9 Reasons I Hate Marketing & Consumerism

– mostly words, some images, 100% opinion –

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As a single mother on a budget, I have two conflicting agendas: keep my daughter free from all harm, get food and household products as cheaply as possible.

All good consumers know that products that have the least additives, chemicals and pesticides while having the most nutrition, nature and wholeness cost the most money.

Organic, free-range eggs aren’t even sold at WalMart. Neither is coffee that is grown, processed and traded (fairly) solely by females. And I could be wrong, but I’ve never seen sparkling coconut water on those shelves, or much beverage selection at all not produced by the conglomerates.

This does include one of the most controversial conglomerates which continually makes headlines with the shady practice of buying water from streams that don’t belong to them, making back room deals with people who, while in charge for the moment of representing the counties that do own the streams, may or may not take a cut of the profit, and then this conglomerate sells it back to the people in bottles while their rivers and streams run low.

I suppose we could drink from the tap. Coffee only affects my body and my karma (this has no impact on the child I’m raising – right?). And how harmful exactly are eggs produced on industrial farms where they do the things that people do to chickens that we get upset about?

I’m not 100% certain because I haven’t had the time nor the desire to watch a documentary between the average 2.5 hours spent on public transportation per day, getting gum out of hair with peanut-free peanut butter, cleaning with a sense of guilt about how many chemicals I’m putting on our counters because we ran out of cleaning products the day I had ten bucks in my wallet, etc.

And no, I’m not going to make baking soda into a paste and scour things with old newspapers because trying new things takes time and if it doesn’t work I’ll be forced to clean up after my mess of a try and then take more time to clean the regular way.

Plus, I’ve already bought the damned chemicals because no ‘good’ mother allows 48 hours to pass without having a full supply of cleaning products in her home.

You come over to my house with your free time and clean my counters with glopy paste while showing me how to do it. Bring the baking soda. And the BPA-free containers to store it in.

Anyone who has been a single mom or been raised by a single mom knows what it’s like to eat on a budget. Hot dogs, cheesey boxed pasta, sugary watered down juice, soup, soup, soup, no name white bread, oily cheese slices, and reduced ‘real’ meat on the special days.

I’m tired enough as it is (my body might be nutrient-starved) without having to face the monumental task of being a good consumer in the cereal aisle reading the purposefully mismatched nutrition labels to make the best food decision for myself and my child.

Oh look, organic hot dogs are on sale! That sounds like a good deal. Those things are usually $7 or more a pack. But wait, says a small voice in my heart, can hot dogs even be organic?

And then I start thinking about the two transfers and my one hour bus ride home and carrying the groceries and putting them away and having to cook the food and making sure my child has enough….

Fuck it. Who cares if hot dogs can be organic. It’s on sale. The word organic makes me feel good in the same way images of sipping coffee by the lake in the mountains at sunrise wearing snugly sweaters and stretchy yoga pants and bare feet makes me feel good. 

 
Organic. It’s like a tiny little reprieve I didn’t have to question or feel guilty about or pay for with money I don’t have.

I must ask myself in one form or another at lest 10,000 times per day, “Is this best for my child? Am I being a good mom?”

See, in my personal journey, I started with a decent salary. I once had the luxury of shopping without worrying about having enough.

I spent time researching companies and products. I used to read articles in The Economist and other places about best practise.

I was that mom. The one who bought organic avocados and sweet potatoes and mushy grain cereal when my child was old enough to eat solids. I had a personal blender. I even bought fancy ice cube trays with lids.

Ya, I was that mom. And I didn’t do it because anyone else told me that it was the way to do things. I did it because I wanted the best for my child. My friends made fun of me. Other friends told me to make things easier on myself.

So I started a garden in the backyard. Makes sense, right?

And while I was waiting for the dishwasher to cycle and those zucchini to grow, and that nap to end, I used my free time to read. Not for fun. For knowledge.

