Adolescence, Part II: Consumerism

I am going to continue a discussion of adolescence using The Case Against Adoscence as a springboard, but this will primarily be my own commentary on the subject, not a discussion about the book. If you’d like a better overview of his book, read this Psychology Today article.

Within any culture, it’s hard to look at one issue without looking at the whole system. The new category of adolescence created at the turn of the century has since morphed into a distinct part of the whole, almost a culture all its own. With the advent of radio, movies, and television, mass media came into existence. Advertisers and sponsors suddenly had access to large parts of the culture. Couple that with mass production of goods, and we have mass goods to sell to a mass audience. It didn’t take long to realize that the emerging youth culture were less set in their ways and more impressionable than their older counterparts. They soon became the primary focus on the advertising engine. There are a lot of factors that contributed to this, so I don’t want to oversimplify it too much, but the end result is that we have a youth-focused culture.

What is the music industry focused on, including contemporary Christian music? Youth. What about movies? Youth. Much of popular entertainment is focused on youth. Why? Youth haven’t made up their minds, so they are more impressionable. Youth have access to money via their parents, and lots of free time (in comparison to those older with families). And what is the basic for a popular culture? Whatever the entertainment industry says is popular, or whatever the culture buys at the moment. Either way, it’s a sad basic for culture, though pop culture does have its moments.

It has been in the interest of the industry to glorify youth. What can we all do to be younger, thinner, prettier, more free? Old is irrelevant. Youth is the goal. It’s in the best interest of our consumerist society and large corporations for people to not grow up, to not make up their minds, to not have a sense of identity. Consumerism is, after all, an idol, one that gives definition to its subjects. The God of the Bible is a competitor that also needs to be made irrelevant, because God gives us an identity that is in many ways antithetical to consumerism.

There is, of course, a shift taking place, as many modern youth see through the facade of consumerism. Now that the Baby Boomer generation is approaching retirement age, with lots of money, that will be an interesting trend to observe.

To Be Continued…