Teenagers The Choice Puppets

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By and large, Freedom enjoys a laudable reputation. It is an affirmative word, even liberating, critical to our wellbeing. In the phantasmagoria of the world, it has been present in all the major events and battles, been the reward for the struggles in most, but there is one place where psychologists don’t seem to agree. If freedom is really our friend, it is when we have the: Freedom of Choice.

Research shows in this society, more choices have not necessarily led to more happiness. In his book, “The Paradox of Choice”, Barry Schwartz, grapples with the possibility that choice has, in fact, led to the explosion of clinical depression. Some choice is good, but too much choice is pernicious to happiness.


There was a time when the customer was thrilled with “choose your pizza toppings” and Baskin Robbins’ 31. Enter: “Pieology” and “Cream”, your completely customized “make – your – own pizzeria” and ice cream haven that offer unlimited permutations and ingredients, and the dilettante is left feeling dazzled and honestly, slightly inadequate!.

Jeans are anything but just jeans – it’s a smorgasbord of slim, skinny, regular, boot cut, tapered, capri, boyfriend, loose, flair bottom, stone washed, acid wash, vintage wash, distressed, selvedged, waxed, open ribs, knee rips, extreme rips and other waist related minutia.

Today, retailers have designed over a million ways to make a customer happy. As of May 2016, Amazon carried 12,231,203 total products excluding books, media, and services. When products available from marketplace sellers were included, the total number of products increased almost 30X to a total of 353,710,754 products offered (360pi).

Many choices between things are artificial and not all of us are able to differentiate between these options. We don’t see choice in the same places and to the same extent. When we are overwhelmed by the choices it’s no longer a marker of liberation. Choice then develops into the very opposite of what it represents.

The missed opportunity syndrome pulls the plug on retail therapy very quickly. Schwartz finds that, when people are faced with having to choose one option out of many desirable choices, they will begin to consider hypothetical trade-offs. Their options are evaluated in terms of missed opportunities instead of the opportunity’s potential.

Unfortunately, this paradox is not limited to the adult world, it has crept into the teen’s universe through their gadgets and is consuming them (quite literally). The meta-message that you can solve all of the life’s problems by purchasing the right products is what is having the most profound effect on their vulnerable minds. Industry terms such as from ‘cradle to grave’, brand loyalty and to ‘own’ children are for real .The marketing executives are seeking the teen market which is USD 200 billion in the US alone. With the constant bombardment of advertising, by the time the children reach their teens, a developmental stage when they’re naturally insecure and searching for a personal identity, they’ve been taught that material possessions are what matter.

The marketers manipulate teens to use materialistic values to define who they are and aren’t. In doing that, marketers distort the organic process of developing an identity. The teenagers are unable to differentiate between the real them and the puppets that the advertisers have made them out to be.

Niti-KewalramaniThe teenage girls are the worst hit. With a spend of $9 billion on makeup and skin products alone, the commercials are constantly making a promise of beauty, popularity, peace-of-mind, self-confidence, great relationships turning many young girls into insatiable consumers. That is when the teenager has to have the new branded shoes that are sold on the black market or make a weekly visit to Starbucks. Get into their personal space and some might admit that they don’t even like the drinks, but Starbucks is the dernier cri in faddism and you have to be seen there.


Niti Kewalramani is the Founder and CEO of The Education Advisory – a premium boutique education advisory offering strategic advice and assistance to students exploring higher education options.

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