Because I like to get as much information as possible to make the best informed decision (could be my journalism training), I’ve read way too many articles and research papers about everything from called-out rotten company practice to the negative impact of not enough vitamin D to feeding a family on $2 a day, to getting kids to love beans, to CEOs being forced to resign to how the oil company that just sunk a tanker in the Atlantic is connected to the company that makes the brand of organic cereal I used to eat, the one that occasionally goes on sale.

I know that cereal in the USA has an average of 20% less salt filler than cereal made by the same companies sold in Canada. Because they can. Because it’s cheaper for the companies. Because our version of the FDA refuses to regulate our salt limits.

I come at shopping with a general attitude that most companies don’t have my best interest in mind because their bottom line matters more than my nutrition and my child’s if there is any conflict.

I come at being a consumer with the attitude that packages, labels, shelf placement, marketing campaigns, etc, are all painstakingly designed using the latest psychological findings about human behaviour.

I’ve seen products labelled 88% organic sold at the same price as 100% organic products.

I’ve caught myself falling into buying habits because I’m tired.

Knowing someone somewhere has made the decision (like creating difficult to compare nutrition labels) to factor in my exhaustion as a win for their company.

My heart sees that as scummy practice.

But even worse than that, the whole industry has committed to creating an experience that manipulates a consumer into feeling warm and fuzzy based on research about our exhaustion and our motivations and our needs and which font makes us feel most like we are making good choices for ourselves and our children.

Because? You tell me. I can guess. But you tell me why.

And I haven’t even touched on the karmic repercussions of purchasing products from companies with policy and practice designed to exploit its customers. And how choice is limited in a small town, especially for a single mom on a budget using public transportation.

I don’t think purchasing daily supplies should be so complicated. So filled with the need to constantly navigate manipulation in order to make sure I am making decisions from my heart, and not from my exhaustion, which loves words like organic, even if I have no way of knowing – in the store where I make my choice – whether that claim is legit.

I can’t know unless I research. And the quality of my personal research depends on the information available.

I don’t see the manipulation of marketing as a necessary evil. Maybe that’s where I differ from most.

There’s nothing wrong with advertising. Letting people know that hey, this product is available and this is what it is and what it does.

Marketing steps beyond that line into telling us why we should like it, why we need it, why we cannot do without it, and it’s all bullshit.

Conglomerates buy large companies to reduce competition, but they don’t cut the product lines.

So on the shelves we have organic products sold by conglomerates with – in some cases – horrific policies and practices. And how does an exhausted single mom keep up with merger news?

But everyone else is doing business this way. How are we supposed to compete? Maybe this is what managers who want to one day become CEOs think about as they lie awake at night.

I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m not in the biz. I’m just a single mom on a budget fighting the crowds at the few grocery stores in this small town.

But, if I had to guess, I’d think the answer to being competitive would be to do exactly the opposite of what makes people feel gross about being a consumer. Rather than cashing in on the whole defeatist ‘we have no choice and limited resources so fuck it’ kind of feeling many consumers have.

I’m not the only one. In fact, if I had to guess without anything to back me up, I’d say I probably represent about 80% of the market. At least 97% of consumers are exhausted, 82% are single moms, and 68% are on a budget.

Thank You For Resigning, Noel Biderman, So Adulterers And Attempted Adulterers Can Recover From Their Feelings of Betrayal After Private Information Was Leaked By Hackers.

no matter what happens in life, we are in charge of our own choices

Yes, this post is about the Ashley Madison scandal. It’s also about the argument against monogamy.

Thinking about those who lost something in the last couple of weeks. Something of value. A husband. A lover. A family. Trust in the one person you thought you could trust. Face. Posture. Dignity. Peace. That feeling of security and comfort that comes with believing that everything is okay.

There seems to be a growing counter-culture that is dedicated to propagating monogamy as impossible. The basic message (as far as I can tell) is this:

Listen, we both know that cheating happens. I’m not going to lift one finger to curb my primordial urge to fuck every ass that stimulates my visual cortex. It’s science, baby. Instead of going through a pointless exercise of getting married, fucking around, and then losing everything that I – I mean we – value in marriage, why not just face reality.

