Consumerism

Out Growing Consumerism – Part 1

What Should Never Have Been for Sale

There’s a background mantra playing that we’re so accustomed to, we no longer notice it:

 “Consume something. You’ll feel better.”

Having monetized everything else, in order to keep growing, the consumer economy now needs to monetize the space inside your head.

Subtle and effective

We’re immersed in a sea of marketing and propaganda that’s both extremely subtle and extremely effective. It’s designed to direct our attention away from the long-term consequences of our choices and towards the quick fixes and instant gratification that drive the consumer economy.

“From early childhood our … minds have been flooded with images and messages that undermine
our identity and self-esteem, create false needs, and teach us to seek satisfaction and
approval through the consumer choices we make.”
Groomed to Consume by Anja Lyngbaek, 18/12/2018
“Billions of dollars are spent [on]… powerful messages telling you that you are not adequate
and that the only thing that will satisfy your inadequacy must be bought.”
Distracted by Design by Michael Mendizza, 07/06/2019

Our discretionary income is up for grabs by who-ever can capture our attention and hold it long enough to get us to click on the buy button.

And it’s a lot bigger than just who gets to pocket our discretionary income.

Internet Shopping The Consumer Economy
rupixen

 

How has this happened?

The consumer economy feeds upon every aspect of our lives.

“You are not capable of taking care of your family’s health/educating your children/providing for yourself without expert help.”

That’s what we’re told, and we’ve swallowed it. Hook, line and sinker.

(“And even if you could do it yourself, you’ll need a law degree to get you through all the red tape, so don’t even bother trying.”)

We have become reliant on experts, institutions, and corporate providers for EVERYTHING. Housing, nutrition, health care, education, entertainment, social connection, even our sense of identity. All monetized.

As for our sense of purpose and meaning in life?…Severely eroded or lost completely.

How has this happened?

 

There are profits to be had in the consumer economy

This didn’t happen by chance.

There is enormous profit in convincing entire populations to hand over responsibility for everything that was previously taken care of within families and communities.

The Bigs – Big Agriculture, Big Food, Big Pharma and Big Industry, to name the ones at the top of my head, thrive on our assumption that experts and large organisations can do things for us better than we can do them for ourselves.

 

Influencing human behaviour

Modern marketing is the One Big Industry that powers all the other big industries.

When I say “modern marketing,” I’m referring to the increasingly sophisticated, manipulative, and intrusive strategies used to influence human behaviour and keep the growth and consumer economy ticking along.

They include data collection – harvesting information about us and identifying patterns and tendencies that can be exploited for profit[i], and social engineering – controlling the information we get to see[ii].

Data Harvesting The Consumer Economy
Adeolu Eletu

The new oil

Control over our attention, choices, and decision-making habits has become a commodity – more valuable in the global economy than oil[iii].

Data collection has become a mega-business. Information about us is harvested, bought, sold, haggled over. It’s prized because of its usefulness for, among other things, predicting how we are likely to behave under a given set of circumstances and how our choices can be nudged in profitable directions.

Our choices about what to eat, what to buy, who to vote for[iv], what pharmaceutical drugs to use[v], and more, are all seen as fair game for manipulation.

“…By using the media, we become the instruments of our own imprisonment.” 
When Big Brother Went High Tech by Lynee McTaggart 26/07/19

 

Internet monocultures

Monocultures don’t only occur in industrial agriculture.

Just five giants control most of the internet: Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.

If you ever log in to anything, unless you are incredibly well-informed, vigilant, and willing to by-pass many common conveniences and entertainments, you are handing your data to one or more of these five entities[vi].

The technology monocultures
Edho Pratama

Everything modern psychology knows

​Designers of marketing programs, social media, and digital entertainment make better use (well, more clever and inventive use) of what is known about psychology and human behaviour than those who work in mental health fields.

We’re influenced ​so skilfully, so subtly, that we’re unaware of it.

“…The largest companies online all specialise in getting and then keeping your attention
by delivering rapid-fire, easy-to-consume content … algorithmically tailored to push your
buttons.

… Teams of data scientists use billions of data points, gathered from all our connected
devices, to learn exactly what it takes to get us hooked.

If you think you're not affected by this, then they've definitely got their hooks in. 
So deep, you don't even remember what it was like not to be addicted and distracted.”

Focus and Action by Shane Melaugh

 

Coming up next

This was Part 1 of a series called Out-Growing Consumerism.  Read Part 2, “An Act of Subversion,”

 

Sources

[i] “…Data-driven marketing has become the fuel on which … [the] free market engine runs.” A Peak into Surveillance Valley

[ii] “90% of news media are controlled by six corporations. … The vast majority of what you read, see and hear is part of a carefully orchestrated narrative created and controlled by [profit-driven] special interest groups.” Media Manipulation

[iii] The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data Economist.com

[iv] Cambridge Analytica has been accused of creating a system to profile individual U.S. voters using “improperly gleaned” data from tens of millions of Facebook users to target them with personalised political ads during the presidential campaign. Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach

[v] “In June 2018, Google [changed] its algorithms about which information gains preference on its pages. … Information about alternative and natural health disappeared or was relegated to back pages. … Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has set up two pharmaceutical companies … [By manipulating its search results] in this way, Google can essentially harvest [patients for its pharmaceutical companies].” When Big Brother Went High Tech

[vi] “Google and Facebook’s … harvesting of your personal information goes far beyond what most people realise is even possible. … Google is … the largest monopoly in the world [and] the world’s greatest artificial intelligence (AI) company, which facilitates [sorting] through all your data with deep learning algorithms to detect patterns that can be exploited for profit.” What Kind of Information does Google and Facebook Have on You?

