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14 Modern-Day Brainwashing Trends That Make Us Less Free Than We Think

In an age defined by the omnipresence of digital media and the unending flow of information saturating our smartphones, televisions, and computers, our deeply rooted beliefs may undergo subtle transformations, frequently eluding our conscious awareness.

We like to think that we live freely and make our own choices, but external factors may heavily influence our perception of freedom. From advertising and marketing strategies to social media algorithms, we are constantly bombarded with subliminal messages that shape our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors- maybe even leading to subconscious brainwashing.

The term “brainwashing” often conjures up images of extreme psychological manipulation or mind control tactics used by totalitarianism. Yet, modern-day brainwashing techniques are much subtler and can be found in everyday situations. Here are 14 ways we aren’t as free as we think today.

1. Relying on One News Source

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By limiting ourselves to a single perspective, we risk falling victim to modern-day brainwashing.

Brainwashing can be interpreted to mean that a person has been conditioned to avoid certain types of media because it’ll “pollute” the mind with different perspectives. In today’s world, it has become increasingly common for people to rely on a single news source or social media platform for their information and views on current events. This can limit our understanding of the full picture and lead to biased beliefs.

There are always two sides to a story. Consuming information only from one source can lead to a narrow-minded and easily manipulable mindset. To combat this, it’s important to diversify our news sources and actively seek out different perspectives.

2. Rampant Consumerism

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In a world where material possessions are constantly glorified and advertised as symbols of success and happiness, it’s easy to fall into the trap of consumerism and equate our worth with what we own.

Advertisements often tap into our deepest insecurities and desires, creating a sense of need for products we may not truly need or even want.

This constant pressure to consume can lead to a cycle of mindless spending and debt, hindering our financial freedom and ability to make independent decisions.

3. Brand Superiority 

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Speaking of consumerism, brands use sophisticated marketing strategies to create an illusion of superiority or exclusivity, targeting our emotions and self-esteem. In reality, they are often brands with a bigger marketing budget.

They may promise a better life, higher social status, or improved self-worth through their products. This can lead us to equate a product’s quality with its brand name rather than objectively evaluating its features and benefits.

4. The Big Lie Technique 

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The “big lie” technique is a propaganda strategy that involves repeating a false or exaggerated statement until the masses accept it as truth. In today’s digital age, this can be seen through spreading misinformation and fake news on social media platforms.

It seems more believable when people hear something repeatedly from different sources, even if it initially sounds unbelievable. However, just because many people say something doesn’t make it automatically accurate. Facts, gossip, and lies are hard to differentiate these days in a world where the lines are blurred.

5. Normalizing Exhausting Hustle Culture

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Sacrificing your physical and mental well-being for others who don’t care about you is brainwashing that many are unaware of. When exhaustive work norms are combined with consumerism, many of us get stuck in the “live to work” mentality. In reality, we should leverage our work to build a life we truly desire.

The constant pressure to hustle and achieve more can lead to burnout, stress, and a never-ending cycle of chasing success. We may even start to see self-care as selfish or unproductive, further perpetuating this damaging mindset.

6. The Rise of Endless Addictive Short Videos

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In the digital age, we are bombarded with short, addictive videos on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. These platforms use algorithms to keep us hooked by showing us content that aligns with our interests and beliefs.

While these videos can be entertaining and informative, they also contribute to our increased screen time and potential addiction to mindless scrolling. This can lead to decreased productivity, sleep disturbances, and a distorted sense of reality.

Consuming bite-sized superficial content can limit our attention span and ability to engage with more complex ideas and concepts.

7. Entering the Social Media Black Hole

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It’s not just short videos that leave the masses acting like addicted zombies. Social media, in general, is also a great example of modern-day brainwashing. 

Essentially, we are exposed to social media and the web propaganda daily. Memes, reels, and other viral content can spread misinformation (leaving out important details), sway public opinion, and shape our beliefs without us even realizing it. The constant flow of information on social media makes it easier for false or biased information to slip through the cracks.

8. Multi-Level Marketing Voodoo

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On the surface, multi-level marketing (MLM) companies may seem like a great opportunity for financial freedom and success. However, they often use manipulative tactics to recruit individuals, prey on their insecurities and promises of wealth in exchange for recruiting others.

This business model often promises friendships, financial independence, success, and improved health. They say that once you’ve been enlightened with the truth, you must venture out and invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in costly, overpriced packages and registration fees, expecting to earn more.

It works for a select few, but most people just line the pockets of the higher-up folks as they continue to struggle.

9. Societal Tricks and Expectations

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We are conditioned to follow societal norms and expectations from a young age. We are told how to dress, act, and even think to fit in with the rest of society. This can limit our ability to think critically and make decisions that go against the norm.

For example, being a stay-at-home parent may be considered an unconventional choice, but it may be the best decision for some families. However, societal pressure and expectations may make individuals feel guilty or inadequate for not following the traditional path of climbing the corporate ladder.

Breaking free from societal norms and expectations can be difficult, but it’s important to question and challenge them to live a life that aligns with our own values and beliefs.

10. Health and Fitness Propaganda

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For decades, large industries like the food, diet, and fitness industries have manipulated and brainwashed individuals into thinking they need to look a certain way to be considered attractive or healthy. Then, they also offer a solution- their products.

They bombard us with images of thin, muscular, and seemingly perfect bodies, making us question our own appearance and self-worth. This can lead to harmful behaviors, such as extreme dieting or excessive exercise, in pursuit of this unattainable standard.

Meanwhile, these industries continue to profit from selling unhealthy diets and workout programs that may not be sustainable or safe for every individual. Rather than offering sound advice on how to build healthy holistic habits, they offer a “magic” pill or supplement that will supposedly fix it all.

11. Political Fury

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In today’s age of information overload, it’s easy to get swept up in the constant political chaos and propaganda. Polarizing news networks and social media posts only fuel the fire, pushing their own agendas and biases onto people.

This can lead to a divided society, where individuals are likelier to believe what aligns with their political beliefs rather than objective facts. It can also create a “us vs. them” mentality, making civil discourse and understanding nearly impossible.

12. All Journalism

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Journalism, once seen as a noble profession dedicated to seeking and reporting the truth, has also fallen victim to manipulation and propaganda. With the rise of clickbait headlines and biased reporting, it’s difficult to discern what is fact and what is fiction.

In addition, media ownership often dictates what stories are covered and how they are presented. This can result in important issues and stories being buried or misrepresented, ultimately shaping the public’s perception of reality.

13. Church

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While religion can offer comfort, community, and guidance for some individuals, it has also been used as a tool for manipulation and brainwashing. Religious institutions have been known to use fear tactics, shaming, and guilt to control their followers and promote their beliefs.

This can lead to closed-mindedness and an inability to think critically about one’s faith or question the actions of religious leaders. It can also create a sense of superiority over those who do not share the same beliefs, leading to divisiveness and prejudice.

14. Polarizing the Masses

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In today’s society, it seems like everything is a battle between two extremes. Whether it’s political views, social issues, or personal beliefs, there is a constant push to take a side and fight against the “opposing” side.

As mentioned before, this polarizing mindset creates an “us vs. them” mentality and fuels division rather than understanding and compromise. It also leaves little room for nuance and critical thinking, encouraging people to blindly follow one extreme viewpoint without considering alternatives.

The world seems filled with hate and divisiveness, but it’s important to remember that not everything is black and white. There are shades of gray, and there is room for healthy discussions and debates without demonizing the other side.


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