Monday, May 1, 2017

Depressed People Make Excellent Consumers

If you can manipulate people's emotions, or target them at vulnerable times, you can get them to buy things.

We are emotional beings, unfortunately.   And often our emotions are used against us to manipulate us into doing stupid things like buying a Jet Ski or voting for Donald Trump.  But on a serious note, it is true that buying shit is a way of fending off depression, whether it is ordering a pepperoni pizza to be delivered to your home, or a new pair of shoes. 

As the old joke goes:
SHE:  "Whenever I'm down in the dumps, I buy a new hat!:

HE:  "So that's where you get them!"
People shop to alleviate depression.  Of course, it is a short-term effect, as the "high" from buying things lasts only minutes, hours, or days at most.   You order a pizza and it is exciting when the doorbell rings (we salivate like Pavlov's dogs!).   Domino's knows this - they even have an ad campaign designed around it - the excitement of the doorbell ringing and the kids shouting, "Pizza! Yea!"

But 20 minutes later, you have an empty cardboard box and another $20 added to your intractable credit card debt, and you realize you over-ate and you feel, well, awful.   Would it really have been so hard to make something out of the cupboard?   The emotional feedback of making your own meals - the satisfaction is much greater and longer-lasting.

Shopping is one venue that is mostly aimed at women, who still feel unempowered in this world.   But when they are at the store - they're the customer - and the customer is always right, right?   I know quite a few women who will regale me with stories about how they demanded respect and proper treatment at a restaurant or mall store, and then got it, by whining and complaining.    And more than a few men do this as well.   Sending food back at the restaurant is just the same deal on a different day.

Buying a car is the ultimate emotional thrill for most people, but the thrill lasts only a year or so, which is why a lot of people like leasing or serially trading-in their cars - they can get "high" again and again.   With a car, you can pretend you are someone special by having a new car.  When I lived in poor neighborhoods, my friends would leave the window sticker on their car for months - even a year - to show everyone "they could afford a new car!".  Yes, this is juvenile thinking.  Did I mention I was living in a poor neighborhood at the time?  Juvenile thinking and poverty go hand-in-hand.

You can wax your car and pretend it is "still new" and thus you are better than other people and thus help your low-self-esteem issues, at least for a while.  But then the manufacturer changes the grill design and suddenly everyone knows you have an older car.   Well, actually no one cares, but subconsciously, you think this, and you trade in that old car for the latest model.

That's how our brains work.   It is sad, but it helps to realize how your brain is wired so you can be prepared work against its baser instincts.     And this is how our own brains are used against us, to get us to spend more and save less, to keep us down, to drive the middle-class to poverty-ville, one car payment at a time.  You can't blame marketers for doing this - they are trying to survive, too.   But you can't blame the smart people for not falling for this nonsense, either - by calling them "elites" or "1%'ers" or whatever.

Today, we have people railing about how evil wealth is.  And the difference in most cases between the wealthy and the poor is often related to emotional thinking.   The poor or middle-class person regularly tries to anesthetize himself or herself through consumerism.   Whether it is a take-out meal at a fast-food restaurant, or a set of bling-rims from the rent-to-own store, the poor and middle-class are constantly looking for the next "high" - some uncut VISA or pure MASTERCARD to snort up.  It is very addictive, too.

What got me started on this was a recent article on Australian television that purports to disclose a "secret" Facebook document.  This document discloses how they allegedly target moody teens to determine their level of depression so they can be manipulated and sold to advertisers.   To some, this is a shocking revelation.  To me it is just the confirmation of what I suspected all along - there was something really creepy about Facebook, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was.

I mean, handing over your entire life and life's secrets to a huge database run by people with commercial interests adverse to your own - what could possibly go wrong?  They do own the data you voluntarily post on Facebook, and they don't even pay you for it.   The nice thing about this blogging nonsense, is that I finally monetized it and at least can say I am making enough every month to buy a used car buy a nice meal at a restaurant.  Can't say that about Facebook, canya?

Depressed people make excellent consumers.   And the people who don't fall into this trap are those that see past this smokescreen and stop trying to define themselves through their possessions or purchase choices.   The great masses of plebes define who they are based on their brand of lite beer or pickup truck, clothing line, or upscale grocery store brand.  The people who really get ahead in this world can see through that sort of nonsense.

I mentioned in a previous posting about a possible tech crash that it is possible that people might tire of "social networking" over time, or that it may become a less profitable or unprofitable venture (indeed, Twitter shows no signs of making a profit, ever.)   Another article in today's news illustrates this point.  Some in the UK government are wondering why their government and police force has to waste resources and time trying to police Facebook.   Jihadist videos, murder videos, ISIS recruitment pages, hate speech, child porn, and the like are all present on Facebook, and Facebook relies on the users to report these things for removal - which can take days or even weeks or even never.   It is possible more and more governments may demand a better self-policing of illegal material on these kinds of sites, which in turn would drive up the costs of running them.

But in the meantime, you have to ask yourself, why am I spending so much time on a website that is intentionally manipulating me to sell me to advertisers, and at the same time putting up offensive and illegal content and relying on me to police it?

I'll say it again:  Facebook people are idiots.    Sorry, but that's the basic truth of it.

UPDATE:  I don't know why I put down "buy a nice used car" unless I was being sarcastic.  Although some months produced hundreds of dollars of revenue, over a year, monetizing the blog produced only about $2000 - enough to buy a used car, but not a very nice one.  I have thought about monetizing the blog again, but frankly, it doesn't seem worth the hassle, and since the election, my hit numbers have dropped so it would earn even less money.  Besides, the ads are all for crap!