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Why You Do The Things You Do, Even If They’re Bad For You

Insight Staff 2017-2018, Staff Writers

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Decisions, decisions. Why do we do what we do?

It’s a question that has no definite answer. Our decisions range from something as simple as choosing to make your bed in the morning to those more complex, like whether or not to drive home after you’ve been drinking that night.

Decisions can be thought out, rushed, or impaired. They are a part of every waking minute. They shape our lives. So why, if they’re so crucial, do we make bad ones?

The answer is not black and white. Take food for instance. We all know that eating healthy is beneficial. We all know it’s necessary. But many of us don’t do it. You could say that it’s a matter of willpower, and you wouldn’t be wrong. That definitely plays a role. But it’s so much more complex than that.

The amount of external factors at play impacting whether we eat chicken and broccoli or a Big Mac are numerous.

Advertising and media are huge. The use of propaganda is a medium perfected by the food industry. According to The Huffington Post, the United Kingdom has placed bans on many McDonalds ads, especially those which portray an emotional connection to the food and toys children receive in their notorious Happy Meals. And countries like Iceland have banned the fast food chain altogether.

Their reasoning for this is because our minds, especially those of young children, are extremely impressionable, which, in turn, makes unhealthy decisions easier to make.

And how many movies can you name that include some sort of substance use? Probably many. The normalization of drugs and alcohol is embedded in American culture. In 2015, the Monitoring the Future Survey reported that 10% of 8th graders and 35% of 12th graders drank during the past 30 days, and 5% of 8th graders and 17% of 12th graders binge drank during the past 2 weeks.

We are surrounded by bad choices. In our technological society, we can watch a film where the use of alcohol is both normalized and glorified as “cool,” and then go out to a party where the same thing is happening around us.

This peer pressure, added to the effect media has on us, makes harmful substances difficult to resist.

Your body knows best, and when drugs or alcohol enter our system, they’re treated as harmful chemicals and unnatural toxins, and your body makes it its priority to refute them. So do drugs and alcohol really feel good? Or is it that fitting in feels good? After all, we are social by nature and survive on interaction and acceptance.

It’s that concept of acceptance we crave, and unfortunately that can be achieved through harmful substances and choices.

In fact, it’s not just substance-related poor choices that we see. There’s cheating, there’s lying, there’s stealing. When the characters we watch in the shows we follow and connect with make these choices, they seem normal to us.

Yes, the media influences. But are they really to blame for all the decisions we make? No. So, what other factors cause adolescents to frequently make bad choices?


Well, a rather crucial reason can be summed up in the phrase, “to rebel is to conform.”

There’s a certain satisfaction about breaking rules and challenging authority. It lies in the rebellious nature of the young adult. When society frowns upon something, it becomes intriguing for us. We want to try it, to be different. But at the same time, so many teenagers are drinking and partaking in other substances that, ironically, a weird paradox is created. This ambiguity revolves around the fact that while underaged drinking is, per se, daring and rebellious, at the very same time it is common and somewhat accepted. Hence the phrase, “to rebel is to conform.”

And yes, our curiosity and impulse thinking do simply override logic sometimes. It’s natural to want to try new things.

One that bursted onto the scene recently is the alternative to electronic cigarettes, the ever-so-popular juul. The concept is nothing new. It’s simply a more aesthetically pleasing way to hijack your prefrontal cortex and damage your lungs. In other words, it’s a trendy cigarette.

But brilliant marketing has pushed the USB- like cancer-stick into sudden stardom. “It purposely doesn’t look or feel like a cigarette,” Wired Magazine states.  “It’s just objectively cool,” says Ari Atkins, an R&D engineer at Pax, the manufacturer of the juul. “How do you make somebody look cooler? Give them a cigarette.”

It’s this exact  marketing that teenagers are so susceptible to. Teens are filled to the brim with a plethora of hormonal changes and therefore flooded with insecurities, especially how they look to others.

That’s where the juul smells blood and dives right in. The results of their marketing speak for themselves. How many people do you know who juul? How often do you see it happening? How often do you see it happening in school?

After the marketing, all Pax has to do is feed you nicotine and watch you become hooked and keep crawling back for more. The more you buy, the richer they get.

Again, this is not revolutionary. A myriad of companies like Little Debbie’s have been cranking out sales for decades using sugar as their addictor. Take Tito’s Vodka, which has recently grown extremely popular in part due to their “gluten free” drink. The absence of gluten is present in many vodkas, but through advertisement, as Pax did with their “cool juul,” Tito’s was able to provide people with a false sense of comfort, and raked in customers. Of course, they wouldn’t sell anything if the product didn’t work. But it certainly did, using alcohol as their nicotine.

The big picture is difficult to envision because our society thrives off instant gratification. We only think short term, and choose to ignore the effects our current choices will have in our future. We make decisions through an “it won’t kill me now” mindset. It’s important to remember that the future will soon be the now.

Only we can control what we do, and that’s why it’s important to be educated. The choices we make, the things we consume, all have impacts on not only ourselves but friends, family members, and ev

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Why You Do The Things You Do, Even If They’re Bad For You