Beneath a Blotted Sky

2021/03/10

I hate ads.

That sentence is one of the most sincere things you’ll ever see from me, and I truly mean it. I absolutely despise them, and that will never change. The sheer level of hatred they inspire in me is really quite profound, and it would be very difficult to properly portray it in words. Suffice to say, though, that I believe that their prevalence is one of the worst facets of our current society, and, should they up and disappear one day, you certainly won’t hear me complain. It’ll bring a huge smile to my face, even.

I’m going to back up a bit, however, and talk about the exact reason that I wrote this.

Last week, I ordered takeout. While cooking all of my meals is my usual preference, sometimes I just can’t find the drive for it. This time, I got what we in the US like to call Chinese food, when that really couldn’t be further from the truth. The debate of what constitutes authentic Chinese cuisine is not the topic today, but suffice to say that the country is extremely diverse and varied, and what we have here in North America is a pale shadow brought on by our own culinary tastes and what immigrants had to work with. Again, not the topic of choice, but still interesting to know.

It wasn’t bad food. I’ve certainly had better, but that too isn’t the focus. What is has to do with the long hallowed takeout tradition of the fortune cookie. A small cookie with a strip of paper inside that also has little to do with China- they originated in California, I believe- with often some extremely random and very much not fortune-like words. Also lucky numbers. Mine came with this sentence:

“You will continue to find new solutions to your problems.”

Honestly, that reads more of like a fortune than what I usually get. That’s just one side of the paper, though, and not even the first I saw. When I cracked it open, I saw something else entirely; something that caught me so off guard that I was shocked and appalled at the very same time.

There was an ad inside of my goddamn fortune cookie.

An actual, sponsored advertisement. For some company to aid in filing my taxes, no less, which just further boggled my mind. Between my bewilderment and the need to share it with others, a very significant question came to mind:

WHY?

How far have we fallen where we can’t even escape ads in something as simple as a fortune cookie? What desperation caused this to happen? It’s so ridiculous that I’m having a hard time articulating just how befuddled this situation has made me. Of all the places I could ever conceive to find ads, this wouldn’t have even made the list. It’s literally so ludicrous that I’m having a hard time grasping the reality.

That brings us to now.

As I said at the beginning of post, I hate ads. Supremely so. One of my greatest peeves is how persistent they are, worming their way into every aspect of our lives. Frankly, it’s insulting, and little wonder that adblocker use has been on the rise during our digital age. If you’re driving people to go out of their way to do such things, you’re doing a terrible job. That’s a fact. Ads have become the equivalent of a plague, especially on the internet.

This is where my hatred for them comes from. They’re a nigh inescapable juggernaut that constantly annoy us with their presence, and are aggressively enforced to influence our entrepreneurship. Our increasingly interconnected world further works against us, due to how we leave a proverbial digital fingerprint in the form of metadata. That metadata can be used to track you and your online habits, and it’s something ad companies and various organizations love to get their hands on. If this isn’t starting to sound like we live in a dystopia, then I have some unfortunate news.

We absolutely live in a dystopia.

On the subject of devices, smartphones are among the worst offenders. Android in particular, as, despite what you might think, Google is, first and foremost an ad company. An ad company that develops the most popular smartphone OS, internet browser, search engine, and a whole slew of other services that have taken over the web at large. Take a wild guess at what they do with that sort of reach. If you’ve ever pondered aloud about some sort of purchase and, conveniently, ads about it happen to pop up while browsing on your phone, that’s very likely not a coincidence.

There is, perhaps, a reason that Google rather silently retired its motto of “Don’t be evil.”

As a brief rebuttal to those that might defend such practices, citing that companies need money to stay afloat, I would like to remind us all of our humanities. The well being and continued living of people matter more than money ever will. Just take a look at the last year to see what happens when that’s put in reverse. It’s not particularly pretty. Besides, it doesn’t have to be so invasive.

At the end of the day, though, I’m not writing this to be some call to action or anything. This is a personal lament not solely at the fact that I found an advertisement inside of a fortune cookie, of all things, but rather, the larger issue at hand. That is, a society that is grossly oversaturated with said ads, which is itself endemic to even greater matters. Reality is truly stranger than fiction sometimes, and, as much of it starts to read like a conspiracy, this is the world we have to come to live in. It doesn’t mean that you have accept it, however, and there are measures to be taken for the security and peace of mind of yourself and others.

At the same time, one must measure the weight of their decisions, and to what extent a gaping wound can be applied band aids.

If there is one thing I would like to impart from this, it would be that you should use an adblocker. Like, seriously. You should have hopped on that bandwagon yesterday. It’s not going to magically solve all of your problems, but it makes browsing the web more bearable, and does contribute to your overall privacy. The latter is especially important, and must be valued heavily.

Until next time.