It’s hard to think creatively, when you are living in the typical consumer bubble. I’m using the word consumer here, to describe people who are consumers of mass media programming.
This is not a conspiracy theory about how the big media companies are trying to turn us all into zombies. It’s simply a look at the impact on your thinking, of being subjected to the same kind of influences as everyone else, when you are trying to think creatively or independently.
This is also a subject I know particularly well. I have worked in marketing since the 1980’s and been responsible for making viewers, listeners or readers think and feel a certain way, about brands and products.
Here’s why this subject matters: When we look at the typical 24 hour day, deduct 9 hours for sleeping, showering and breakfast, 10 hours for working and commuting and an hour for dinner with the family, most of the available free time people have, is spent being influenced by TV and radio. This differs a little from country to country. In the United States, for example, people watch an average of 4.3 hours of TV a day.
The vast majority of the population spend huge chunks of their evenings, watching TV – consuming the work of creative people.
- During the commercials, creative advertising professionals are programming them to feel good about certain consumer products.
- During the shows, creative programmers are using everything from mood music to canned laughter, to program them when to laugh or cry.
With a handful of TV channels responsible for the massive majority of hit TV shows, you can very easily find yourself thinking along the same lines as the massive majority of people. Not a wise move, if you need to come up with original thoughts, ideas and opinions.
People commute to and from work, listening to radio shows, which will influence them similarly to TV.
- If they listen to talk radio, they will be influenced around the political or religious beliefs of that station.
- If it’s a music station, they will either be influenced to like the new releases the station is paid to promote, or if an oldies music station, they will be targeted with advertising, specially tailored for people in their exact age group.
Now, if you enjoy those TV shows, you will laugh in all the right places and have a GREAT consumer experience. If you happen to find a wonderful new brand of (whatever), the commercials were of value to you too. If that talk radio station advocates your own political or religious views, you will feel supported by them and if the music is what you love, that was enjoyable also.
Mass media: The price?
However, you will be spending huge chunks of your day being influenced by TV programs or radio programs, developed by creative professionals, with a vested interested in making you think and feel a certain way. Great for them and OK for you, if you are aware of it and it’s what you want. It’s also the normal way to spend a hefty chunk of your spare time. This is why people go to work and chat about last night’s TV, knowing that most of their friends will have done the exact same as them and watched those shows too.
The impact of programming on decision making (thinking) is enormous. It generates billions in sales annually, for often very average products and services. It can dictate which musicians become superstars and even lead to the election of world leaders. Just look at the way the polls change after a political debate.
Be an informed consumer
Every highly creative person I know, is extremely careful what they allow to influence their thinking. Some, like myself, don’t watch TV at all and when we listen to the radio, we listen to different stations with different agendas, to provide more diverse inputs and a more rounded world view. Even being aware that this is happening, makes it harder for programmers to influence us. If that’s all you get from this article, it’s extremely valuable to you.
I am not suggesting you or anyone quits watching TV or stops listening to the radio. I am suggesting you become consciously aware that everything you see or hear influences you. Be selective what you consume and which people you allow to shape your thoughts and opinions.
Mixing up your own unique programming
I recommend you become your own TV or radio scheduler, and mix it up. In my own case, I watch a lot of Internet video and listen to podcasts, from an extremely diverse set of people with very different world views. I often feed my mind with amazing content, which has just a few hundred or a few thousand viewers – content that does not influence everyone’s thinking. This unique mix makes it easier for me to think differently and more creatively, because I am working from a totally different perspective to 99.99% of the population.
The bottom line: It’s hard to think creatively or independently, when your mind is influenced by the same voices as everyone else.