I Am a Stereotype: First Class Hippie

As I was doing my grocery shopping today, casually strolling through every row, picking up bananas, cucumbers, organic tofu… Wait. Organic? Well, yes, organic is better, so just chuck it in the basket and move on. As I was saying, I slowly but surely filled my cart until I got to the peanut butter. I wanted to treat myself to some yummy one, and as I hold the jar in my hand I reflexively scan the label : palm oil. Oh shoot, I read somewhere that palm oil is destroying the rain forest. That’s bad. Palm oil is bad. Ah man, I can’t buy a treat if it’s that bad for the environment. Why not another brand? I pick up another, again my eyes automatically scan the label: hydrogenated oil. Anything hydrogenated can add to my risks of heart problems. That’s bad, right? Well, why not this one? Plastic jar. I’m trying to avoid plastic because of BPA and petroleum and synthetic stuff…. I think. But glass is safe! Oh no, it’s not organic!!!

Finally, I find an organic glass jar of peanut butter for double the price after spending 15 minutes reading through all the labels and going through half the row of spreads. What have I become? Is this what we call being a hippie? According to various sources, the hippie was originally a counter-culture love and peace, go with the flow person. Nowadays, it seems like being a hippie is a lot more than simply hugging trees and saving the planet with eco-friendly choices and low impact lifestyles. After a quick google, I find many sites giving me 14, 15, and 51 signs of what it is to be a modern-day hippie. Wow, I didn’t know there were so many rules!  After reading through the lists, it seemed like I did fit the bill:

I volunteer, am vegetarian, cycle everywhere, do yoga, and dress in sustainable clothing… mostly. However, what does that really make me?

I also really like hip-hop, LOVE shoes, collect tons of books that I buy new, have a whole wardrobe of synthetic clothing for my workouts, and accumulate all these random trinkets from my travels. Now what does that make me?

Human?

I remember buying these pink gloves for cycling recently. Wearing them as I travel from one job to another, I got so many comments about how it wasn’t me and how obnoxious they looked. After asking them why, they all answered the same: “You’re not a flashy pink person. You’re earthy, green, brown.” Yet, my favorite color is pink and I dress like a rainbow every day! How fast my coworkers had judged me and put me into the “hippie” stereotype.

That’s when it made me wonder, how much do stereotypes influence social media? It seems like it has a lot to do with gender. It seems like women use social media more than men, yet men hold more power when it comes to voicing opinions and reacting in the online world. What does that mean? The ads presented to women are different from the ones for men. Women use Facebook to share more, while men prefer twitter to discuss what they think. The article goes on about how different social media treats genders.

What about in a broader way? One example is how the media projects aboriginals as savages, like in the movie Pocahontas. When presented with a specific way to see a large group of people since childhood, it is hard to shake off those ingrained models.

So, why do we use stereotypes?

Stereotypes are commonly used (…) because they are easily identifiable, thus creators of programs and scripts can refer to stock characters without having to delve into a complete characterization for the sake of explanation. By using stereotypes audiences can easily identify characters and focus more attention on the story line rather than character development.

Not only do stereotypes affect opinions and thoughts but they also affect behavior. They are found everywhere, and though portrayed innocently, they affect and impact the mindset of many. Society often perpetuates and creates stereotypes.

In short, it seems stereotypes allow us to simplify getting to know someone, be it a friend, a character on TV, or a model in an ad. Instead of asking questions and getting to know the person as an individual, we already assume we know a lot more about them because they fit in a certain general group of people with similar characteristics.

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Coming back to my peanut butter! As I was standing there trying to figure out what to buy, I found myself exhausted. If I was dirt broke, I would go for the cheapest one. If I didn’t care about what it contained, I’d go for the tastiest one. If I didn’t care for the container, I’d go for whichever was my favorite. If I didn’t care about pesticides on food and contaminants in the soil, I wouldn’t bother paying extra for organic. Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t a modern-day hippie that lived paycheck to paycheck because she can’t simply pick what she likes because of all the values that hold dear to her heart. I’m a first class hippie because I can afford (well… to be truly honest, not really, but that would start a whole other blog post…) to waste half an hour on choosing between a dozen peanut butter options. I’m far from simply wearing tie dye clothing, smoking weed, and playing guitar around a fire (yes, I just used a stereotype).  Yet, at the end of the day, I cut corners, eat No Name Brand pasta until my next paycheck, because living up to that stereotype is just plain expensive and exhausting for a young adult with a low income.

What am I supposed to do then?

Well, to come back to the basics of where my values come from, I “go with the flow” and “peace out” as best I can, taking it one day and one paycheck at a time.

As for stereotypes in social media, how do you think it affects us? Have you noticed yourself using stereotypes to reach audiences or to create marketing campaigns?

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3 thoughts on “I Am a Stereotype: First Class Hippie

  1. Your story made me smile. From the moment I started reading it … until the last sentence. I loved it.

    Guilty. I am so guilty of stereotyping. I stereotype myself … and those around me … everyone in a nice tidy pile and labelled. I can’t help myself sometimes. I’m never mean … and I’d like to think it’s because I am observant … hmmmmmmmm. I’ll have to try to justify that one with myself … food for thought.

    Yes. I have also used stereotypes to reach a marketing audience. A very handy dandy tool.

    BTW. I am a huge fan of the free spirited and environmentally in-tune life style. Hippies have the right idea!

  2. I think everyone is guilty of stereotyping. When first trying to think of your target audience for a campaign, certain groups of people are going to pop up in your head. You may not mean to, or realize, but stereotyping is happening.

    Companies need to make sure that although stereotypes can help them identify certain audiences, they have to make sure that they aren’t basing their target audiences solely off of stereotypes. If you only focus your campaign on stereotypes you can offend or alienate potential audience members, so companies need to find a good balance!

    Great post!

  3. Hi Gaby, thanks for the post. I found it quite entertaining to read as I’ve been in the same boat as you when trying to buy something as simple as peanut butter, haha!

    I think it’s important that the quote you provided mentions that stereotypes are portrayed innocently. Stereotypes are typically attached to a negative connotation but they usually exist because the descriptions/criteria within them are accurate. Stereotypes generally depict the truth about a group of people and for marketing purposes that is a good thing. Companies may not know all the details about the age group they are trying to reach out to, or the network they are trying to break into, for example. However, if they can use the stereotypes about their target audience/clientele they’ll likely have more success connecting with them. Assuming where a network is most likely to see an ad or what words will attract them in an ad, for example, isn’t anything malicious it’s simply strategic.

    That being said, companies should be aware of the impact that their branding can have on stereotypes. Let’s take your hippie stereotype for example. If an eco-friendly clothing company was advertising a shirt and used the term hippie in their ad (i.e. ‘Finally, a material for all your hippie adventures’), they’ve defined people who wear that clothing as a hippie. What if someone doesn’t want to be put in a box like that? If the clothing company puts an ad up without the use of the word hippie, rather in a location where “the hippie network” is most likely to see it, I think that’s fair.

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