We cheat. We all do it. It’s biology. Society’s standard of monogamy is impossible, and therefore society is the enemy here (not me) because the standards are setting me up to fail.

So, listen, how about this? We get married because we cannot deny the benefits of marriage. You like marriage, I like marriage. But my archaic biological drives (which happen to feel really fucking good when engaged and then released) are too strong to ignore and I don’t want to get into this whole marriage thing knowing that I will lose everything that I – I mean we – worked so hard to achieve. That’s not fair.

So, let’s just accept that we cheat. Let’s accept that even if I did have the ability to control my archaic biological drives (science is split here, and I’m not sure about the validity of the studies in favor of our ability to control it), I don’t want to control it.

I’m going to go ahead and fuck a few other people while we’re married. Because I love and respect you, I will use a condom. It’s completely natural to cheat.

I really do not want to give up a single thing that benefits me, or may benefit me in some way in the future. I truly do not want to have to make a decision that will result in the need to prioritize benefits and needs, which inevitably means I lose something that I value on some level. That’s not fair.

And I will try my best to be discrete, but here’s the thing: when there are unknown factors involved (ie a hot young college student who may or may not understand the importance of my need to keep the status of my marriage because of her limited experience with marriage and stuff) I cannot and will not make any guarantees. You might find out. There is no 100% containment of these things. I’ve seen it before.

Therefore, in the event that I am called out on my betrayal, I don’t want you to see it as a betrayal, so I’m going to do everything I can from the beginning to make sure this marriage will stand. Which means convincing you that monogamy is impossible.

And if I’ve made a convincing enough argument, you can’t say that I betrayed you when I’m caught, because you knew that I was not capable of monogamy. You were informed.

Your feelings of betrayal will be rendered null and void, and we will go on like none of this happened. Because it’s the feeling of betrayal that incites anger and sadness, which is ultimately what leads to divorce in cases of infidelity. Acceptance, on the other hand, is love. And I really do love you and the kids.

That’s the basic circular argument as far as I can tell. And it sounds absurd coming from someone we aren’t caught up in loving or stuck feeling dependent on. It sounds like a hollow, laughable argument unless it’s being spoken passionately by the one you really want to love and accept you.

I think a growing number have been there. And whether this argument is spoken out loud or it is implied at the beginning of a committed relationship, or it comes when lies fall out of pockets or cracked online accounts, those who have been betrayed have to make a choice.

Oh, the feeling of betrayal is real whether there is an arrangement or not. There is no logical way out of feelings.

Some will get caught up on the unfairness of being forced to make a huge decision because of something that someone else did.

But acceptance actually is love, and if we can accept the fact that we are all connected and that the actions of those in our lives will have a great impact on us, and that we made the choice long ago (or not so long ago) to allow this person’s actions to impact our lives, then we can take a sidestep away from feeling like a victim, and then step into the role of creator.

Which means, simply, that no matter what happens in life, we are in charge of our own choices. We feel our feelings. We reach out for support. We step into the creator by making choices that are best for us and our children (if we have children).

When we say yes to anything at any point in our lives, we can also say no to that same thing at any point in our lives. The need to reevaluate our decisions often comes up when new information is revealed. Saying no to something we have previously said yes to is not a failure. It is not a betrayal of a promise. It is not a betrayal of self.

Life is fluid. Everything changes. We grow. We become more of ourselves every day – at least, that’s the goal, I think.

And change becomes much easier when we accept the reality that we can handle whatever comes at us. We can handle the good and the bad. And if we do this consciously, we will come out on the other side of any challenge stronger and more trusting in our ability to handle the ups and downs of life.

We are all connected. But we are not bound by contracts when things become unbearable, unhealthy or humiliating.

Maybe monogamy doesn’t work for many people. So why stay married?

In all seriousness, though, every person has to make choices that are best for him or herself. Make those choices from a place of inner strength and peace, and I believe life will be better.

