Happy Valentine’s Day: You’re being manipulated

Michael Marsh looks at the business-driven surveys about love and sex that are promoted by the media and that tell us what we are SUPPOSED to do and be like. You really can’t rely on the media…

Valentine’s Day retailers say it with flawed surveys | Michael Marshall | Science | guardian.co.uk.

The commercial exploitation of one of the most successful of the “Hallmark Holidays” began as early as January with research into the evolution of lovers’ pet names for each other, published under the headline “Move over darling!” in the Daily Mail.

The research found that terms of affection such as “darling” and “sweetheart” have been superseded by more streamlined pet names, including “baby” and “love”.

These findings have far-reaching implications, according to the researchers (who, coincidentally, are a sex toy retailer named after two common pet names). “The ways pet names have changed over the years show we are getting even more affectionate towards each other and a little less formal,” said Lovehoney co-founder, Neal Slateford. “As a nation, we are learning to lighten up when it comes to love and sex. That has to be a good thing.”

If I were an online sex toy retailer, I’m sure I’d agree. That the survey produced media-friendly results of potential benefit to the company carrying out the research should in no way undermine the credibility of this online, self-reported and entirely subjective poll.

rose_shadowSo the company will make some suggestive suggestions. And it looks like research. But it’s not.

In covering the news for DN, I see many of these stories that LOOK and SOUND sciencey but are manipulated. The media item is pretty much concocted and promoted by the people who want the attention – businesses. This is very much sham inquiry – where you begin with the conclusion you want and work backwards finding “evidence”.

I found out just how ubiquitous this was when I signed up for a service called HARO – Help a Reporter Out. I wished to volunteer my expertise for any reporter who needed it. But that was NOT the goal of the site. The goal really was that you, as an expert selling a product or service, could get yourself in the public eye. It seemed a blatant example of this skewing of news into the consumer sphere. Their tagline is “Making News. Growing Business.” There’s no doubt that this can be used in a positive way. There is also no doubt that it is biased and will be mercilessly abused. This is the media today and why you need sites like this one.

Also check out Mike Marshall’s Bad PR blog for additional examples.

And his talk here.

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  3 comments for “Happy Valentine’s Day: You’re being manipulated

  1. Chris Howard
    February 14, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    It always astounds me that people, in general, just can’t seem to fathom that medias primary role is that of cultural/sub-cultural reinforcer, and influence agent.

    But what does a fish know of the water in which it swims, and all that. I guess, to use a sociological term, decolonization of the mind is difficult, if not impossible…

    To be fair though cultivating sociological imagination is a meta discipline, which our media doesn’t reinforce.

  2. February 14, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    Aren’t all holidays now about manipulating the public into spending more and more money on items that are not practical or that have a 500% markup?

    I walked into the office today and saw a lot of roses on the desks of the female employees. It’s the same thing every year. Originality on Valentine’s Day is not seen often. So, you know what I got my wife this year? A brand new front yard, patio and a role on a TV show. I think that shows a bit more effort than ordering some dying plant-life online.

  3. Brian
    February 14, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    I got tired with all of these “you should buy/ be/ look like/ have sex like/ treat your sig other like” holiday crap stories. Then again, I am so anti media as of late- picking up a newspaper means the cats are out of litter!

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