Knowledge is the Power that Can Fight the Power

All this month at Postconsumers, we’ve been focusing on helping you find ways to break the cycle of addictive consumerism by learning to support local merchants and locally produced products. We weren’t surprised when we heard some feedback that the idea of Postconsumerism doesn’t have anything to do with buying anything. We respectfully disagree. Our belief at Postconsumers is that every person needs to find his or her own joyful level of enough on the consumer scale. What is important is that people understand that happiness and satisfaction don’t come from “stuff” and the role that the consumer machine and the media play in fooling the public to believe those things. Today, we’ll be focusing on five tips to help you get involved in local economies while also educating yourself to be armed against consumer media.

Number One: Understand Big Box Stores

The first thing that you absolutely need to do is to understand why and how the big box stores that so many of us shop at are detrimental to your desire to separate your satisfaction from your stuff (as well as get your budget under control and de-clutter your personal space). We’ve got a primer for you on the ills associated with big box stores, but we’re going to cover the basics again right here! The entire premise of a big box store is to keep prices low so that you buy more. The mentality of a big box store customer (or the mentality that they desire) is that the benefit of shopping there is how much stuff you can buy. It’s so much! We’re going to, for the purposes of this article, ignore the issues of low quality items, bad environmental policies and poor social policies. If you cringe at a big box store for no other reason, cringe at it because it’s teaching people to think like they have addictive consumerism. More is better! More is better. It’s true – more is better, when it’s happiness and satisfaction.

Number Two: Research Brands

Some brands are better for the world than others, and that’s just a fact. We’re not just talking about manufacturing processes or environmental concerns here. Some brands really do work hard to support local economies, source items locally and offer real growth opportunities to franchise owners. We’ve said it before, but we think that Whole Foods is a great example of this. Yes, there are many reasons to cringe at any mention of Whole Paycheck, but there are also good things that they do. They give local, small batch vendors places to sell their product and they support local charities and organizations. We don’t mean to be a cheerleader for Whole Foods, believe us. But you’re going to have to buy some things, somewhere, some time. Research the brands and retail outlets that you deal with. A great place to start, if you have a smartphone, is with the Buycott app.

Number Three: Understand Marketing Messages

What the average person doesn’t know about how marketers instill ideas in your head could fill more than an entire MBA course load. That doesn’t mean that you can’t keep learning, however. We have some advice and tips to get you started, but marketing and how it interacts with your life is much more complicated in the present era. The amount of data about what will entice you or appeal to you is a vast pool (and much of this data you volunteer willingly every day when you go online or use a loyalty card at the grocery store). Before you can fight back against this type of marketing, you need to understand it. And when it comes to supporting local initiatives, mass marketing is one of the biggest enemies. Local vendors and retailers don’t have the money or the resources to market in these types of ways. That’s why mass global marketing gives the advantage to big brands, and big brands are the devil on your shoulder telling you to buy more and more and more. How effective is that email in your inbox? Does the soda that you see in a scene in a TV show or movie really have an impact on you? What brands are paying to make sure that their products are at eye level in a store that you frequent? Before you can really understand how big brand marketing is keeping you away from local merchants or vendors, you need to always remember marketing techniques so that you can spot them.

Number Four: Go On a Media Diet

As we mentioned above, most marketing channels give an advantage to huge global brands instead of local vendors and producers. What’s a good way to get out of the cycle of being constantly told that your value is associated with owning things from big global brands? Go on a media diet! A media diet is actually good for you for many reasons that aren’t related to beating addictive consumerism. It can help to reduce stress, calm your mind and even increase the sharpness of your brain. But we advocate for a media diet because it separates you from so much of the messaging around consumerism, consumption and “more, more, more.” Not sure where to start with a media diet? We can help. We have an article with twenty great ideas for going media-free (or media-less).

Number Five: Read Your Local News

But while you’re on that media diet, take some time to read your local newspaper (or a local magazine if you have one). Why is that? Because it really is the best way to learn about local shops, vendors and artisans. Where you don’t want to be is on media outlets where huge global brands spread messages about the need for mass purchasing. Where you do want to be is on media outlets where you can honestly learn about alternatives to these larger wheels in the consumer machine. Plus, your local paper could absolutely use your support!

One of the keys to postconsumerism is to be realistic. It’s not realistic that you’re going to move beyond the cogs of addictive consumerism by not buying anything, ever again. What is realistic is that you can make better informed decisions about how and what you purchase. We weren’t joking when we said that knowledge is the most important weapon in the battle against brainwashed consumerism. Fortunately, when it comes to knowledge, it’s easy to build an arsenal!

Be sure to come back for the fourth installment in this series, when we’ll be talking about ways the internet can actually help you support local economies.

Did we miss a way to shop locally that you’d like to share? Tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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