07 October 2018

Parsing adds

First I have to apologize for being late with this post. I had a traffic accident. I stopped at the red light, the car behind me did not. All in all, the damage on my car was not significant, just back bumper, but because I have a 2013 Chevy Volt, the repair cost is higher than the legal cutoff for reporting an accident. I informed the driver who hit me about it, and instead of giving me insurance info as required by laws in a case when damage requires reporting the accident, he instead started threatening me with violence so that I do not call the police. I did not because he did look like someone who will be capable of pulling out a gun on me there and then. White young male, so obviously member of this new neo-nazi movement. And yeah, the fact that I’m white too does not help. I’m a woman with a foreign accent, enough to be declared an unwanted immigrant. Instead, I drove to the police and reported him. I took photos of him and his car. Anyway, I’m still going through legal motions that got complicated because I did not call the police there on the spot. And it will take longer actually to get justice in this case. So I might be late with a few more blog posts as well.
Anyway, back on the subject of how to use critical and scientific thinking in everyday situations.


I live in the area with all season resorts, and we have here attractive slopes for snowboarders. Recently I entered into one of the local shops just to be greeted with a massive advertising setup from Red Bull company. They put a doll to represent a snowboarder on top of the bunch of the Red Bull cans. (Yes, it is October, but boy ski slopes are trying to get their season started, even though the weather does not cooperate.)
So I figured that some tips on how to deal with all those adds that bombard you on every turn might come handy.
See, Red Bull would like you to think that if you drink their product, you’ll be able to snowboard as athletic stars which the company hires to advertise their product.
If you stop and think about the concept, very quickly you realize that is a true Bull-shaite.
The truth is to become like one of those athletic stars the real effort is required, not some magical potion. First, you have to have a talent and then spend a decade or more in learning and practicing the skill. There are no shortcuts. Anything, any sport, any dancing, any art, any ability requires knowledge and years and years of practicing.
Adds of any kind would like you to believe magic and buy a specific product or support some agenda. Today, complex machine learning algorithms are used to figure out what kind of add is the best for you. So not only that adds tickle your emotions, and all those insecurities all of us have, but today adds can be personalized. And this means they are harder to resist.
So what to do?

I can just share what I do. I’m too influenced with adds. Decades of add bombardment where happy people proclaimed you will be happy also if you buy this product left some consequences. It is so easy to believe that I too can achieve happiness in a blink of the eye. But of course, it never happened. An object I buy ends up just being an annoyance after some time because inevitably joins to the growing mountain of clutter. Not to mention the pollution that was released during the production, transport, and sale of that product, something that goes directly against my own morality and values (if you did not know, approximately amount of pollution released during the production of any item is 7 times the volume of that product).
My weakest point from an advertising point of view is that I’m a sci-fi fan. I adore sci-fi stories. But I do not have loads of trinkets in the house that would tell you so. Oh, I have sci-fi books and DVD's, but not much of the nerdy/geeky toys. The truth is I love watching those toys. And I would not mind taking them into my hand and just playing a bit with them. But so far, I bought only two. Two little models of spaceships that currently sit on my shelf together with a model of a NASA's space shuttle and set of glasses with planets exterior drawn on them. I got glasses as a present from my friend. And they are collecting dust because I'm terrified to use them in case of damaging them. Basically dust collectors.

Honestly, I would love to have my personal office decorated in a way to resemble a ready room of Cap. Janeway. So yes, I drool when I see a neat little gadget or cute Möbius band decoration. But I still avoid to buy them. Because, in essence, getting an item that is not needed in my daily life but at the same time is causing a significant increase in pollution of the already fragile environment goes against my personal values.
To fight against adds, I started with a quite deep step. I thought about what is quintessential in my life. I figured out what kind of person I wish to be. I determined what I need to do to approach that state. And along the way, I make regular checks to ensure that I really behave like the kind of person I wish to be.
Yes, this is a kind of life philosophy, a practical sort.
And it works. The moment you figure out what is important to you, and what kind of person you wish to be, it is easy to resist adds. Even those hidden ones on facebook where you have no clue you’re served an add.
Now, when I see the cute sci-fi or science gadget I pull back and think does that particular item contributes to what is essential in my life. I question does that item really helps me to be human I wish to be. The answer is usually no.
It is a bit trickier to deal with adds that are trying to sell you an idea or make you do something (like voting for something or someone), or even convince you that there is no need to vote or take some action. It is trickier because today, such adds are hidden behind the faces what seems like an ordinary human. The add is served to you under the disguise of an opinion of the person who is just like you.

Another moment of honesty, during the 2016 USA election I fell for such adds. In the end, I did what I considered right. But it took loads of personal struggle to do what I believed to be the right thing, and most of the time I felt bitterness since I was voting for what I considered less of two evils. I hated the whole situation. Only after the election, I realized that not just USA  party, Republicans, were targeted by election meddling. Everyone was a target, targeted with the custom-made approach.

So to fight this particular issue, I now apply the exact same method as I would for adds for physical objects. I stand back, judge the reliability of a source of the message (meaning I ignore random unknown people commenting on the main article). Then evaluate the message, is the message something that requires action from me, and does that particular action actually reflect what person I am and the values I stand for. Only then I take action or decide to ignore the add. Because the trickiest part here is that adds are mixed with the calls for actions I wish to act on.

Like the last one call for action, I actually acted on, joining the push of the California governor to enforce the law and stop Nestle of draining the water from the drought-stricken region.
In such cases your own knowledge of your values, yourself, is crucial. Only when you know what kind of person you wish to be, you can understand what action or inaction is necessary to match that kind of person.

So in short:
  1. Determine your personal values
  2. Determine what kind of person you are.
  3. Determine what type of actions and decisions mark the person you are.
  4. Pull back on every add, every article, comment and evaluate does that object, idea, response matches you and your values.
  5. Make only the decision to match your values and yourself.
This will help you be true to yourself, live a happier life, look at yourself in a mirror with pride. Yes, life will not always follow your own values, but at least you will be at peace knowing that you did something that truly reflects the goodness you wish to embody in this world.
Another piece of honesty, this method helped me to be more like the person I wish to be.

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