It’s been a while since my last blog post. I’ve been perhaps brooding or unwilling to share as of late, but lately I feel an itch that needs to be scratched, and only the power of wordpress is seems can cure it.
To be more accurate, I have spent more time reading other people’s opinions than sharing my own, but that is neither here nor there.
Today, I’d like to discuss an issue that is very important to me:
The world of advertising.
Ever since my sister was pregnant with my niece (now almost 5 years old), I have endeavored to cut as many forms of advertising from my life as possible. My sister cancelled cable television, the first big move, and at the time I was living with her. I wasn’t exposed to ads anymore from the old glue tube, and as a person who prefers watching television at his own pace, buying shows on DVD or streaming online were just better options anyway.
Couple that with my blatant lack of interest in magazines, and my long time browser Firefox, which has been blocking ads for me since 2004, and ads have all but disappeared from my household. I only ever experience them when I leave the comfort of my home (ack, what a horrifying thought!)
So why is it important to cut ads from our lives? Well I could provide you with statistics and papers and analysis of the effect ads have on us in society, but the truth is any individual with any iota of common sense will understand the basics. The facts that trouble me the most in today’s age is that ads are more specifically being targeted towards us (Facebook anyone?) and continue to perpetuate racial, gender, and societal stereotypes. Don’t take my word for it though, do some of your own research if you don’t think they are that dangerous.
Now I have a real problem with this, because even for someone like myself, who can see through an ad and it’s real motives, when I am exposed to them, they still affect me. They are designed to grab my attention and to affect me on subconscious levels. Even if I am aware of these tactics, it still doesn’t change the fact that it is happening to me and it is guiding and shaping my world view and my opinions, often in quite sinister ways (defining ideas of beauty, image, etc.).
But herein lies a real dilemma. I will often support and proclaim my love of all things that are ad-free. I will especially praise those that are publicly funded and show transparency in where those funds are being diverted (Wikipedia is my favourite example and may be subject to another article perhaps in its own right). But the truth of the matter is, a lot of the content which I view, specifically online, could not function without advertisements paying their bills. Small websites which I frequent for articles or YouTube channels of my favourite content all need advertisements to pay for their overhead costs. But I block these ads. All of them. They literally get $0 from me for using their services. I don’t think that is fair.
If a company allows me to sign up to have an ad free version of their service, I will normally purchase that option. But if they leave me no alternative but to either visit their site or not visit their site, then I will do whatever I can to block ads.
The real problem I have isn’t with ads. It’s with the freedom advertisers have to do and say almost anything and to get away with it. It’s like a jungle out there, and to stay competitive advertisers will do whatever it takes to manipulate a mind into purchasing it’s products. Although there are some restrictions placed on what ads can and can’t say, they are so lax that there may as well be none. When the discussion on advertisements (which has been more eloquently argued than I am doing here by more qualified people) starts gearing towards this idea of restrictions and regulations, people start defending their rights of freedom of speech or expression.
A very important distinction needs to be said, and I need it to be heard.
When you write something for public view, specifically something that will be proliferating through society via means that are integrated so tightly to our everyday lives, we have to scrutinize them. This process is not called censorship. It is called editing.
Editing. I would have no problems with ads if they were being edited. I would have no problem with the content I view having ads placed on them if they could choose that those ads used ethical advertising practices. This requires editing.
But right now, there is no real editing happening. Our youth are being brought up in age where they are being bombarded by advertisements, and from increasingly younger and younger ages are being brought up to be consumers. Even my niece, in a relatively ad free household, somehow still managed to become obsessed with Disney Princesses.
More people in society know how to be a consumer than they know how to be a critically thinking citizen. This is a real problem.
Now I’m no political activist and ads aren’t going to start being edited because of anything I say and do anytime soon. I have to do what I can with what I have. It has become increasingly evident for me that regardless of a person’s level of intellect, ads still play a huge role in their lives. I have found the only cure for this to be to cut out ads all together. Still, as ad free as my life is, when I go to the supermarket and have to stare at trashy magazines, I feel sick inside. When I am at a pub and the hockey game is on, and commercials occur every 5-10 minutes, I feel violated. When I am driving and see a gigantic distracting billboard, I can’t help but start feeling disgusted by the sheer power and freedom advertisers have.
My question to anyone reading this is why aren’t more people as disgusted as I am? Why specifically aren’t you more disgusted? If you are and have cut ads out of your life, then I applaud you. But if you haven’t, I am curious to know why. Do you just not know how to block ads? If so, download Firefox or Chrome and install Ad Blocker Plus. It’s that simple. Then cancel cable and start streaming online. Then throw out your subscription to Cosmo.
But how can any reasonable person handle being bombarded by ads on a daily basis without doing something about it? I will admit our only real option is to either live with them or live without them, but the price of living with them is just too high in my opinion.
I’m curious to hear people’s reasons for having ads in their life, and it is my hope that more people start cutting them or at least start thinking about cutting them out altogether after reading this.
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