Category Archives: General

The Key to Saving our Species

What if I were to tell you that ads had become smarter than us and now they’re manipulating everything we do?

Mankind became tired of ads, so we kept inventing ways to make things “ad free.” We even created ad blockers. That’s when the ads had to adapt. They had to disguise themselves as news in order to survive.

I’m not sure I’ve heard a more succinct description of why the advertising arms race has become so annoying.

This comes from South Park episode #1908, Sponsored Content, that aired November 18. Jimmy, the school newspaper editor finds himself in competition with Internet news. Jimmy has the rare ability to spot the difference between news and sponsored content.

Can you?

Aspirational Web Searching

Call it advertising Jujitsu. We’re missing out on a great opportunity to turn web tracking to our advantage. We’re all used to the experience. You start online shopping for your Aunt’s birthday and within minutes, your entire Facebook feed is replete with ads for knitting supplies. You don’t see much else until it’s your daughter’s birthday, and then you can enjoy One Direction ticket offers for awhile.

We spend a lot of energy fighting these ads by opting out from web advertising, subscribing to ad blocking software, or pruning our Facebook interests. But it’s a ever-escalating arms race between advertisers and consumers.

What if, instead, we turned all this tracking to our advantage, stopped fighting, and started aspirational searching?

I hit upon this idea recently while wish-list searching for tube-based guitar amplifiers. Classic rock tone, harmonic distortion, and expensive. But seeing my web feeds fill up with all manner of tube amplifiers, electric guitars, and accessories, made me wonder if we couldn’t re-decorate our timelines and sidebars with more positive wallpaper.

I don’t mean just better consumer goods: Tesla Model S’s, luxury yachts, or designer fashion labels (unless that’s your motivation.) I’m thinking more along the lines of things to remind us that there’s a world beyond the keyboard: hiking trails, vacation retreats, great literature, sporting goods, healthy gourmet dining, art exhibits, or whatever will show you a better window to look out from your keyboard.

Give it a try. Spend some time digging around on shopping sites for things beyond consumer goods, and share in the comments if you’ve hit upon a great keyword phrase (e.g., peaceful retreats usa) for us to try. Maybe I should call it anti-aspirational web searching.

Image Credit: ukgardenphotos, Leonardslee Gardens, West Sussex, England (cropped from original)

Is Respect Earned?

Our language carries many examples of respect as a transaction.

“You have to give respect to get respect”

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We phrase it like  a transaction: Respect must be paid. Respect is due. Respect is earned.

And when you have the act of respect as a transaction, then the attitudes of commerce and entitlement follow. “I am owed respect.” “You don’t give me the respect I deserve.” “I gave you respect, now you have to respect me in return.”

I suppose this isn’t a problem if the two parties in the transaction have the same definition of respect. I think most of us though aren’t jumping into a gang or being hazed for pledge week. And maybe we think respect should be something greater than a token payment.

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So what does it really mean to pay respect?

Respect comes from the the Indo-European root spek-, which means to observe 1. You see it it words such as spectacles, suspect, and specimen.  Respect means to look back. In this context, to think about what you’ve seen.

When we ask others to respect us, we may mean to look back on what we’ve done as context for our present actions or attitudes. In this sense, we can respect others because we’ve taken a moment to look at what they’ve been through. We can respect their rights because we are aware of the trials it took to secure them.

We see this in the other meaning of the verb, to avoid interfering with, which is the result of  deference. We respect a person so we don’t intrude upon them, and the pause, if anything, becomes the payment of respect.

We reflect that in the noun form of the word:  regard,  honor, or the time we take to look back. So, we get a moment or a feeling of respect. Silent observation becomes the way we show respect. Therefore, the payment of respect, if anything, is the pause – the moment we stop and think about the other person before we act, speak, or judge. If you respect me, you stop before you violate my boundaries.

We owe that to everybody – our friends, our neighbors, our enemies, our selves. In that respect, it is not something to give or receive, but to demonstrate.

“We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.” —Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund

1 American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. © 2011-2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company [back]

Image Credit: Brett Davies, Buddhist Respect (cropped from original)