In Defense of Commercials

Posted: July 25, 2010 in Lessons

Don’t think of this as an anti-technology manifesto. Think of it more as the ramblings of an out-of-touch loser. And don’t think the irony that I’m posting these ramblings on a blog that will magically transport itself to Facebook is lost on me. Wasted, maybe, but it isn’t lost on me.

I haven’t listened to much “car radio” in a long time, and that may be because I’ve never had both a long commute and work I could pretty well leave at the office. But since I seem to have both this summer, I found myself searching for radio stations. Eventually, I saved three: a classic rock station with a terrible morning show, NPR, and ESPN Radio.

It dawned on me that I’m always late to the game. Here I am, picking up regular “radio” of all things, when everyone else in the world is either listening to their iPod, or for the edgy folks, Pandora—your favorite songs, all the time, with no commercials.

And it isn’t just radio. I finally started following an actual television show a few months ago and began to arrange my schedule accordingly. Then I was told that I was supposed to have TiVo so I could watch it whenever I wanted without commercials. I finally got a “flip phone” and a laptop. But I think I’m supposed to have an iPhone now so I can access my email—and the world—at any given moment. I don’t even know how to describe my videogame deficiency since I never got past Frogger when you had to plug quarters in at Circus Circus on West Kingshighway.

Now, to be fair, I was pretty early on the email craze, and thanks to my friend, John Dobbs, I was one of the first bloggers. But to confess my sickness, I sometimes feel a little guilty about both. I think we lost something when we stopped writing letters, and even though I love the audience offered by blogging, I can’t help but think that when everyone is a writer, then no one really is anymore.

But I digress. I am writing this in defense of commercials.

It isn’t that I like commercials. At all. In fact, blatant consumerism is the opposite of what I like. But I worry that the technological revolution that has produced a nirvanic world where we never have to listen to pesky commercials on our radios or our television shows anymore has a significant downside to go along with its obvious upside. And here’s the downside: we lose practice in learning how to wait for anything.

Instant gratification has finally won.

This may be the crazed screams of a radical, but I fully believe that it is okay to do without something. At least in two to three minute stretches, I would think.

Something might come up where I miss my favorite television show one week, and I am fairly certain the world will not end. When listening to my favorite radio station, I may actually possess the inner strength to endure one entire song that isn’t one of my favorites or, God forbid, be forced to listen to a local commercial in between songs. And I know for a fact that I can do without getting an email the second it is sent.

I think Jesus once said something about the importance of learning how to “deny yourself.” Because I believe that to be a decent piece of advice, I raise my voice in defense of commercials.


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