Advertising really bothers me. I try really hard to tune it out.
I know I’m not the only one, because we’ve watched Google make their sponsored results (their ads) blend in more and more with their normal, organic results over time—to keep us from tuning them out. And each time they make the distinction more subtle, we learn to recognize the difference and ignore the ads. So they try again.
Advertising bothers me partly because of my personality—I’m wired to function best when I can give more of my attention to fewer things in deeper ways. So when my attention gets torn away from a focused task or conversation by something trivial, I get irritated.
But it’s more than that, because I think advertising, along with a lot of other “buzz” in our society, helps siphon our attention away from things that are truly important…whether that’s showing more and deeper love to our friends and family, or making stronger contributions to society and future generations, or finding the courage to explore the hard questions of “what are we all doing on this planet anyway, and does that have implications for my life?”
Advertising distorts our priorities by making less important things seem more urgent.
I do truly enjoy the holiday season. It’s fun, and it’s a nice change of pace, and it adds emotional warmth to our days and interactions as the temperature gets colder. And even though not everyone approaches it this way, I get to celebrate my God coming to earth to be with us as the focal point of the season. I just wish the holiday season could also be a time of turning down the volume on the advertising noise, rather than the current reality where it gets turned up. What if it was a time when everything slowed down and it became easier to focus on people? If things became quiet enough for questions of meaning and purpose to bubble up in our minds?
I can dream, of course. I’m not on a mission to single-handedly change society or our consumer culture. But I do think we all have the ability to decide what’s truly important and commit time and attention to go after them. To let the distractions and the “urgent” trivial things bounce off of us a little more. And I think the holiday season is a great time to start.
Will you join me?
This post reflects the view of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on consumerism from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.