It takes work to find that inner strength and peace. It takes time. And that might scare people off. That’s okay. Wherever we are is okay. Acceptance of self is vital.

I wish the best for those who are facing feelings and decisions they would rather not be facing right now. Betrayal, devastation, anger, sadness, grief. I humbly suggest that you reach out if you are facing this or a similar situation right now. You don’t have to go through it alone.

I also wish the best for those who are facing outcomes no longer in their hands after choices that were made long ago (or not so long ago).

As much as I poke fun at the anti-monogamy philosophy, I don’t ridicule the individuals who have bought into it, or been sold on it. I understand through compassion that there were reasons for putting all of that time and energy into creating, selling and buying that philosophy. Into making it your own.

Feeling limited and boxed in can be dreadful. And not being aware of alternatives, we try to make things work as best as we can with the tools we have.

I believe that monogamy is possible. (And not just in heterosexual committed relationships.) But it isn’t easy. And all parties have to be committed to doing the necessary work.

Please also see my addendum in response to the tone I chose for this post: https://tendrilwise.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/the-absurd-anti-monogamy-argument-now-with-50-more-grace/

Acceptable Neurotoxins

Sometimes these coats get confused with who we actually are.

Irony is a tricky medium. In shows that gain a wide and varied audience, like Mad Men and The Sopranos, the irony is often swallowed by the glamor of fantasizing what it’d be like to be a character like Don Draper or Tony Soprano. Larger than life.

In a conversation between David Chase and Alan Ball on the commentary of The Sopranos first season DVD, it was revealed that the original concept of a sociopathic, mass murdering gangster going to a psychiatrist because of anxiety was a joke. But the show took on a life of its own because of the talented writers and actors, and because of the hunger of the audience.

Everyone watches t.v. for different reasons. Some look for stimulation while others look for distraction, some for a combination, and others for inspiration of one form or another.

Irony is one of those things you either see or don’t see. The irony of an audience charmed by a persuasive character written, in part, to expose the dark side of the marketing industry, is both beautiful and disturbing.

When I use Mad Men as an example to lead into a discussion about the very real danger of marketing, some might say, It’s just a t.v. show, fuck off! Ironically, these are the people who will stop reading here.

On some level, we all want to be swayed. We all want to be sold. In this era lacking energy efficiency, we have, sadly, given up our responsibility of discerning between subtle manipulation and authenticity. Why? It’s a daunting task because of the sheer amount of carefully crafted, scientifically-backed manipulation sweetly stirred into our daily rhythms. Constantly questioning everything that comes at us takes energy. It can be exhausting! Especially if we’re already running low on energy because of stress. Our bodies and brains can only handle so much. The need to discern a sales pitch aside, our senses already take in way more information that we can process in real time. So our brains have evolved with these systems that automatically make some choices for us. As evolved as we are, we are still working from a lizard brain base, meaning survival is the constant and consistent priority, even when our basic survival is not at risk. As a result, the stimuli that make the fastest moves, the loudest noise, or the most repeated appearances will get noticed.

The stuff we see and hear over and over again has a great impact on how we perceive the world. Our perception of the world shapes our lives. I create my life based on what I allow to influence my perception. And if I don’t have a solid idea of who I am or who I want to be, if I’m still trying to figure myself out, I’m more susceptible to being manipulated by the media, which has rapidly become overtaken by marketing. Because I’m looking for ideas, suggestions, and socially acceptable ways of being. If there is no marker within myself to measure against what I see in the world, I am swept up into all of it. We learn through experience. We try on ways of being like coats to see if they fit. Some of these coats are more difficult to discard after wearing them. Sometimes these coats get confused with who we actually are. And somewhere in the tangle, by the time we form some semblance of an idea of who we want to be or think we are, we have unknowingly created habits, techniques, and coping skills, that have been wired into our brains. Pretty fucked up, huh?

