by Leo Babauta
One of the biggest reasons people buy so much, and are so discontent with their lives, is advertising. Advertising creates false needs — all of a sudden we need an iPhone or a new car or a diamond ring, just because an advertiser put the need in our heads.
Advertising is highly effective — we might not realize it, but it works on our subconscious so that we want to buy things. It plants desires in our minds, and creates a mindset that, whatever our problem, buying something is the solution. It creates the mindset that buying is the norm, and there’s no other choice.
And it’s everywhere. Every nook of our lives is filled with advertising these days. It’s so pervasive that we have come to accept it as a fact of life, and it cannot help but have an effect on our minds. Watch TV, advertising screams at you all day long. Read a newspaper or magazine, go to a Website, and it’s in every crevice. It’s on our Facebook and Twitter pages, in our email, on billboards, on buses, in sports events, in public outdoor spaces, on people’s clothing, in 5K races, on blimps in the sky, in podcasts, in iTunes, before a movie starts, subtly (or not so subtly) placed products inside of movies — everywhere. On Websites, it’s seen as inevitable, and a site without ads is almost unheard of (very different from the Web of 15 years ago, when ads were rare).
We can defeat the forces of advertising by not buying into the fantasies they’re trying to create. Don’t let them create fake needs in our heads, don’t let them play upon our fears.
First, we can watch less ad-supported TV, fewer ad- supported videos online, go to Websites that aren’t covered by ads (or use an ad-blocker to block them), and stop reading magazines filled with ads.
But probably more importantly, we can pay closer attention to the messages they’re sending us, the fantasies they’re trying to create, and the fears they are playing upon. By watching this process, we can become more conscious and less susceptible to their tactics.
We can also look at the “needs” we think we have, and realize that almost all of them are made up. Made-up needs can be eliminated. All it takes is the willingness to let go.
Examine one of your made-up needs, and ask yourself why it’s such an important need. Ask what would happen if you dropped it. What good would it do? Would you have more free time and more space to concentrate and create, or less stress and fewer things to check off each day? What bad things would happen — or might happen? And how likely is it that these things would happen? And how could you counteract them?