Budget

The Disconnected Generation of Excess

The general wealth that has permeated the American economy over the last half century is a phenomenon that has changed the way we consume. America is a capitalistic country, which also means it’s a country of consumers. Since family adults have been spending more time working, and less time at home, family life is changing too. Obesity is the now the crisis in America, unlike many countries. We have infinite access to grocery stores and growing options to save time. Therefore, there is a greater problem in America with people that are sick from excess than people who are sick from not having enough.

In a society where we have more and more, it’s easy to feel like we need so much to simply live. Yet that excess starts to weigh on us.  The world of America is bulging with comfort, yet people are constantly stressed about money. We spend and spend, but can hardly dissociate the necessities from the consumer tendencies.

We have more options to save time by spending less time cooking. Pre-made dinners populate grocery stores and multitudes of fast food chains scatter our community blocks. Now some argue that we are up to 2 generations away from a cooking society. A study [1] comparing 1960s household food preparation and home consumption to 2010 was published in the Nutritional Journal.

They tested 100,000 people age 19-60 years of age. Scientists argued that evidence showed a significant decrease of time spent cooking exponentially after the year of 1965, but have leveled off around the 1990s and stayed the same[1].

American diets have changed. We eat less nutrients than ever before[2]. As fewer people cook per day, those who do cook spend less time cooking per day [1]. We live in high-demand societies that demand productivity, and cooking takes away from that.

And what does that mean for a society? It means BlueApron, that’s what. Where a company can send individually plastic wrapped vegetables to people for a thick price, $140 a week, and get tons of business. It means that we live in a generation that doesn’t remember how resourceful we have the power to be. It’s a generation where humans are removed from gardening, removed from cooking rice, and removed from making bread.  Those were the passed on secrets of how our ancesters have survived! But in just a generation or two, we have moved on. Food and food products are evolving quickly.

The generations of wisdom to survive to some degree is replaced with $1.oo-a-cup microwavable rice from Trader Joes. When normally rice is 12 cents a cup (if you know how to cook it). That’s a 10-fold profit margin!! We can live off of an inexpensive and diverse vegetable filled diet, but instead we choose fast food, processed nurtrient-poor dairy, and excessive meat. Not only does spending increase drastically with this diet, but we get less of the nutrients that our body needs. Americans are the top consumer of fries, pizza, fast & microwaved food of any other country [3].

So why is this? Well, I mentioned that we have less time because less people are at home cooking [1]. Which is true. It’s more common for women to go to work today than it has been in the past. But another probable 3rd variable of change is the increase in technology and entertainment. We have less time because we have more capacity to occupy our time.

I would not be honest if I said that I didn’t have dependence on technology. I instantly google thoughts as they arise. I completely expect to get a hold of people when I contact them, and consequentially, people may feel weird if they can’t get a hold of me. I nearly always have my phone with me. Technology is deeply engrained in each of our lives.

We are growing in an new age of thinking. We have an extended tool that’s an infinite encyclipedia, TV, and friend. Technology can be  a powerful mechanism to expand our thoughts, but it can also be an endless loop of distraction and entertainment. For american consumers, technology is just that. Advertisements, TV, games, news, social media, and more require our time. Our attention is being demanded by a greater amount of sources than ever before.

If ya didn’t know, now you know: “Free” apps make money off of our attention.

It’s the business model that created the monster corporations of Google and Facebook. Free apps are great! They allow the freedom of entertainment that rolls of our devices. We think it’s virtual, but there’s a real consumption going on. Someone has to provide it. Real physical cords stretch from telephone polls carrying your precious connections. So, why is that attention so valuable? With strategically targetted advertisements, those free apps are betting on you having consumer weaknesses.

And you know what? It works. Starbucks saw a 38% lift from users who saw Starbucks appear in their feed [4]. The networks use every blank space to reach us. It works something like this:

facebook

source: [4]

I wonder if humans even know how to addapt to this quick evolving change. If so, it’s at an extrodinary rate.  Consumers of data feed AI that tailors information to the viewers eyes. But a bit of my attention is a fair price for a free service right? Well, we are consumers of information.

If there are educational games that can teach me better than any classes do, then I’ll take it. You can have my name and my email. Thanks for creating an easy route of payment!

But the problem with emmerging economies, like the new space of the web, is that you need to be able to pay back into it as much as your taking out. The money has to come from somewhere. Sure, it’s fueled by consumerism. There are always going to be people who see the ads and can’t resist the clicks. I mean it’s pretty exciting to receive Amazon packages.

If it’s ethical individual consumer decisions, and you personally decided to click on the ads that baraged into your screen and targeted you, then that’s your choice. Or is it?

AI identifies target audiences by their ages, their liklihood to buy, among others in advetising. So how can a young consumer of technology avoid it? Young girls have make up and fasion ads targets towards them with the notorious poignancy of the beauty industry based in self doubt.

So I see both sides. And as I wonder where I fit into the world, I ask how can I offer a service to a web-based era that’s lucrative while still giving back as much data as I’m taking? I think that AI is fascinating, not evil! People are finding shortcuts that have never been possible before. I mean look at PageRank! It revolutionilized the web just by changing the way we searches prioritize information, and created the search engine we know as Google. Now it’s designed to learn from you. Algorithyms are all around us and they’re changing things. Fast.

But thank god, I love my email spam filter!

First it was the excess of  food that made us sick, now it’s the excess of information. In the increasingly developed world, the influx of technology is fundamentally changing us. It’s impacting how we spend our time and how our minds function. But how will we excape the endless loops that are dominating our time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Real food!! A photo from a farm that traded free veggies a few hours of volunteering.

 

 

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A heart box of nutrients!!

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A quick meal from fresh goodies! Pictured are some beautifully baked zuchinni, beets, and peppers! With rice and tomato sauce.

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Photo: Relatively unrelated photo from the Red Fort in India. India is a place that really contrasted how much excess America has for me and how much excess Americans consumer. This photo seems like one that’s good for a last thought. Ta da!

Bibliography

[1] Smith, Lidsey P; Ng Shu W; Popkin Barry M. “Trends in US home food preparation and consumption: analysis of national nutrition surveys and time use studies from 1965–1966 to 2007–2008.” Nutr J. 2013; 12: 45. Pubreader. Web. 2017 December 2017.

[2] Krebs-Smith SM, Guenther PM, Subar AF, Kirkpatrick SI, Dodd KW. Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations. J Nutr. 2010;140:1832–1838. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.124826.[PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

[3] The Data Team. “Fast Food Nations” The Economist. Jan 8, 2015. Web Accessed: Dec, 12, 2017.

[4] “How Does Facebook Make its Money?” Business Management Degree. Web. Accessed: Dec 13, 2017

 

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