Culture Critique: Black Friday

Ah, Black Friday. A day right on the heels of Thanksgiving that promotes our need want for more than what we already have. Oh, and you can get the lowest prices of the entire season, so that validates the gratitude we expressed the day before because, I mean, it’s on sale. On top of that, some people seem to lose their entire capacity for compassion as they barrel through store doors stepping on other humans at insane hours of the morning (or sometimes Thanksgiving evening). Thursday, cue gratitude, kindness, and contentment in all we have. Friday, flip to greed, consumerism, and selfishness on a whim. Interesting, perhaps. More so ironic, I’d say.

Okay, okay. I’m done being petty. As you can tell, Black Friday is not my favorite occasion. I think there is a lot of hypocrisy involved with it, but this year I thought to myself: could there be more to it? The above paragraph demonstrates my general attitude toward Black Friday and all of its implications, but I actually want to look into it further. While this pseudo-holiday appears simply materialistic and painfully ironic, I think there is more to the story. Let’s see.

Black Friday stems in humans’ naturally tendency for more. We are tempted by greed and the seeming need for more. On the outside looking in, it’s very surface-level. When we’re bringing home shopping bags upon shopping bags the day after we were intent on being thankful, it cheapens the value of that gratitude. We were grateful until we were presented with an opportunity for more.

Ultimately, I think that Black Friday has become such an ordeal because of social media. I know, I know, everything seems to go back to social media these days, but it’s true! As a group, people spend way too much time on one social platform or another each day. Just take a peek into your phone at the screen time feature. Social media has such a pull in the present day, and when it comes to Black Friday, companies can advertise their sales and promotions to no end through posts, stories, videos, livestreams, ads, IGTV episodes, tweets, and the list goes on. I cannot even tell you how saturated all of my feeds have been with Black Friday specials this week, and it seems as though the sales start earlier every year.

To compound this essentially free advertising through social media channels, social media perpetuates an “onto the next” culture. Oh, there’s a social media scandal about someone? It’ll satisfy us for a day or two. But then, we’re looking for the next story, refreshing our Instagrams until something new comes along. Black Friday is literally about going onto the next thing. Picked up that TV you wanted? Onto the gaming console. Got that? Okay, time to go get ten pairs of the same pants because they come out to fifty cents apiece. Sure, we can be grateful for what we have, but what’s next? What else is there out there? Because there has to be something. And there always is.

That being said, when Black Friday rolls around, I think it’s wise to acknowledge that want and need are two completely different things, and we do have a choice in where our money goes. There is a distinct difference between the two, but wants will always arise because there are so many opportunities to buy. There are good sales going on during the entire weekend, and it’s okay to indulge in a few choice items. It becomes problematic when we become unintentional with what we are buying and losing track of why we are there. Really go in with a list of few things you will really utilize, or items to put into gifts for loved ones. Remember that greed for more never breeds true satisfaction. That comes from things that can’t be purchased, things that don’t go on sale. Maintain your perspective from Thanksgiving about what is really important in your life, things that will still matter to you in a year.

A good reminder

In order to really put everything into perspective and to celebrate the true, contemporary spirit of Thanksgiving (please note that the Thanksgiving story is a lot different in truth than we what we learned as kids), I’m going to write out a physical list of everything I’m thankful for. I encourage you to do the same! By doing this, we can go into Black Friday recognizing how fortunate we are, and how we need nothing. Ultimately, anything I purchase on Black Friday is a want, and it is not critical.

It’s here that I’d like to note that no matter our reasons for going Black Friday shopping, it’s imperative to maintain compassion for others. At the end of the day, it’s just stuff. There is no discount on human life; people deserve our respect every day of the year. I don’t care how much money you can save, it isn’t worth pushing and shoving and trampling. Exude kindness and kindness will come back to you. There is enough pain in the world without causing more for 50% off some random item. Ultimately, this season is about gratefulness and giving, in theory. We need to give what matters first; what we put in boxes and bags is minute compared to giving kindness, compassion, and a helping hand. Give what matters first. Gifts with bows come later.

Now I want to talk about something that lies under the surface that isn’t always considered: privilege. It can be such a buzzword that isn’t always taken seriously, but it does play into Black Friday. Ultimately, privilege as related to socioeconomic status can change perception on this observance quite a bit. For those living comfortably, it can be a product of greed. For those who don’t have that privilege, it can be the difference between getting necessities or not, getting Christmas gifts or not. Consider that if you experience this privilege, the person you’re arguing with for an item could need it more than you. This may be their only chance to get it. Show that compassion and recognize that your privilege relates to experience. For some, Black Friday is more serious than it is for others. Viewing a situation from others’ perspectives will make our worlds appear bigger and make the important facets to life shine.

I think, too, that there are corporate executives of these large companies who take advantage of those in need of lower prices to line their pockets further. This whole thing makes me uneasy. These companies prey on the struggles of others to boost themselves and make more sales. This is why I think Black Friday often starts on Thanksgiving for a lot of places; companies know people will show up for the prices, and start the sales earlier on the extend the amount of sales they can make. They perpetuate consumerism and the fear of missing out in order to make themselves richer. By promoting saving money, they extend the gap between those of extreme privilege and those who lack the privilege of wealth. This corporate greed by starting on Thanksgiving reflects onto the people of all backgrounds who show up at storefronts, increasing the need for more and the materialism behind the shopping motivation.

Keep the important things at the forefront.

Observing this from a place of privilege and being very fortunate in the life I’ve been given, I want to learn more about experiences of others who view Black Friday differently than I do. I think that there is a lot to dig into about the day after Thanksgiving from economic, ethical, and social perspectives alike. Comment below with your take; I’d love to expand my knowledge and start a discussion. Black Friday is a phenomenon unlike any other, and I’m eager to hear other perspectives on the reality of it.

There is actually a bit of an alternative to Black Friday that I’m very fond of: Small Business Saturday. Now this day I feel better about knowing I’m helping my community thrive and not putting as much money into corporate pockets. We can actually make a difference in the lives of those who share our communities, and we can be a part of keeping those businesses thriving. In addition, we can find more unique, and often handmade, items not found in chain stores, and feel better about the motivations behind the sales themselves. It’s a great option to consider.

Overall, yes, I will be going to go Black Friday shopping briefly tomorrow afternoon once I’ve had a chance to reflect. I’ll be looking at some yarn at a good price to add to my Scarves for Shelter Pets local fundraiser and a couple of staple clothing items. For the rest of my holiday shopping, I’ll be attending Small Business Saturday in order to support my community. At the end of the day, though, I know that these sales are not make or break for me and I’m not going to take it too seriously. I want to maintain compassion in this season and always, recognizing the needs of others especially before my own wants. Check yourself this Black Friday, and make sure there is intention behind the choices you make this weekend especially. I wish you a blessed holiday season full of prosperity, kindness, and joy.

Much Love, Quinn


qlmcadam View All →

Crazy cat lady. Exploratory writer. Much love.

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