introversion-extraverison dichotomy. It essentially says that not all people are social, extraverts perhaps, but they are only a certain type of person. I think that the belief that people are social animals is fundamentally false; it is a belief made under a prolonged syncope that keeps one from imbibing the entire picture. The belief and, hence, lifestyle of the majority is only something that can be recorded in a history book, it doesn't mean that they were not ALL wrong. They are all living under the direction of a sort of mass hypnosis.

So, it is the putative belief that humans are social creatures that causes consumerism. It is the toady businessman-like attitude of the average citizen that results in this dystopia. This sort of person can only live according to the rules of someone else, he can only feel important if he is recognized by as many people as possible. He can never get enough of the power they accentuate upon him when they approve of him....and his goods. So this man never knows himself in his life. Recall the ancient Greece maxim: "know thyself." The power hungry person is the farthest away from any type of person in the world from satisfying this ancient bit of wisdom. He never knows why he does what he does, he only does it because he will be rewarded extrinsically, and he never knows why other people do what they do either. It has been proven that powerful people have no ability to emphathize.

Please, stop believing that we are all social animals. Though it may be true from what you observe in the world, it is the cause of this consumerism brainwashing so it really isn't true axiologically. If you see someone living according to a delusional belief, do you accept it as your own truth? I hope not. Don't be a social animal according to the slipshod tenets of a failing system of beliefs. Stop being a social animal and stop being so affected by subliminal advertising.
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