Daily, people around the world are inundated with images and messages from POPULAR CULTURE (marketing) mainstream media: ads, movies, television, music, Internet, social media: depicting unrealistic beauty, sex, violence, hatred, as acceptable and normal. These disturbing images and messages dictate impossible and unhealthy standards of: How we should behave; What we should look like; What we should wear; What we should eat/drink; What music we should listen to; What cars we should drive; Where/how we should live; How much money we should have; How much we should spend; Why we should hate… This creates a toxic environment led by comparison: If I don’t look like the model in the magazine… If I don’t have the shoes/clothes/phone… If I don’t hate… I won’t measure up. Popular Culture (Pop Culture) mainstream media images and messages influence and affect everyone – with Self-Esteem absorbing a compromising hit. Most especially at risk, is the world’s YOUTH: their young minds are still developing. At this critical stage of development, a positive or negative relationship with: identity, body image and beliefs will be formed. Pop Culture marketing is expert at popularizing: What Should Be – even at the cost of psychological damage. Why? The bottom line: Profit.

12 Conversations: 12 Youth: 6 Male – 6 Female

New Moon ~ July 2016


Does POP CULTURE mainstream media images and messages affect your SELF-ESTEEM?

Youth (Female) #2:

I agree that mainstream popular culture has influenced my self-esteem, yet this is nothing new to youth growing up in any particular era. Young minds have always been exposed to the “desired norm”. The only difference, now, is that it comes at you faster, with a higher volume of content.

In the 50s we had the image of the typical American housewife who was slim, well-kept, and always had dinner on the table for her husband. The 70s are categorized by hippies and the popularization of hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and acid. Grunge met the 90s, where “heroin chic” evolved. Throughout the 00s women’s clothing got less and less and men embraced layers of baggy tracksuits. I didn’t have to Google these transitions because, as a Millennial, they are engrained in my brain.

Our brains encode information from external stimuli, which is how we are able to translate images and messages into knowledge that is either stored in our long-term or short-term memory. I like to think of our brain as an assembly line – information is packaged, coded, and given a destination. We control the reception of stimuli through a brain tool called “perception”, in which we ask ourselves “is this useful or not?” If we deem the information useful, it will be processed on our assembly line – if not, it will be discarded. This innate system of functioning has survival at its core. We need to know what’s useful, at a fast rate.

If our brains accepted every element, from our environment, as useful information, we would become completely over-stimulated and our assembly line would potentially shut down in ways that could lead us to back away from learning, as it would be too much for us to absorb and truly comprehend. Thankfully, our brain has filters. While there are more technical terms to our classification systems, for this purpose, let’s call one category “The Self.” The Self stores the information that shapes our feelings, opinions, and, ultimately, engages our personality. A lot of information that we are exposed to by the media gets shipped to this area of the brain because it is directed at our opinions; thus, it can influence The Self and, eventually, our behaviour.

Marketers capitalize on this fact by identifying segments in the population and the best way to reach them. Product positioning is a key facet to good marketing, as this is how you distinguish WHY one product is better from another – the WHY is the deciding factor in getting the public to change their behaviour. Normally, this is accomplished by showing the consumer how much better their life will be with the product. However, many individuals have caught on to the fact that material goods don’t satisfy our need for the validation that our life is awesome. If you look closely enough, what exists today is a society that is changing to become inclusive, not exclusive, and seeks to improve our singular marketing tactics and shift them toward something that promotes social good for communities.

We shouldn’t feel ashamed for wanting to buy a product in a magazine that we think is nice or feel guilty for sharing a picture of our food in an Instagram post because we’re excited to try a trendy restaurant – this is the world we live in and we should be a part of it. Social media was invented to share – in the same way that I made the decision to write this post. I am releasing my thoughts on an important issue into the world, using a platform that can reach and, hopefully, open the minds of a lot of people.
When you break it down, the mainstream culture is not all negative. Although I would be lying if I said beauty standards did not make me feel “pretty enough” or “skinny enough” or simply “good enough” in general, but by reading and taking the time to explore deeper into what is being projected, I have to realize that food plans, personal trainers, and graphic experts make these models and actresses look the way they do in a picture.

We need to talk about pop culture AND self-esteem to deconstruct how the two forces interact and influence each other, in order to change the conversation. In this way, we become self-aware and acknowledge the truth. Instead of just pointing the finger at marketing companies for “creating a society based on superficial qualities”, let’s get UNCOMFORTABLE by encouraging our youth to not be afraid to ask questions. Life is NOT comfortable and, the reality is, we are not always going to feel good about ourselves. By shifting our perspective, we can learn to ask WHAT in the environment makes them feel bad and WHY. From there, we address HOW they can change this. Let’s learn more about WHERE these campaigns are being developed and by WHOM. So much information is literally at our fingertips but, oftentimes, the facts are hidden beneath a very weak façade.

Let’s embrace all of our feelings, good or bad, so we know how to COPE with them. Face your environment, head on, to discover yourself. Shutting out the world will not protect your self-esteem and it will not shield you from negativity. Frankly, no change has ever been affected through ignorance. Find out what works best for you to question popular culture AND question yourself because knowledge is power, but knowledge about you is POWERFUL.

All good things possible always…