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Education for Consumerism Turns Us into Compulsive Shoppers

Consumerism has become a culture as a result of the kind of education that most people receive. Education begins with the parents’ personal example, as well as that of friends and the environment as a whole. Each of us lives in a certain environment and absorbs its values and conduct. A major part of our education is through exposure to commercials in the media—both overt and covert—as well as other manipulations that advertisers and manufacturers impose on us. The strong influence of advertising urges us to align with the values of consumerism that permeate society. These values become part of our internal landscape, falsely defining our levels of happiness, success, and social status.

Advertising began in the 19th century and was dramatically transformed in the 20th century. In the 19th century, advertising appealed to our sense of reason, emphasizing the advantages of the products for potential buyers. But in the 20th century, advertising shifted from rational to emotional and sensual. Commercials began to sell “better living” instead of promoting the goods themselves. The commercials we see today are actually saying, “You may feel bad now, but if you buy our product, you will feel better.”

Author and filmmaker, Dr. Jean Kilbourne, said in the film, The Ad and the Ego, “Ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be.” Each day, we are exposed to hundreds of commercials that encourage us to consume more and more. A study published in the magazine, Media Matters, reveals that “Today’s typical adult gets about 600-625 chances to be exposed to ads in one form or another per day.” [55]

Commercials encourage us to increase our buying as proof of our success, as well as a way we can obtain happiness and satisfaction. In fact, consumption has shifted from providing us with reasonably comfortable living, to consumption for the sake of obtaining social status.

[55] “Our Rising Ad Dosage: It’s Not as Oppressive as Some Think,” Media Matters (February 15, 2007): 1-2,

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