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The world that we live in is changing at an unprecedented rate. People attach more value to material gain due to extensive advertisement on TV and in other mass media. The general assumption is that having the best possessions like the latest car, a condominium, or the best and the most elegant outfits would serve as a mark of a person’s status in the society. The book Affluenza: How Overconsumption Is Killing Us – And How to Fight Back draws attention to the current societal disease. The title itself captures the imagination creating association with a seriously infectious virus (like an influenza virus) that ravages the community while nobody takes steps to halt its progression. The authors’ claim is that there is a great conflict between the needs of children and the values and practices of the marketplace, and that the marketplace is hostile to the family (De Graaf, Wann and Naylor). Family as a unit and the children in it are under attack from the social “disease” of affluenza.
Modern life in America is harsh for a child who has to deal with challenges from the family and the market. At home, the parents are preoccupied with making money. They work long hours and rarely spend time at home with their children. The authors attribute this to the growing feeling that the more money and material wealth one has, the more successful he or she appears to self and peers (De Graaf, Wann and Naylor). Hence, aware that they deny their children the much needed parental love, care, and attention, such parents try to compensate it using the money they have accumulated working overtime. They buy their children such gadgets as iPhones, iPads, and iPods to keep them “company”. I got my first iPad in the fifth grade. It was the norm in our neighborhood for parents to buy their children such gadgets. I never understood that the gadget was meant to be my “parent” while my real parents were rarely at home. Unfortunately, through these devices other money hungry individuals find their way into children’s minds. Instead of projecting more constructive ideas, the market, including advertisers, uses its psychological knowledge to develop adverts targeting children with an intention to make them nag their parents to buy the advertised products which have harmful effects. No wonder so many children prefer cell phones and tablets over books. The problem does not end there. It is the latest craze that women appearing in adverts ought to be half-naked and young. When advertisers realize that the viewers no longer respond to adverts with females of a certain age as expected, they bring in new, younger, and barely dressed females. The ultimate result is the picture of half-nude women appearing in mass media adverts for the sake of financial gain of the media owners and advertised companies. All this is the result of the affluenza “disease” that has infected every social class in America.
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Another manifestation of the affluenza “infection” is the increasing childhood obesity. It is estimated that an average American child starts watching TV by the age of three. It results in reduced physical activity since much time is spent in front of the TV. The big corporations take this opportunity to infiltrate the impressionable young minds, knowing that the American consumer lifestyle begins at this early age. Despite the aired adverts for healthy eating, children get attracted to more persuasive adverts of fast foods (De Graaf, Wann and Naylor). It is reflected in the rising rate of obesity with the accompanying problems of poor health condition, including heart diseases and diabetes. Despite the research showing that such adverts are causing a public health concern, parents are oblivious of it and large corporations only increase their profits every year. Essentially, as everyone focuses on earning more money and material gain, children get more obese while stuck in front of the TV screens.
The family has been proved equally non-immune to the affluenza “infection”. It results in “people living in houses with one another but not connecting with one another” (De Graaf, Wann and Naylor 61). In essence, existence of the family as a social institution is under threat. As noted above, the need to pay attention to children has been replaced with electronic gadgets and extremely expensive toys. I cannot remember playing with my dad or going for a walk in a park together. It is from the Internet and TV that I learnt about drugs, alcohol, sex, and many other activities, some of which I eventually tried out. I would steal dad’s vodka, watch pornography online, and enter adult dating sites using my father’s laptop. He never bothered what I was doing on the Internet. I relied on TV to learn about the newest games and pester my parents to buy them for me. Influencing impressionable minds of children, adverts make them want to try out every sort of pleasure, indulge in alcohol and many other unhealthy activities. The problem has now spread among the adults. Married people are now spending less time together as each one is busy chasing money so that they can buy the next newest gadget in the shop (De Graaf, Wann and Naylor). It has led a decrease in social support, proper communication, and even intimacy in marriage. With time, many find it no longer tenable to be patient with their partners. Some end up having extra-marital affairs due to the occurred frustration. The outcome can be evidenced in the increasing divorce rate, reaching almost up to 50% of all marriages.
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