What everybody echoes

What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true today may turn out to be falsehood tomorrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields – Thoreau

I recently was listening to the CBC podcast about advertising Under the Influence and I was struck by the amount of beliefs that I absorbed in my formative years due to advertising. The stereotypes – gender, ‘race’, religion, etc. – which I was exposed to and never questioned.

This lead me to consider television and advertising today – I do not know any young adults who own a television – or at least who use their television as we did. A screen that we passively engaged with, that fed us what network and advertising executives wanted us to see and hear. We rarely questioned or protested. How often did I see a commercial and absorbed the message behind the product even when I had no interest in the product itself?

Today people are still inundated with messages, but I feel that there is a more active engagement. That does not square with the idea being floated that people (including me) are more involved with their screens than with the ‘real’ world. Yet, we are choosing to be engaged – I see an ad or a video or a social media post and I click to go deeper into the story or I move on.

Those messages I was raised on were challenged daily while at university. That experience highlighted how I had not questioned and took it all at face value. It was a matter of not thinking deeply, of simply accepting what was fed to me as ‘true’.

Life really was simpler when there was not a 24 hour news cycle and so much information coming at you – but it was also simpler because critical thinking was not an expectation television and advertising executives (or governments) had of the consuming public.