Sometimes the most curious thoughts cross my mind.
Everything from philosophical probings like “Why are we really here?” to the more distracting ruminations on political theater and nefarious marketers.
We’ll leave the life purpose question for later. Right now I want to address marketing.
Not all marketers or advertisers are bad. Advertising has a long and conflicted history. On the surface, businesses just want someone to buy their product or use their service. They believe fervently that their product – above all others – is going to be good and necessary for you.
But within the past 100 years, maybe longer, advertising has become increasingly clever and insidious.
Advertisers, marketers and public relations all pull from the same spin manual. Make it look good, make it not only seem necessary, but vital. You need this, it will make you a better person and everyone will want to be you. Ergo: you’re not good enough the way you are.
- Did you know there is really no such thing as medical halitosis? It was created by advertisers so they could sell the cure. Mouth wash.
- Did you know you don’t need soap to clean your laundry? It’s the agitation of the washing machine that does the work.
- Did you know that our current understanding of what Santa Claus looks like is due in large part to the advertising geniuses at Coca-Cola? They did not create the images of the jolly fellow, but rather advertised it so ubiquitously that it is now the standard Santa.
We are assaulted a million times a day by branding and advertising. There are the obvious: billboards, magazines ads and flashing online annoyances. There are placemats, the backs of receipts and gas pumps. But there is also product placements in your favorite TV shows or movies, sometimes obvious like the giant red Folgers can in most Hallmark movies and some more subtle like the brands of cars people are driving.
In addition, companies pay pretty people to wear their clothes and post “candid” shots on Instagram and other forms of social media. You might follow them because their lifestyle looks awesome or they’re beautiful.
Everything we wear has a label, usually on the outside, making us walking billboards for such companies. And also so we can readily identify our socioeconomic tribe.
And now Facebook has us marketing to each other. Only some of your friends’ comments and posts come up in your feed, the ones you engage with the most. To see them more often you must visit them more often and comment on or like their posts. Businesses that have Facebook pages can no longer be found easily, they must reach out with paid advertising and even then the user must visit that page often enough to see the posts in their feed. This makes sense if it’s an actual business, but many of the “pages” are individuals who are making jewelry or soap or trying to get you to come to their play or yoga class.
We are under assault and the enemy is us.
Take your power back. Choose what you see. We can’t unsee billboards but we can not pick up a magazine or newspaper. We can unsubscribe from services that are little more than selling algorithms. We can recognize we need or want something organically, then seek out a solution. We can allow the thought of someone we haven’t heard from in a while to float into our awareness then reach out to that person. Actually ask them how they’re doing rather than just checking in on Facebook or worse, trolling their feed to satisfy your own curiosity. We’ve all done it.
This may sound angry, but anger is really fear. And I will admit I am afraid that we are losing connection with each other. Real face-to-face and voice-to-voice connection. The art of conversation has been diminished to characters, empathy and compassion are being co-opted by a barrage of violent images to which we are becoming desensitized.
And we are lazy. We are having parties online now. (My eyes are rolling so far back in my head I may detach something.)
I am grateful for the internet, it’s hard to remember life before it. I am grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends through social media. And maybe it’s not really social media’s fault. Could they have predicted how we use this tool? Perhaps.
Choose how you will spend the precious commodity of time. How will you use up your life force?