embarrassment of not conforming
January 22, 2010
Societal pressure to conform, strengthened through the media and advertising, has a powerful hold on most people. The best and most effective marketing strategies have the sciences of psychology and human behaviour as their allies. Marketing and advertising is based on exploiting our deepest fears and insecurities; fear and embarrassment enables people to be be controlled by the contrived and strategic messages of advertising. When I hear a person say “I’m doing it for myself”, I am convinced that a large percentage of the time they are controlled so deeply that they can no longer even recognize it.
Women get nose jobs and breast implants “for themselves”! Men (in the grip of a mid-life crisis) get a Ferrari “for themselves”! Shopping makes some feel good especially when they are feeling down – like a nice hit from a sensual drug. Doesn’t the trend make you wonder how much and by whom we are being controlled? Our clothes, our shoes, our cars, our houses are the main items where our insecurities and fears are most exploited. I cannot omit the best example of the control that marketers have on our society – diamonds.
I encourage you to read this article on diamonds from the Atlantic – it is shocking and revealing about the depth of control that advertising has on the public. Men and women feel inferior and insecure based on what they can or cannot afford. The volume and depth of your love and commitment is tied to the amount you spend on an engagement ring! The diamond industry was able to create a sensation about large diamonds and then, when it suited them better, was able to get rid of surplus small diamonds by changing advertising strategies, and then change back yet again. That my friends is true power and control.
I love doing things for the people I love, but I am very cognisant of the subtle (and not so subtle) controlling messages all around me. I am not against shopping or dressing well or enjoying life or buying extravagant gifts. But I am against doing it because it is expected of me and by whom it is expected. I ask that the consumer looks deeply into themselves and asks themselves why. What motivates me to want that stuff? The answer is there and difficult to avoid.
A quote in the Mahabharata sums it up for me on this topic. An ancient rishi, Sanat-suja is invoked to give council to King Dhritarashtra: “The soul that is constantly being affected by the pursuit of objects and experiences becomes clouded”.