If you don’t take the time to think about the things you buy, you’ll end up with an awful lot of junk and a lot less money. More than that, you probably won’t be any happier despite the relentless advertising campaigns designed to make you think you will be. These days, television shows have now been so deeply integrated with brands it is hard to tell whether they are actual shows or adverts in disguise. The industry is seamlessly merging (it’s called ‘brand integration’) with the idea being to sell you a life style while keeping you entertained. Writes Matt Taibbi:
I tried on a friend’s recommendation to get into Entourage and gave up after it struck me that it was the same show as Sex and the City – a drama about a foursome of impulsive yuppies with lots of disposable income who spend half of each show buying brand-name consumer products to make them feel better about having no brains/soul.
And the plot of pretty much every reality show is the same: ordinary middle American Joes with poor taste meet silver-tongued, fake-boobed Hollywood/New York shopping expert, who tells them what a shitty house they’ve been living in and what ugly shoes they’re wearing, and hands them a bunch of cash so that they can shop themselves back to superficial respectability. The public seems to have a limitless appetite for this awful stuff, which makes me wonder if it’s possible to clinically diagnose an entire country with depression.
The notion that buying products will make you happier is a powerful tool for advertisers. It taps into a deep human anxiety about status, defining success as the ability to acquire shiny objects. Given the scale of advertising we see on a daily basis (particularly in the UK and America) it is no wonder we have seen a dramatic rise in mental illness.
I’m not averse to buying things (I do have an IPhone and some other pointless gadgets) but refuse to buy into the culture that defines my self worth by my ability to consume. It’s a race I simply won’t be able to win because someone will always have more money than me.
The answer, of course, is just not to take part in it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.