“Whether people like it or not, my marketing thought is if you keep something in front of people for too long, they get used to it.” – Shahrukh Khan
I was an ’80s kid who wanted sugary cereals because of all the dancing toucans and tigers in the advertisements. Still, the marketers were sending this message out to millions of families with the knowledge that kids like sugar and fun, and kids craving sugar in the grocery store are pretty persuasive little consumers. It’s not pretty, but I came out of high school wanting to dive into the advertising industry. I liked to write and making floor wax and laundry detergent seem appealing to others seemed like a good challenge.
Things are different thirty years later. As my generation links up on Facebook with lost loves, pen pals, and high school besties that we used to write actual letters to, eerily-interesting advertisements (strategically targeted towards me) flash on the screen. We can earn points for filling out consumer surveys or by watching advertisements when we are finally at the day and age where viewing commercials is an optional activity. There’s so much effin’ information to sort through, but if the right information is wrapped up in a bow and well placed then it might sell a few units…and sometimes I am the fool that falls for it.
I came across the term “Waldenlust” for the first time recently, defined by Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin as, “Fantasies of the freedom that dispossession would bring; nostalgia for earlier, supposedly simpler times; and reverence for the primitive, which is assumed to be more authentic and closer to nature.” I think I might have a case of Waldenlust. I’m already that ol’ lady who says, “When I was a kid…” when the reality is that this kid was pretty heavily marketed to. I would stare at the television for hours because it was what was around to interact with. I didn’t critique or question media because that wasn’t something I was taught to do by the adults in my life.
University felt like an all-out rebellion against marketing. The poor advertising director at the campus newspaper had so few leads to follow since we’d drafted pages of company names that were on our Ad Boycott list. I rarely shopped retail and I had no t.v. set. Calls were made to my land line and messages were left until my voicemail filled up. A Political Science professor burst my bubble by saying that people almost always would sell out their privacy for convenience.
I fear that he’s right. I willingly plug myself in to all sorts of devices and apps and services all in the name of feeling connected, but so much of that time is manipulated away from the cause and towards an ad. I absolve myself from guilt by muting commercials when they come on in the kids’ presence, but I always have a nagging feeling that I am slowly turning them into tech junkies too. At least once a year, my family needs an all-out technology detox where I don’t pull out my smart phone to take a picture or text a message about how great this moment is. And we are pretty good at that when we can get there: enjoying human (or feline) company, delighting in lazy snuggles in front of a sunny window, and so on.
I’m passing the buck here, but I feel that all these devices lead me straight into hyper-states. Too many emails. Too much time in front of a screen. Too many minutes on social media. I know the responsibility is mine, but I would like guidance on this.
How do we lead balanced lives around all of our gadgets?