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By What Are We Hooked?

While driving a highway, a billboard catches our eye. Our head turns and for a few seconds, we try to take it in. What hooked us? The news feeds scroll across the screen in front of us. One piques our interest so we click, we scan, maybe we read. What hooked us? The music streaming service we have on to keep us company plays a favorite song. We stop what we’re doing and crank up the volume, sing along, and maybe even shuffle our feet a little. What hooked us? We hear of a neighbor’s unexpected hospitalization. We dash to the deli and pile food in a basket to deliver into the hands of a distraught spouse. What hooked us?

It happens. And probably more often and more subtly than we realize. Do advertising gurus know that we – the whole lot of us human beings – are nothing but a bunch of suckers? That we’ll fall for portraits of glitzy success every time? That we’ll stop and pay attention when actors in commercials “speak our language”? How often have we bought more than we needed because the sign told us that in buying one we’d get another free? We all get hooked. Period. Captivating images. Stirring music. Alarming events. Big promises. Shared experiences. These are but a few examples of the countless stimuli that are potential hooks for us every day.

Many if not most of us have known the experience of giving to a charity once because it hooked us at the time and then receiving every mailing, every solicitation, every plea for more money thereafter. We email. We unsubscribe. We try to call. But to no avail. It seems that once this organization has us on the hook, we can’t get off of it. Some of the best qualities in a human being can so easily be abused. Kindness. Generosity. Compassion. Honesty. Trust. Is it that the good among us are the most gullible? Or is it that the twisted among us spot a sucker when they see one?

We are prone, are we not, to want to believe what we need to believe, to see what we need to see, to hear what we need to hear. Not a one of us receives data from the world around us without filtering it in some manner. It is a natural response to want to protect ourselves if we believe our goodness has been manipulated in hurtful ways. Even if we get a clear understanding of what hooks us, can we really avoid being snagged again? Guess it helps to know what – or who – is baiting us!

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