How Does Advertising Impact Your Mental Health?
Advertising affects our mental health in ways you wouldn’t expect. Have you ever felt the tug to buy something after you see it in an ad? What feelings do you get when you see a model for makeup brands or department stores?
Is it a boost of confidence? Or self-doubt? Are you compelled to buy from them?
The point of advertising something is to get the audience to interact with the product in a mental way, in order that they feel led to buy it. Methods of this trigger emotions such as desire, FOMO (fear of missing out), or a lowered self-esteem. This is consciously used to get an emotional response from potential buyers.
A car might appear on the screen, with a masculine voice narrating its horsepower or ability to climb on all terrain. This ad appeals to the person who is insecure about their masculinity. This car + me = masculine person. When in reality, this car might not change anything. Some say that this type of advertising is unethical because it exploits the most unstable part of our brains to make a decision for us. It also is pretty mean!
This kind of advertising is manipulative, and it’s been used since the beginning of marketing itself. How is it tied to mental health?
Doing something else would completely go against the structure of advertising as it is commonly used today. Since most companies advertise their products in this fashion, what should we do? How can we safeguard our mental health?
I am a huge advocate for regulating media consumption. I know, you’ve heard this before. What we consume in media dictates largely how we see ourselves. It has a record for being a major factor in depression, discontentment, isolation, FOMO, and anxiety. While we should be regulating how much media we consume, the word “consumption” has a toxic connotation. Not all media is toxic. I much prefer taking the route of self-evaluating the effect of media in your life. If something is triggering depression or anxiety, it shouldn’t be in our regular usage of media.
If it encourages and inspires you, keep engaging in it!
That’s how advertising should be affecting your mental health.
Advertising is the silent threat in media. We see ads pop up in the middle of the TV shows, YouTube videos, and games that we enjoy. This is the problem: while I might be empathetically engaging with a TV show, I will be pulled right back out of my emotive giving state and into a self-centered focus.
I might be feeling compassion for my favorite character in one moment, and feeling insecure or depressed in the next. What if over time we find that advertisements act as a consequence for engaging with media? Will I eventually associate feelings of insecurity with healthy feelings of compassion or investment? There is a danger here that lies quietly amid our media use.
What do we do now that we are aware of the mental health implications that advertising has on us? Some people are able to separate the feelings they get when they see an ad, and whether they actually want it. That’s called a consumer’s self-awareness. It’s all about knowing ourselves enough to not be impacted by external voices.
For example, what if a woman who enjoys off-roading and perceives herself as feminine wants a car as we described earlier? Does the advertisement hinder or encourage her in purchasing a vehicle? A mix of both? It might still look appealing to her as something she wants to get, but what does it tell her about her female gender role? Does that impact her choice?
These interactions with media have a great say in our self-talk – what we feel about ourselves, and in turn, how we treat ourselves and each other.
If we strengthen our emotional intelligence, we will protect our mental health from the manipulation of advertisement so that it doesn’t feed on our insecurities. Instead, lets curiously consider ads and logically decide for ourselves whether they play a part in our consumerism.