How the Media Convinces Us to Buy Stuff We Don’t Want
Part two of Media Consumption and Body Dysregulation
One day I was sitting at home watching TV when it went to commercial break. The first commercial that came on was for a fast food restaurant (think McDonald’s or Steak and Shake) and before I knew it I was turning to my wife and say “I really want some Ice Cream (and fries… let’s be real)” and I was putting on my shoes in an effort to make it to the restaurant and back before the break ended (which never works). I have often asked myself after something like this happens “Why am I driving to get ice cream?” or “What are you doing?” I believe that everyone of us has been in a position similar where we find ourselves buying something we never had any intention of getting only to be left wondering, “What are you doing?”
How does this happen? How do we end up on our way to McDonald’s to get a Kit Kat Mcflurry when only moments before we were making a choice to start eating healthy and decrease our snacking? What is it about watching a commercial that makes us feel we have to buy that new watch, bag, jeans, car, cat, dog, ice cream, etc? Let’s take a look how media convinces us that we need what they are selling.
Ads Attempt to Convince Us We Need Something
The easiest way to explain how an ad is convincing us to buy something is that ads are designed to make us dysregulated (read part one for an explanation) in order to make us believe that we need that product to feel regulated and whole. But why does this lead to us having a want, or need, to buy something that we don’t want?
The answer to that question lies in the idea that we naturally want to return to homeostasis, or our body’s natural baseline (1), in order to feel relaxed and at ease. Because of this when our body is thrown into dysregulation we seek ways to bring our system back to baseline by whatever means necessary which results in us finding something to make us feel relieved (like ice cream).
Media and Promised Relief
Media and advertisement companies are very smart about how they use this body dysregulation. Every time you watch an ad, or scroll on Instagram for that matter, they are trying to throw you off of baseline in order to swoop in and show you that what you needs is this what they are selling. The process goes something like this: the ad starts with someone looking lost, confused or unhappy, which we immediately empathize with because we have have all been there before. Next, they explain that you are missing something (coffee, ice cream, wall art, beer, ect.) or you have something that is undesirable (body odor, body hair, body fat, ect.) Then finally, the ad shows you that if you only had this one thing then all of your problems would be solved. This cycle happens over and over again with every ad we take in.
A Society of Dysregulation
These ongoing attempts to by media to cause us to satiate our nervous system by buying whatever they are selling has led to a whole society of people with dysregulated nervous systems who are seeking out whatever way possible to feel relieved and relaxed. This Society of Dysregulation leads to a community that keeps others dysregulated. Tell me if this story sounds familiar. You go to the store, for this example let’s use an outdoors store (think REI), where you buy a new fleece that you really like, then the next day you are with your friend who tells you that they also got a new fleece but that theirs is made from a higher quality material and is from a better company. This leads you to think that the new fleece you got is not nice enough and you start dreaming about getting that high-quality fleece. This story is what happens when two people who have been conditioned by media to be dysregulated try to find a baseline again. One person thinks they have found the solution only to find that the other person has found a better solution resulting in both people becoming more ingrained in this negative pattern. With this ongoing pattern of dysregulation what are we to do? In Part Three we will look at ways to fight this pattern of dysregulation and find a baseline that helps us avoid making unwise purchases.