We are invoking and celebrating the Graces, and their many gifts to us regarding beauty, mirth and blossoming. At this time of the year, many people clear space for new growth and blessings by the practice of fasting, which is not necessarily only a choice about eating. Many people find it important to take occasional media fasts, during which they withdraw from the deluge of our culture’s media messages.
Like a dietary fast, this is not always easy, but the results can be hugely beneficial. For example, in 2007, the publication, Media Matters, estimated that a typical American adult has a potential daily exposure to about 600-625 ads in various forms. An average of 272 of these exposures come from the major traditional media (TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers), with the remainder being an assortment of other methods.
That is a lot. Imagine if each ad was a literal human salesperson that knocked on your door to try and sell you something. Six hundred times, each and every day, someone tries to persuade you and your loved ones, including even your youngest children, to spend your money on something. What a nightmare it would be to be intruded upon six hundred times, day in and day out.
But other estimates, that do not have a vested interest in public perception, are less forgiving and far more disturbing. In the article “Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists,” Michael Brower, PhD and Warren Leon, PhD write, “The average American is exposed to about 3,000 advertising messages a day, and globally, corporations spend over $620 billion each year to make their products seem desirable and to get us to buy them.”
And these numbers do not even include the recent new generation of television ads. Since the earliest days of TV, we’ve gotten used to the commercial break, which has gradually expanded, taking up about one fourth of the air time. But for several years now, every few minutes, in the middle of our entertainment, we are interrupted with annoying pop-up commercials for other shows on the network. They have become increasingly intrusive, taking up more screen space, and even using sound overlays during the program we’re trying to watch.
And now an even more insidious ad strategy is appearing that NBC calls, “snipes,” a word borrowed from construction-site papering of ads. It is where, in the middle of the program, a third of the screen is garishly overlaid with a commercial message. Not for another show on the network, or a news bulletin, but an actual commercial, like for the movie, American Gangster.
What is this doing to us? To what extent does it shape our perception of what is real, normal, and attainable? And, what does it say about the values that shape our very culture?
More thoughts about this tomorrow.