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Kate Martignier

Kate writes at ARealGreenLife.com – an exploration into thinking differently and living a more natural, connected, and sustainable life.

12 Comments

    1. Hi Jo, I appreciate your comment … I’m not sure how to respond as I’m the author of the article but have no control over how the page is set up and how the article is displayed. I have google completely blocked from my personal computer which means I don’t see the ads you are referring to. I’m so sorry for the lack of congruence.

    2. Hi Jo, very valid comment and thanks for the feedback. I have adjusted the article so that the adverts no longer appear within the body of the content.

    1. Hi Cory, thanks for your comment … As I said above, I’m at a bit of a loss for words on this as the page is set up and how the article is displayed is completely out of my control and with google completely blocked from my personal computer I wasn’t even aware that there were ads here. I do apologize.

  1. Great article Katie,

    We are a solar company and the crazy things that are used and said in the marketing to pull on the environmental heartstrings of consumers is criminal.

    Education for consumers in any industry is a huge problem that requires addressing. There are so many items purchased every day that pretty much go straight from the manufacturer, consumers hands, oh didn’t work it was only cheap anyway to landfill due to some great marketing campaign.

    Keep up the good work.

    Mike

    1. Hi Mike,

      It’s tricky, because on one end of a spectrum there are honest businesses advertising their product or service — providing information about what they sell and helping customers meet their needs, and at the other end of the same spectrum, marketing has become a process of creating false needs, and/or magnifying and manipulating emotional needs in a predatory way, and/or using imagery and other tricks to manipulate the customer’s perception of the product.

      When a stallholder at a farmer’s market arrangers her wares appealingly, that’s not dishonest or unethical. I imagine when you provide potential customers with information about your solar products, you are not being dishonest or unethical.

      But when Lego, to pick on a global corporation I haven’t mentioned in this article, slips a color catalogue in with a Lego set that my son saved up to buy, complete with utterly unrealistic images that look to him like photographs of a Lego ship sailing on high seas or a Lego airplane flying, that, to me, is manipulative – because they know full well that his 8-year-old brain cannot distinguish fact from fantasy.

      And when he is out with his father later that week and recognizes Lego characters displayed on larger-than-life posters in a globally coordinated marketing campaign that exactly matches the characters in the catalogue, that to me is an example of conditioning him to recognize and related to these fictional characters in ways his brain evolved to recognize and related to his true relations – it’s a way of using what they know about children’s brains in ways that they know full well children have NO WAY of seeing through.

      So, its up to us adults, to educate ourselves (and to defend childhood for our children).

      My message in this article and the remainder of the articles to come in this series can be boiled down to two words: BUYER BEWARE. Perhaps three words: POTENTIAL BUYER, BEWARE.

      We adults are almost as susceptible as children are, to manipulative marketing, but we can develop the means to screen it out. And it’s up to us, individually, to do so, since industry is not going to do it for us.

  2. Hi Kate, while I agree with you in all aspects of your article I do think we have to acknowledge that many people do not like to take responsibility for their actions and appreciate convenience above anything else. I experience this every day unfortunately. How we can change this mindset I don’t know. Education does not seem to be the answer.

    1. Hi Inke
      thanks for your comment :)

      The empowering (for me anyway) thing to remember is that worrying about how to change others is just a diversion that takes power away from my capacity to uphold my own responsibilities.

      The less energy I put into looking at what others are NOT doing, the more I have to put into what I CAN do.

      As an analogy:

      As a parent, I don’t waste time complaining that my children are not as responsible as I am; that would be not only futile but also draining. Instead I do what needs to be done, setting the example and knowing that my children will step into their personal power and participate more and more in the care of our family and home as they are ready and able to.

      (I’m not for a moment implying that we are like parents and “those other irresponsible people” are like children. I’m just trying to convey that focusing on what others are not doing is less effective than focusing on what we can do.)

  3. I am not sure how this relates, but, I was born in 1952, and all the above has a history with a whole number of “steps”, in different years, in different markets.

    My memory is ALWAYS BEING DISAPPOINTED WITH REALITY. Then I saw the image or heard the “storey” of a toy that created something in me. Then I opened the box and discovered the “feeble plastic reality”.

    In contrast, with natural things, like a flower, a twig, an animal, a stream or whatever; the verbal human description was always infinitesimally small in contrast with the wonder and magic, the detail and environmental integration of even a simple “pebble on a beach”.

    There’s several things going on here that I can’t pin down precisely.

    However, I count myself blessed to have experienced some magic of this world of dynamic wonder. Many find this in a garden, if experienced closely.

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