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  • Writer's pictureKate Hill

Christmas Commercialization and Social Media Manipulation

The holiday season influences how American society shops. From Black Friday to early January, items are marked down, and appealing, seasonally festive commercials are put up, which when combined, influence the impulsive spending habits of many Americans. For teenagers who are just learning money-saving and spending habits, the cocktail can be twice as lethal. So, in today’s day and age, what makes society so susceptible to this sort of manipulation? Is it a loss of sentimentality within the Christmas season, or is the media so powerful that it bombards the vulnerable year-round by making unattainable standards of a materialistic lifestyle? Students weighed in with their answers.

The sentiments of Christmas can easily be distorted by company advertisements. “I think...the meaning of Christmas is different for a lot of people. I think to business people, the commercials, and advertising, and festive holiday showings are the true meaning of Christmas and getting things out there [products sold],” said Mishawaka High School senior, Aaron Hecklinski.

“I have my own belief of what Christmas is, so if they [influencers] want to advertise a fantasy version of their Christmas, it’s not taking away from mine, but it could be taking away from other people who get easily distracted…” said junior, Tia Stopczynski.

Isabelle Bradley is another junior, but she felt that marketing techniques remained influential year-round; not just through advertisements, but through subliminal ways that most would fail to recognize. She said,

“...Stores use very manipulative tactics… to appeal to certain audiences. That’s why you see the golden arches at McDonald’s. They use colors like yellow and red… because that’s what’s appealing. They [marketers] use a lot of human psychology for advertisements. I think that’s really interesting.”

Sophomore, Shyanne Vines, said, “Around the holidays, they [marketers] mark prices up throughout the year, so that during the holidays they can have a huge sale where something is 65% off, but they just upmarked it 65% throughout the year. I think that’s a big manipulation tactic that people use and are influenced by throughout the holidays...

“It’s easier to spend money when you’re buying gifts for multiple people because you feel like you’re spacing it out, but then when you add it all together it’s like, ‘Wow, I just spent hundreds of dollars.’ It might have been on multiple people, but it felt like so little (at) the moment,” illustrated Vines.

As to whether or not Bradley felt manipulated by any of these tactics, she said, “It’s so hard to say just because- we live in a society. We’re surrounded by capitalism, and I think that we’re so desensitized by it. You drive down any road, you drive down Grape Road, and everything around you is just an advertisement… We don’t really notice if we’re being coerced into buying something, which is kind of scary.”

The fear goes deeper than one might think. As Bradley continued, “It’s dark to think about how stores will capitalize on your kindness and your holiday spirit for money. Recently, I’ve gotten a job and I’ve had the money for this [to spend], but for me to actually notice like, ‘Oh, wow. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars.’ I’ve never done that before… It goes back to social media platforms. Markets are paying influencers to advertise their product…”

So, then what is the most effective way to advertise? Hecklinski is President of Mishawaka High School’s Thespian Troupe 496. His position grants him a lot of responsibility when it comes to advertising and marketing the status of productions at MHS and those involved. On this subject, he provided insight as to how he fulfills the task.

“...I try to get the word out by word of mouth... but also through social media, like our local news networks and even our school network,” he said.

Stopczynski gave her perspective and said, “I know that a lot of people would probably say the most influential form of advertising (is) TikTok, but when you advertise on TikTok, a lot of people just scroll because they can. With TV, if it’s live, you can't…there’s always ways to avoid a commercial, but I think it's (the) hardest on TV, so I think the message gets across the best with TV,” she summarized.

Contrary to Stopczynski’s statement, Vines is one who sided with TikTok’s mass influence. She said,

“Tiktok has such a huge outreach. Things go viral so fast.”

Whether or not TikTok is the most influential form of advertising, it does have considerable power to create trends with good or bad intentions. Mishawaka High School experienced its own form of rebellion when students were too infatuated with the TikTok trend “Devious Licks” in September, and the decision to fall in line with these trends is a true test of morals.

“Being viral used to mean 4,000 followers, but now you’re not considered famous unless you have over 10,000, which is so insane to me…It’s dependent on what people think and where their priorities stand,” said Bradley.

While social media should not alter our ideas of Christmas, it becomes more dangerously powerful when it alters our self-image, which for Bradley, isn’t easy to escape. She said,

“Personally, I really like fashion, and that’s something that’s important to me… I will find myself trying to get ready in the mornings for school and I’m almost unable to… I’m scared… and it’s not even about appealing to other people. It’s about appealing to myself.”

That said, “People really need to have a lesson about what’s real and what’s not on the internet, and even (if it’s) not on the internet. Rumors can get around so fast,” said Stopczynski. “They should ask themselves, ‘Do I really know what’s happening?... Do I know all of the evidence?’”

After asking these questions, you must, “Do your own research. Go to other sources, (because) if something is true, you really keep hearing about it for a longer period of time than when something’s fake…”

Ultimately, it’s human nature to be materialistic. Everybody wants stuff; everybody gets jealous from time to time. Everybody knows what the purpose of the holidays is, and has that ideal image of the holiday season in their head, yet what’s presented in social media isn’t reality and has never been. Hypocrisy is not in the spirit of the holidays. Despite recent hurdles, the end of the semester is here, Cavemen. You did it!

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