Walk away from all the ads. Your life will improve and the world will too. Today ads rule the world: they are the only ones that can afford to advertise in big media (even a small in the Guardian starts at £47K). So everything we hear from ads in the media, is not from small indie companies and non-profits. Newspapers can’t survive without ads these days, due to falling reader numbers. Politicians are often funded by companies that pay for ads, causing policies to be dictated by lobbyists, rather than MPs. This leads to false information on everything from what really causes mass illness and climate change.
Ads also cause a culture of consumerism. You can only be ‘happy’ if you buy a certain car or pair of trainers, or if you look a certain way. The most empowering way to create change, is simply to walk away from it all. Try it. Give up all ads, just for a few days. You’ll find the world is a much nicer place: :
- Either give up newspapers flooded with ads or switch to alternative newspapers that rely on subscriptions and donations, rather than ads.
- Watch less, but better TV. Subscription channels like Britbox cost £6 a month and you get all the main series from the last couple of decades, all without ads: Morse, Inspector Frost, Only Fools & Horses, The Office, Father Ted, all the classic period dramas – and not an ad in sight. You could give up your TV license, buy a scart lead and link to your laptop, to ‘watch TV’ from the sofa (just turn it round, to avoid double screen, or you’ll feel you’ll in a TV shop).
- If you watch ‘normal TV’, hit the mute button when ads come on. Avoid ‘charity shock tactics’ from big charity, and donate to small effective charities and humane research charities that find cures quicker, without animal research (and spend money on cures, instead of ads).
- Read how to stop (nearly) all junk mail.
- Install Adblock Plus. This is free and takes 2 seconds, to wipe all ads from your computer including social media. Ads are not the best way to earn income, because millions now use adblocker. Earn money by offering a service or zero waste product, or using affiliate links within helpful text.
- If your online paper won’t let you read sites without adblockers, go elsewhere. The Guardian lets you read for free (it’s owned by a charity with an ethos that everyone should have access to news, no matter what their income). Although it does have ads, it does not charge for those who read for free.
What People Say About Ads
Environmental writer George Monbiot has a whole category about ads on his blog. He calls advertising ‘sucking out our brain, through our eyes’. when you watch TV, your brain goes into ‘alpha state’. It’s been found that some people are asked why they have certain foods in their supermarket trolleys: it seems many have no idea (they watched an ad the night before, and their subconscious mind had thrown it in the basket!)
A few Christmases ago, I was given a kettle, which now leaks. I could mend it, if only I could tighten the base. But one of the screws has a star-shaped slot with a spike in the middle, which is designed to prevent repairs, as no available tool will fit it. My kettle was for Christmas, not just for life. So I will throw it away, and help to build an earthly paradise by buying a new one. George Monbiot
Minimalism blogger Leo Babauta has at least 2 million readers and earns money from courses, and does not run ads or even SEO. He writes well, and readers visit. He even lets his work be published copyright-free and says he has not seen any dip in his traffic or income. He is passionate against ads:
I say we revolt by simply opting out. By not watching ads. Not buying on impulse. Not using shopping as therapy. Not using buying as a solution to everything. Not going to websites that have intrusive popup ads. Not listening to ad-supported radio. Not wearing logos on our clothing. Not going to theme parks that are just big ads for their products. Not shopping when we’re on vacation. Not watching TV shows supported by ads. Leo Babauta
Remove Social Media Ads Too
Ali G was a spoof rapper invented by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. In reality he is a Jewish Cambridge history graduate, who made a fantastic speech about the dangers of Facebook ads. Take off the ads, using the plugin above. Or even better, take a social media fast.
If you pay them, Facebook will run any ‘political’ ad, even if it’s a lie. Even help you micro-target those lies to their users. Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his ‘solution’. So here’s a good standard and practice: Facebook – start fact-checking political ads before you run them, stop micro-targeted lies immediately. And when the ads are false; give back the money and don’t publish them. Sacha Baron Cohen
Everywhere an image, a phrase, a demand or a recommendation is screaming for my attention, trying to sell me something, tell me who to be, what to desire and to need. And this is before the internet; before apples and blackberries became indispensable to people who wouldn’t know where to pick the real thing. Paul Kingsnorth
Love Yourself As You Are
Love yourself as you are (not the same as self-worship or narcissism, rather a healthy self-acceptance). Then you don’t have to succumb to marketing from ads. If you know you are beautiful, then no-one can get to you! Read a wonderful post from That Independent Girl on how to fall in love with yourself again.
Everywhere an image, a phrase, a demand or a recommendation screaming for my attention, trying to sell me something, tell me who to be, what to desire and to need…. Something is missing: I can almost see the gap where it used to be. But it is not remarked upon. Nobody says a thing. Paul Kingsnorth
Wildflower is a sweet and empowering children’s story about Daisy, who is new to the garden and opening her petals to the sun, when Rose tells her that she’s just a weed. Weeds aren’t planted on purpose and only get in the way. Soon she starts comparing herself; she isn’t tall like a sunflower, nor sweet like strawberry, nor fragrant like rose. Until a strange beautiful plant offers a different perspective.Why do others get to decide who she is? Perfect to teach young children self-compassion, and the importance of loving yourself exactly as you are.
Your One Wild and Precious Life is a beautifully written book by Irish psychologist Maureen Gaffney. Once you have a few decades on the clock, life can seem sort of cross-roadsy. If you are thinking ‘How did I get here?’ and wondering ‘What do I do now?’, this is the book to take stock and figure how to make the best of every precious moment, for the rest of your life. She learns what we learn from infancy to old age and that you can find a better way forward, no matter what has happened in the past, or what age you are. Profound and reassuring, this book can transform your thinking on who you are and how to reclaim control over your life.
Elena Rossini is a talented Italian filmmaker, who made the documentary The Illusionists, on why men and women spend time and money eliminating wrinkles, bleaching their skin (or in Japan, having surgery to look like western women). Just love yourself as you are.
During her research, Elena discovered that ‘sad people make the best consumers’. She says ‘The message always seems to be you’re not okay just as you are, you need to spend money in order to be beautiful, and ultimately to be happy’. Beauty company Raw Gaia became the first in the world to never use phrases like ‘anti-aging’ on its packaging. Whether you’re 19 or 90, practice self-care.
If you imagine a woman who is 50 years, and she’s perfectly happy with her natural appearance (doesn’t wear any make-up, doesn’t care about clothing) – she’s not going to make corporations any money. In order to to maintain this endless cycle of consumption, the ideal is unattainable. Elena Rossini