It is human nature to think of ourselves as having average or above average intelligence. Very few people think of themselves as dumb. At the same time, we think that people who fall for marketing gimmicks must be dumb and gullible. So, to maintain both beliefs (that we are smart and that only gullible people fall for advertising), each of us rationalizes that we are somehow immune to marketing.
The truth is that regardless of intelligence, we are all susceptible to marketing and advertising. You do not have a superpower. We are all programmed by what is repeated in front of us. Companies like Nike, Coca Cola, and McDonald’s spend billions of dollars in advertising because it works.
Marketing is repetition; it has nothing to do with companies or brands. Think about groups of friends who all married around the same time. They were unintentionally marketing to each other with photos, stories, and events. Marriage can be wonderful; you should get married! But did exposure to others’ weddings influence the timing and urgency of your decision?
Millennials have been saturated since birth in more advertising than any previous generation in the history of our country. A few themes repeatedly pushed on us: 1) consume, 2) spend, 3) deceit and distrust (as made popular by House of Cards and Game of Thrones), 4) glorification of alcohol & drugs, 5) glorification of being stupid, and 6) social outrage by dividing us against each other.
When we repeatedly focus on something, our brain irrationally believes it to be more important than it really is. Instead of focusing on our health, our family, and our friends, we focus on the poor life choices promoted by advertisers and entertainers. Our brain prioritizes these thoughts, putting us in a state of anxiety, unhappiness, and low self-esteem.
If you eat too much, your self-image will suffer. Because we are inundated with advertising to continue eating, it’s hard to stop. If you spend too much, you’ll have debt. The more debt, the harder it is to escape. You are insecure when you are overweight and broke. You aren’t stable when everyone around you is cutting each other’s throats. You aren’t happy when you are constantly focused on divisive politics.
It is a fact: The more self-esteem you have, the less susceptible you are to coercion. When you don’t believe in yourself, people roll right over you. Our pop culture celebrities and corporate advertisers have turned us into a submissive generation dependent upon them for guidance. To add insult to injury, they have used memes and comedy to gas-light us into believing it is our fault:
Millennials are victims of the biggest generational theft in history. We are being systematically robbed of our money, our dignity, and even our happiness through the information pushed on us all day, every day. All while being told it is our fault.
We must look to ourselves to solve this crisis. Spend less time exposed to the influences of our pop culture captors and celebrity sociopaths. Be courageous, unplug your brain from their platforms. Focus on (and by doing so, prioritize) the things in life that really do matter. Build up those around you. Be a voice for happiness and harmony in this world. This is our generation’s great battle. This is our great fight.
I realize this is a big pill to swallow. We have spent thirty-some years being subtly programmed to accept defeat and self-loathing. Our thinking won’t change overnight, but since you’ve read this far, you’ve taken the first step. Our grandparents reached for the moon; we will reach even higher.