by Leo Babauta
Every nook of our lives is filled with advertising these days. It’s so pervasive that we have come to accept it as a fact of life, and it cannot help but have an effect on our minds.
Advertising is highly effective — we might not realize it, but it works on our subconscious so that we want to buy things. It plants desires in our minds, and creates a mindset that, whatever our problem, buying something is the solution.
It creates the mindset that buying is the norm, and there’s no other choice.
And it’s everywhere. Watch TV, advertising screams at you all day long. Read a newspaper or magazine, go to a website, and it’s in every crevice. It’s on our Facebook and Twitter pages, in our email, on billboards, on buses, in sports events, in public outdoor spaces, on people’s clothing, in 5K races, on blimps in the sky, in podcasts, in iTunes, before a movie starts, subtly (or not so subtly) placed products inside of movies … everywhere. On websites, it’s seen as inevitable, and a site without ads is almost unheard of (very different from the web of 15 years ago, when ads were rare).
But it doesn’t have to be a fact of life, having advertising everywhere. More and more, the future seems to hold more invasive advertising, more personalized so that it will target our minds more effectively (probably streaming directly into our retinas or frontal cortex). But it hasn’t always been like this, and we can decide not to participate in this.
Just a century ago, advertising wasn’t nearly so intrusive. A century before that, it didn’t really exist (at least not the way we normally recognize it). Sure, there have always been people calling out their wares, but it’s become a whole different order of magnitude — many many orders.
We don’t have to submit. There are other ways of doing things. We don’t have to let corporations control our minds and our lives.
What’s the alternative? First, we must get out of the consumerist mindset — think about what’s really essential, rather than needing to buy all the time.
Second, we must imagine other possibilities. It’s hard to do that when we’ve been trained to think in terms of buying and selling, in terms of commerce instead of people. Yes, we need to make a living, but making a living doesn’t mean selling — it means living. We’ve forgotten that, and it’s time to start remembering.