The average American can be exposed to as many as 5,000 advertisements a day. Count ’em: 5,000. That’s almost 42 hours of 30-second commercials. You’re thinking, “That’s impossible. There’s no way I watch that much TV.” Obviously. There are also only 24 hours in a day. So maybe you watch a couple of hours of TV a day. That doesn’t sound like a lot. That doesn’t count every billboard you pass, every backlit Victoria’s Secret display at the mall, every Facebook Marketplace update, every one of those shirtless guys standing outside Abercrombie & Fitch. There are even advertisements on the backs of receipts now. I mean, seriously? You literally just got done spending your money and they’re already telling you about something else that you’re supposed to want.
I’m not one of those people who hates malls and makes my own clothing out of handwoven hemp. I am a confessed and notorious fashion blog addict, I wear make-up, I obviously use the internet on a regular basis and I own over 30 pairs of shoes. I’m not here to judge or preach about consumerism. I’m just wondering:
What would it be like to live commercial-free?
If we never heard about “the latest thing” every 2 minutes, would we want as much? Would we buy as much? Would we be entertaining ourselves with humbler toys? Would we need toys at all?
If we never had to hear anyone telling us about stuff we “have to have, right now, while supplies last,” what would we spend our time listening to? Who would we spend our time listening to? Our parents? Our artists? Ourselves?
If we didn’t have to think about trends, if we didn’t have any Jones’s to keep up with, what would our priorities look like? Would we pay more attention to our spouses? Our children? Our skyrocketing blood pressures and sky-diving self-esteem?
As long as we want stuff, there will be stuff to buy, and therefore stuff to advertise. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with advertising, but when you consider how much of it is infiltrating our consciousness everyday, maybe there’s more to it than 30-second spots and late-night infomercials. We have to wonder: is this state of consumerism a reflection of our state as a society? Are we a wealthy nation living in a culture of insatiable materialism, or are we accumulating these trinkets to opiate a much deeper, more desperate sense of poverty?
Commercials are inevitable at this point in our culture, just like it’s nearly impossible to resist the desire to keep up, to take part in the latest trends, to belong, be ahead. However, these meaningless desires are just commercials. The real show is the stuff that we can’t buy; things like time, faith, laughter, hope. These intangibles are the true things we “have to have, right away, while supplies last.” We as a society probably won’t ever be able to go back to being commercial-free, but we have the choice to tune out the “commercials” and tune in to the “real attraction.” My hope is that, in my life, I will have the wisdom to know the difference.