The implications of what it means to be raised in a world where marketing is unavoidable wouldn’t be so awful if the intentions or the methods were benign. But here’s where my disgust for the marketing racket gets real: they play dirty. That sounds like an obvious statement to make. But do you know how dirty? They use sound science gathered over years of research meant to help people to manipulate consumers (aka people) into buying their products.

Plutchik

In Robert Plutchik’s model of human emotion (pictured above), when you combine trust and fear, you get submission.

This is the basic idea:

A brand establishes trust using techniques as varied as celebrity spokespeople, humor, falsified word-of-mouth campaigns, contests established to make you think your friends trust or like a brand, sponsorship of well-loved non-profit organizations, packaging that follows specific ‘responsible’ trends, tricky wording, coloring meant to elicit certain feelings, etc.

Once they establish the trust of a particular target market, all they have to do is suggest a message or thought or idea that instills fear, and the result is submission. In terms of a successful marketing campaign, submission is when you purchase their product because on some level you believe their message. An idea that instills fear can be as subtle as a gum advertisement suggesting that you will be socially unprepared or undesirable if you do not have fresh breath. Seems pretty harmless, I guess, as an adult who can decide if I give a fuck what some company wants me to believe. But this is part of a subtle road map that, being raised on this manipulation, becomes integrated into who we think we are, who we believe we need to be, and who we think others want us to be. We’re social creatures and marketing has taken a leadership role in deciding what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

Nature, nurture or marketing?

I’m not even going to get into the obvious and well-documented issues that come with growing up as consumers. You know, body image issues that can lead to serious shit like anorexia and bulimia, self-hatred (all on the rise for males as well). On second thought, considering a disturbing new trend in marketing, I think I’d better get into it a little bit.

For years, the marketing racket has used these methods of eliciting that combination of trust and fear to manipulate us. But I have a feeling that a few clever up-and-comers in the industry were inspired by the movie Inception. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’m referring to a dilemma the characters find themselves trying to solve when faced with the need to plant a suggestion into some guy’s mind. It is decided that an idea that leads to warm, fuzzy feelings will stick, while an idea that leads to grey, grumpy feelings might be rejected. As the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio says, “I think positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time.”

And looking back at the Plutchik model, when you combine trust and joy, you get love. What better way to create brand loyalty, which seems to be faltering in the last several years, than to show your company doing something truly positive. For example, a company that sells beauty products using their marketing dollars to spread positive body image messages. While on the surface it appears wonderful, almost fucking charitable, and it is better than being subjected to images of unattainable, computer-enhanced beauty, it is still a company that needs you to buy their product and trust their brands to keep their investors happy. It is still about making money. And why should we trust a company to dictate who we want to or should be?

Now that some of us are numbed to the fear method, I have a feeling that the success of these new campaigns will inspire other companies to do the same. And in the end, we are still being manipulated. And if we go into this new phase of marketing blind, it could lead to a desensitization effect to a more sophisticated manipulation technique, which may complicate our feelings about love. (Like complications in love isn’t already something poets have filled libraries with for centuries.)

We cannot get away from manipulation. We cannot cover our children’s eyes and ears as they grow up being spoon fed these messages. What can we do? We can be aware. We can educate ourselves and our children. We can counter these messages with authentic alternatives. Most importantly, we can choose to take the energy and time necessary to know ourselves, and we can model what this looks like to our children.

Knowing ourselves well – what we need, desire, feel, think, believe; what motivates us and why; our fears, prejudices, preconceived notions, coping techniques, pains, triggers; our associations; our strengths and weaknesses – makes us more resilient to attempted manipulation on every level. We still might get hooked here and there, especially when a certain brand or product presses right up against our sore spots, but we will not be floating through life helplessly looking to marketing for answers.

That’s much easier said than done. But it’s a venture well worth trying. In my opinion. Of course, I’m not trying to sell you anything. I believe you can make up your own mind. And the greatest thing about being an adult is the fact that we get to choose, of the hundred of simultaneous needs we have, which gets taken care of first and how.