Cultural distress (and consumerism)


This post is by Seth Godin from Seth's Blog


For decades, marketers (and politicians) have been working to amplify cultural distress, a hack on our emotions.

Not the tragic emotional distress of being unable to care for your kids, find a place to live or deal with trauma, but the invented cultural distress of modern industrialized societies.

This is the easily created shame of not having a new suit to wear to the garden party, or having to use an old model smartphone instead of the new one. It’s the dissatisfaction of knowing that something ‘better’ is available, and the invented discontent that comes from the peer pressure of being left out or left behind.

Or it might be the social shame that comes from not having a big enough presence on social media, or the fomo that watching other people presenting nothing but happiness online can create.

It can be amplified with a sort of nostalgia for times when everything was perfect, or anxiety about a future when we imagine we won’t have enough.

Fear of this sort of cultural distress pushes us to simply spend money to avoid it. It’s easier to lose your life’s savings and peace of mind to end-of-life care than it is to simply draft a living will. It’s easier to give in to the high-pressure tactics of a real estate broker than it is to look squarely at the feelings that you might not actually get this particular house. Making a budget is hard, paying for not making one is easy.

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