I originally intended to do a series of posts about self care over the summer. Along with so many things those intentions got swept away! However as lockdown relaxes I see around me not only the impact of the extraordinary year we have had so far, but of the relaxation itself. Many people are finding the increased movement itself provokes anxiety, and self care feels even more important than ever.
So I am doing something a little different, a series of guest posts, all around the very broad topic – how do we care for ourselves better. I want to reflect the fact that the past few months have been very different depending on our “boats” – our experience of oppression and privilege which can be expressed in something as simple as do we have a garden.
The first guest post of from a teenager, a group hugely impacted by lockdown but rarely heard. Over to him:
Sign of the times by Tom Storey
The 21st century accelerated a phenomena that was beginning to become prevalent in the later half of the 20th. That being the phenomena of advertising, in the form of signs, (pictures and letters, often in words, but sometimes just on their own, think of the Mcdonalds ”M” or Amazon smile). That advertising was becoming more prevalent on the face of it seems to be a simple and uncontroversial statement. Of course companies use these techniques, they want to associate these things with their product and thus the organisation as a whole. This is still a wholly unobjectionable statement, so, in the light of Covid, what has changed, and how can this, possibly, apply to you, someone perhaps looking for therapy, help and guidance?
I don’t want to assume; not everyone has had a similar Covid experience to me, someone without a job, without direct financial stresses, yet, I think, it can be broadly said that most people have had more time to spare. Perhaps that is an insensitive choice of words, for it is hardly spare time if you are anxious, quite rightly so, about the effects of a pandemic, not to mention the disease itself. However, one thing I think I can say with near certainty, is that many have consumed more media than they may have pre-lockdown. Or perhaps I have phrased that wrong, rather, we have reflected and pondered on the media which we consume, far more than we may have done a few months ago.
This is not to say that there have not been times where we have not considered media we consume before the pandemic, nor that we now critically filter all media, however I think an important shift has happened, in society and in the minds of people, which relates to our view of advertising, and the products they represent. This being, essentially, we have finally, in a large way, come to know what we really need, and what we can fundamentally do without.
A way to look at this may be, ‘I agree, having more time to understand how companies use advertising to make me purchase things I don’t need, has made me more aware of what I truly do need’. However, whilst that is a valid statement, I think in some way, it works in the opposite direction. Covid has put restrictions on the availability of some products, due to stricter precautions for manufacturing, and thus, many have, not by their own will, but by circumstances beyond their control, been separated from many things they may buy regularly. This could be shopping for clothes, specific food items you like, newer tech, etc.
By having these things forcefully restricted, and not by your own will, I think it leaves something, a gap, which is filled (quite unsuccessfully) by the empty consumption of media. You no longer look at the adverts, perhaps wondering whether you will buy a pair of shoes, or a new dress, because you know you cannot get it. And you, by the very virtue of the time you have, cannot, for long, breeze over these signs with little notice. You have to at some point engage, because there is so little else to do. Maybe then, this does not start the process of critical thinking, but exposes it, making it clear that you are beginning to think. Not whether to buy it, but, on the contrary, whether you need it at all.
And don’t get me wrong, this is not your fault for not, perhaps, critically looking at advertising, and I am in no way saying that I somehow am not affected. I don’t wish to assign some blame to you, because, frankly, this is a societal effect, and, as long as you in some way participate in society, it will affect you. And this is why, in some way, the lock down may have some long term benefits. It has provided a rare situation of a space for critical reflection on what we consume and how. All reflective thought is useful, helpful, yet, and this is so important, it cannot be just limited to time with your counsellor. So, perhaps there has been a first step in helping ourselves and the next time an advert for a new pair of shoes pops up, think back to these times, and then think, ‘do I really need them?’ And most importantly, can I do without them?