Black Friday

“The news, the TV adverts, the incessant ‘sponsored FB ads’ are flooding our screens on an hourly basis, helpfully reminding us of all the things we are lacking in our lives and how cheaply we can obtain them to reach that much anticipated state of nirvana!” Sarah Baron writes about why Black Friday might be a bad idea and suggests a few alternatives.

Brace yourselves! The Hunger Games are fast approaching!
This is how I ‘affectionately’ refer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday… and the media frenzy that surrounds them.

The news, the TV adverts, the incessant ‘sponsored FB ads’ are flooding our screens on an hourly basis, helpfully reminding us of all the things we are lacking in our lives and how cheaply we can obtain them to reach that much anticipated state of nirvana!

Of course, now we have the internet we don’t need to actually fight each other in person to get the best deals on offer. The single-minded pursuit of wealth and material goods has become a far safer sport. We can simply waste money we don’t really have, on things we don’t really need, from the comfort of our own sofas. Progress indeed!!

Black Friday, traditionally part of a joyous ritual of communal generosity, part of an American holiday season marked by charity, seems to have been lost in translation somewhere along the line.

Of course, there are some who do benefit from Black Friday and Cyber Monday  it’s not all bad. Retailers get to counteract November sales slumps, clear old stock and acquire new customers and boost their profits exponentially in the run up to the Christmas shopping period.

The timeless strategy of discounting is that stores hope to get us to buy impulsively rather than thoughtfully, lest we change our minds… And a lot of research shows that it works. From: When Are Sales Too Good to Be True? by Mandy Walker

We shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much, if we do get sucked into buying more than we need or more than we can afford, as the psychology behind this phenomenon is very powerful. And don’t the media and retailers know it  and use it to their full advantage. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is one of the most powerful psychological forces surrounding these days  in addition to the dopamine rush many of us crave from engaging in a shopping binge!

However, knowing there are ‘psychological influences’ at work here does at least give us the power to choose an alternative. Being mindful of how we are being manipulated, gives us the power to say no. I hope I’m not alone in already anticipating the 100% savings I’m going to be making this year, by simply not buying anything at all!

There are plenty of other ways to get a dopamine rush  to maintain our physical and mental wellbeing. In fact, some psychologists say the most powerful human experience is one where we boost dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin levels, all in one hit. Psychologist Dr. Ava Ritvo, writing in Psychology Today, suggests we can achieve this happiness ‘triple-win’ in an entirely different way  and it doesn’t have to cost us a single penny. She challenges us to spend time over the Black Friday weekend giving or helping others.

The keys to this alternative high are:

  • it must help someone else, which boosts serotonin
  • it must be something you don’t normally do, which boosts dopamine
  • it must involve some physical contact  a hug, or at least a hand shake  which releases oxytocin.

Examples include: cleaning up a local park/beach/street, visiting/calling an elderly relative or neighbour, organising a fundraising event, or volunteering at a local shelter/school/religious institution. This is more in the spirit of #GivingTuesday, which was created in 2012, where shoppers are encouraged to take a break and donate what they can to a charity of their choice.

#GivingTuesday is the perfect cyber-counterbalance to Black Friday and emphasizes giving back, in this era of mass consumption…” Tony Goldwyn

A bombed-out building in Gaza

The aftermath of an air attack in Gaza — November 2019

This year, as a result of seeing so many photos of the devastating effects of the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, I have chosen to set up a JustGiving page to raise money in support of one of Amos partners in Gaza — NECC Vocational Training Centre.

The greatest investment a (wo)man can ever make is to INVEST in humanity…” Stephen Magnus

This money will specifically support their work with young people  the innocent victims of three wars since 2009  providing mentoring and psychological support to cope with the violence and isolation of everyday life in the besieged Strip. You can watch a short film about their work below.

Amos Trust’s Christmas Appeal for 2019 also supports NECC’s work in Gaza. You can donate to their fund here. Think about that dopamine!

Black Friday isn’t yet a thing of the past, and perhaps it never will be. However, we all have the power to choose how we spend our time and money, and there is an opportunity for us all to have a better Black Friday/Cyber Monday experience — helping and supporting those in need.

I believe this is something well worth encouraging.

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