An important and often overlooked way front row kids make back row kids lives feel meaningless is the overwhelming penetration of advertising into everyday life. Thirty years ago, you’d see ads on television or radio and then in newspapers and magazines. Now, and this is especially true for people whose primary access to the internet is through a mobile phone, the number of ads they see per day might be double what it once was. Get on a bus? Ads. Go to the movies or a store? Ads. Check Facebook? Ads ads ads.
Some of those are just going to be harmless stuff — sale on frozen pot pies this week, that sort of thing — but a lot of ads are what the industry calls “aspirational”, which means they’re selling you stuff they know you can only sort of afford. This might be cheap airfare, or a mid-level car, or teeth whitening or god knows what, but each one is a little psychological assault on your self confidence. If you’ve got a steady paycheck with a stable life and a promising future, brushing that stuff off is easy. If you’re living hand to mouth and your world is crumbling around you, that attractive people are flying off to have great vacations or driving cars with leather seats and touch screens can be a serious depressant.
To take a concrete example, the NFL is the most watched thing on television by a country mile, and some of the league’s biggest advertisers are investment firms. I only watched maybe half a game yesterday, and I saw ads for at least three different funds telling me they can help with my retirement planning. Well, most Americans have zero retirement savings and no extra income to save anyway. But everyone thinks or “knows” they should save more, so most of the people who see those ads — and it was tens of millions yesterday afternoon alone — not only know can’t afford what’s being sold, but get an extra dose of “you failed at life” because the ad is effectively telling them that they’re shitty people for not having more money.
Some hack in The New Republic or on Twitter calling Trump voters morons isn’t a good look, but basically no Trump voters are going to see it. The ads people see, however, are made by and for front row kids with the implicit message that This Is Not For You coming through loud and clear to the back row ones.