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The Best Interest » I Am Weak. So Are You.

I Am Weak. So Are You.

The more I admit my weakness, the better I become. Are you the same way?

Here’s an example:

YouTube works on me. I can waste hours. YouTube knows the stuff I like to watch, and it feeds me as much as I’ll consume. Ewww.

Twitter works on me too. So does Facebook. My Facebook timeline is littered with foster dogs stories. (Get it? Littered?). YouTube and Twitter and Facebook have learned my weaknesses–that is, how to manipulate my brain and keep my attention—and their techniques work against me. I am weak against them.

“Status: Will pause for dog videos…”

Crazy stat: At current rates, the average person (hey – that might be you) will spend 6 years of their life scrolling through social media.

Sugar works on me too. So do salt and fat. The food industry knows how to make food as appetizing as possible. My taste buds and brain chemistry are victims.

Another stat: 74% of U.S. adults over age 20 are overweight or obese, based on the sometimes-maligned body mass index, or BMI. My BMI is 28—I’m overweight!

My ego wants to believe that I’m strong enough to overcome the addictive allures of social media and sugar-stuffed foods. I want to say,

How can those people waste all that time on social media? How can those people shovel that junk food in their faces?

But I am “those people.” Big Social Media and Big Food—their tactics work against me. I am the patsy they had in mind.

Can I be blamed? Armies of programmers and psychologists design social media platforms. Regiments of chemists and food scientists find the optimal levels of sugar and salt and fat in food.

What hope does a simple man like me have against them? If I had known I’d get addicted or taken advantage of, I would’ve avoided this stuff in the first place.

But I’ll say this: knowing my weaknesses helps immensely.

If I waste an hour watching dog videos, I don’t ask, “What the hell just happened?” I know exactly what happened. I recognize my weakness. I know that I need to recognize my triggers and catch myself early in the act.

But what does this have to do with the world of personal finance?

Marketing Must Work Too

Since my monkey brain falls prey to social media and unhealthy food, I know I’m getting tricked by advertising and marketing, too. I must be. I’m sure of it.

My ego wants to think that I’ve armored myself against the slings and arrows of the marketer’s arsenal. But let’s be honest. If the experts have out-gunned me on social media and food, then the marketers are probably winning too. It’s only logical.

But unlike with social media or food, I don’t know how I’m getting tricked. Advertising and marketing can be subtle, indistinct, hidden-in-plain-sight.

You can believe that you’re immune to marketing. You can claim your purchasing decisions are always of your own accord. But the data show differently.

One more stat: the average person sees 1700 online advertisements (e.g. banner ads) per month. Do you think you ignore all of them???

Why do you buy Nike shoes? Why do you shop at Whole Foods? Why is Iceland on top of your travel list?

You might not know why. But somewhere, a marketer is smiling.

Do you know how marketing affects your spending habits?

What To Do About It?

Want to fight back against the constant onslaught of advertising? It’s an uphill battle.

Go ahead and Google something like, “How to fight against marketing techniques.” Almost all of the top results are pro-marketing articles, e.g. “11 Ways To Sell To Any Audience.”

In other words, tons of people are working on better ways of selling you junk. Nobody is trying to help you buy less junk. This battle is up to you. (…and me – I’m here to help too!)

Nevertheless, here are a few quick ideas to fight back against incessant marketing:

  1. Unsubscribe from any email you don’t want (including mine!). Email marketing is incredibly effective. Don’t let a brand sneak into your inbox (and brain) every day.
  2. Look at advertising critically. Rather than observing an ad like a patsy, I watch like an investigator or scientist. I try to break down the advertisement…and hopfeully develop an on-the-fly defense against it. Ask, “what are they trying to sell, and how are they trying to convince me to buy it?”
  3. Review old purchases. Was the purchase worthwhile? If not, do you think advertising or marketing played a role in your purchase?
  4. Ask “what am I paying for?” A popular fashion company sells leggings for $100 a pair. What are you paying for? You’re paying for an image of elitism and sexyness. And the image was created by marketing.**

What are your techniques against advertising and marketing?

**I bet some of you know exactly what legging brand I’m referring to. And that fact alone proves how marketing works. Brand awareness.

A Strong Conclusion

There’s nothing wrong with weakness. We’re all weak in unique ways. I am weak. So are you.

But recognizing that weakness…that’s a strength! To plug a leak, you must first identify the leak. That’s what we’re doing here today.

Or, keep on eating Cheetos in your sexy leggings. Those dog videos won’t watch themselves.

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