Does advertising make an asshole out of you?

I'm an avid user of the web and, on my own terminals, I have set up ad blockers. They efficiently filter out most of the advertising that websites throw at me.

But it happens that I have to surf through a terminal belonging to some recreational computer user that makes use of Microsoft or Apple products and that has no ad filter set up. Surfing through an ad-sensitive terminal affects my productivity and pisses me off significantly.

I am well aware that if those users have not set up an ad blocker, it is for the same reason they are Microsoft or Apple customers: They have no idea that better alternatives exist. And I'm pretty sure that, given the information, they would be enthusiastic about it.

Mostly... Many people I have suggested the use of an ad blocker have replied to me: "I don't need that, I don't even see the ads anymore". They claim that the ad blocker is in their eye, or head. That made me wonder about two things:

I don't think Google would be making billions out of internet advertising if it was scientifically recognised that the human mind really can phase out unsolicitated flashing banners. And studies on the topic are not lacking. I suspect they don't set up ad blockers because they just can't bother focussing for 10 minutes on setting it up. Remember that previous phrase, it'll ring your bell by the end of this post.

I wonder how damaging to the mind this constant processing is... So I use ad blockers.

Another thing that I do is Not watch TV and Not listen to radio. I don't actually own terminals for that. That, in addition to my use of ad blockers online, makes me a sort of "blind spot" of the advertising companies. The only place they can reach me is the street.

And, in the street, I look at all the posters. And I'm usually dismayed by most of them. I find them gross, sexist, misleading, when they're not blatant lies. My Microsoft-customer friends walk throught the same streets with their minds at peace.


Now for something that seems completely unrelated but everything will fall into place at the end: I've always tried to categorise people that take hitchhikers. I hitchhike a lot, in various countries of varied culture, and I always tried to be attentive to what kind of people stop for me. I have more or less failed until recently. All my stereotypes have been broken. In particular those about rich people. You wouldn't believe the fancy cars I have riden in during my travels.

But it struck me here, in Mexico City. Where people are being actively advertised to all the time. TV, radio, internet, poster, phone and live advertising (someone coming up to you to convince you to buy something from them). Even with my cute foreign accent and even with Elsy's (my partner) hot legs, it was hard to catch the attention of drivers out of the capital.

But as soon as you're away from the Federal District, it's fairly easy. Even people from there loosen up.

In case you don't yet see the link with the ad resistance explained above, here's the detail:

  • Focus loses quality when abused.
  • In a "bland" setting, focus will be triggered by very subtle details.
  • In a "spicy" setting, the mind will try to phase out as much unsolicitated stimulus as possible and be extremely selective of what to give focus to.
  • A setting where a significant part of the mind-stimulus is unsolicitated and irrelevant to the context (that's advertising) will condition people to reject any external signal by default.

Therefore, being bombarded with noisy, flashing, colorful, booby-crowded, attention-grabbing ads on a dailly basis makes snobish assholes of people.

This is not a long lasting ailment. Remove the noise and the asshole suddenly opens to the wonders surrounding him. Remove Paris and the Parisian becomes amicable.

Now that we've moved to France, let's stay for a while. France is similar to Mexico in the way that it has one huge megapolis that every other city is like a village in comparison to. Take one of the village dwellers and give him a Parisian life for a week. It is very much likely that they will go to bed exhausted every night. It's common knowledge in non-parisian-France that Paris is exhausting. It is not that the provincial French has a weaker mind than the Parisian, it is most probably because he pays attention to everything. Used as he is to a (much) less vibrant surrounding. The Parisian on another hand will spare focus for nobody, as it is common knowledge in France ; which earns them much name-calling.

There is only so much you can focus on everyday. As describes the highly pseudo-scientific model I have devised there.

And the more I think about this attention-grabbing issue, the more I'm convinced it is a root issue. Check this one: It is common knowledge that people don't talk to each other anymore because the media have conditioned them to fear their neighbours. Well, for once in this post, common knowledge might have missed it. What if it is not the scary news reports that make us unlikely to engage each other, but the commercial breaks punctuating them (as well as most of most people's life) that have sucked people's focus capacity dry. They're not scared, they just can't bother.

Now of course, some(I) at least must be scared, and when we find one, we're all : "Damn it! News reporting is destroying society". Well, that might just be the tip of the iceberg.

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Let me first explain to you how this fundamental worry of mine is relevant to you as well.

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