Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I don't know what to think.

This morning I was listening to an NPR news story this morning about social media and how it can be used to influence its users on the way to work.  The most interesting part of the interview, to me, was when Tim Wu began exploring the problem with Facebook's business model.  It claims to be a social platform, guaranteeing safeguards on everyone's personal information, but at the same time it is a for-profit enterprise that makes its money by allowing advertisers to use the very specific information it can collect on its users to target its advertising.
Image result for target
I just searched google images for "target,"
and this is what I got.  It's remarkably on point.
Advertising is basically someone telling you what to think.  It was about fifth grade when we first started learning about the various techniques people can use to do that.  Let's see if I can remember...seems like one of them was repetition.

Image result for head on apply directly to the forehead
Repetition.  Check.
Another one is claims.  This is the one where they tell you all about the amazingness that can happen if you begin using the product.  "If you use our widget spinners, it'll knock 5 strokes off your golf game and make you a whiz at the Pachisi table."  They also use this one a little more subtly by having pretty folks in all the ads.  So what they are saying is that in addition to the 5 strokes off your golf game and being a Pachisi whiz, it will also make you thinner and more attractive.

Image result for parchisi
Meh.  I'm in it for the Pachisi.
Then there's association.  Michael Jordan eats this, so you should too.  (1000 points for the first person to correctly identify the product in the comments, either on FB or on the blog).  Don't you want to be like Mike?  We all want to be like Mike...  Except for that time he played baseball.  Not so much just then.

Oh.  Don't forget the bandwagon.  That's the one where they tell you everyone else is doing it, so you should too.  Kindof a low-down trick if you ask me, playing on our fear of being ostrasized and alone.  But it's advertising, so that's really what it's all about.

Image result for jump off bridge
Mama warned me about this...
There's one more.  What was it?  Oh right.  Sales.  They tell you it's on sale.  This letter opener usually costs $155.99, but just for you, if you act in the next 10 minutes, we will sell it to you for 95% off and double your order.  That's right.  Not one, but two letter openers for just $7.80 plus shipping and handling.  Sure, but if I don't buy it at all, then I get to hang on to my $7.80, right?
Image result for letter opener
Well yes, but it comes in a variety of colors...
[Editor's Note: John is clearly trying to make up for not having any pictures in his last post.  If you are annoyed by the quantity of pictures in this post, please leave a note in the comments detailing your thoughts on the matter.]

All this thinking about thinking got me thinking.  We are inundated with people telling us what to think.  Nearly every moment of every day.  Signs.  Popups.  Radio ads.  The clothes people are wearing.  And it's not just what to think.  We are even being told what to feel.  You should feel sad because of homelessness.  You should feel anxious because your nose is too big.  You should feel guilty because the last meal you fed your child was potential a GMO product.  You should feel angry because of guns.  You should feel angry because of an attack on the second amendment. 

Image result for GMO corn
On the up side, they could become Spiderman...
We've been pretty good at this as a church too--telling people what to think and how to feel.  I'm just a diretor of music, so I could easily be wrong about this, but I feel like maybe we shouldn't be in the business of telling people what they should think or how they should feel.  Maybe we should tell them to think and to feel.  Jesus said we should attend to the plank in our own eye before we deal with the speck in someone else's, after all.

You don't have to feel sad about homelessness, but you should feel something about it.  You don't have to be angry about guns or the second amendment, and you certainly don't have to agree with me about it, but you should feel something.  You should feel something.  And how you feel should be based on how you feel...not how your Facebook feed or your mom or your friends think you should feel.

You don't have to think about your faith the same way I do.  You don't have to believe the same things I believe.  You don't have to value the same things I value.  But you should think about your faith and the things you believe and the things you value.  (And if you don't, you should definitely feel bad about that. Wait...)  Awareness of our thoughts and feelings is one way we can escape the mob mentality...or worse.  Stolen data from Facebook doesn't do any good if it we can become a people who think critically about what is in front of us and consider issues from perspectives that differ from our own.

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