This morning I saw a commercial for a foot massage device and as it progressed one of the “actual users” of this alleged miracle device, started to cry “This really works” she sobbed…“I’ve finally found something that helps my feet.” I thought to myself “and this makes you cry?”
Why would they need to have one of their supposed “actual users” cry to sell a foot massager?
This got me thinking and I realized that using sad stories and tears has actually become the norm in our culture. From foot massage devices, to bath soap, chewing gum and even online universities, companies are using sadness to sell. We’re being led to believe that their [insert name of random product or service here] is so good…so amazing, that it will literally make your life perfect. So incredible, that you’ll become overwhelmed with emotion and break down in tears, because it will quite literally, fix everything in your life!
Okay, so I’m being noticeably sardonic. But I think we have a right to be cynical, don’t you? Life can be tough enough, so do we really need people hawking products and services by trying to tug on our heart strings? What about the real benefits and value of they product? Should we buy it because some actor…oh sorry…”actual user” is crying on our TV screen?
Well, this approach might not be so bad if it were an occasional or isolated strategy, but it’s not. Lately, hysteria, drama, fear and melancholy are rife in our society – from commercials, to the news to nighttime TV, drummed up hysteria and sadness are the new norm. Watch and you’ll see that even the weather report has become hyped up and infused with drama and fear — the weather person has gone from someone who presents the facts as they are, to more of a dramatic buildup, using frenzied tones and gestures. Why? It’s not as if any of us can control the weather, so why not just give the weather report without all the hyperbole.
It Has a Price
The use of manufactured drama and sadness has a very serious cost attached to it. Because we are so accustomed to media, it’s become a natural part of daily life and you may not even be fully conscious that the TV is on as you make dinner…but it is, and what is being beamed into our homes, soaks into our subconscious.
“Repetition of the same thought or physical action develops into a habit which, repeated frequently enough, becomes an automatic reflex.” – Norman Vincent Peale
When we’re subtly conditioned with negative words and images, those thoughts affect us in a stealthy way. We begin to think “It’s all so awful. Everyone and everything is so sad. Our world is such a mess. Happiness is an elusive dream. I don’t know why I bother…….” Often, we’re not even consciously aware that this is happening, but believe me, it is. So when I see an alleged “actual user” breaking down in sobbing tears over a foot massager, I know something is amiss and we’re all paying a price for this sales and marketing strategy.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
A recent article in The Washington Post talked about people, particularly Millennial’s, who are seeking an escape to modern life by moving to “tiny houses.” The premise was that more people are abandoning life in the chaotic ‘modern world,’ to live a quiet, simpler life in a tiny house in a remote location.
A snippet of that article that really stood out to me:
Millennials have been blamed for the death of really important American institutions, like paper napkins and J. Crew and promiscuity.
But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if it’s the American institutions that are secretly killing millennials, or at least filling them with an existential dread that quietly eats away at their insides like acid reflux?
“You can make a case that millennials are stressed out. They feel stressed out by their phones,” says Jean M. Twenge, a psychologist who studies generational differences and is the author of “Generation Me.”
“Technology just feels so demanding, all the time,” Twenge says. “And as people have spent more time interacting with digital media, they spend less time interacting with each other face-to-face.”
It looks like Millennials are as worn out as the rest of us. I think perhaps they’re onto something.
Our Perception Becomes Our View of Reality
If we’re perpetually exposed to sad, negative words, images and thoughts, we begin to believe that is the way the world is. I wonder if this is perhaps why an increasing multitude of people are expressing a strong displeasure with the world today. Maybe…just maybe, while we weren’t looking, corporations and the media took our worldview and tainted it from a positive one, to a sad and negative one. Of course, that doesn’t mean that is the reality…it means it’s our perception of what reality is.
So What Can We Do?
This is the question of course — what can we do? Well for starters, we can tune out more — turn off the TV, the iPad and the smartphone. We can send a clear message that we’re tired of having negative words and images beamed into our lives. We can remind ourselves that just because they put forth a negative vibe, doesn’t mean that’s the way the world really is.
It’s a new year and that means we can hope for a fresh start. Reject the negativity and false-hype that has gripped the world — instead of letting it affect your mood, tune it out and read a good book, or go for a walk — anything to protect your mental health from the forced doom and gloom.
“One has not only an ability to perceive the world but an ability to alter one’s perception of it; more simply, one can change things by the manner in which one looks at them.” – Tom Robbins
I’d love to get your thoughts on this issue. Do you see a trend toward the down and negative and if so, how does it make you feel?