Two people watching TV.

What Do You Do During Commercial Breaks?

Do you let the ads just come right in?

Hulu was on sale recently. Their entry-level package was priced at $12 for 12 months. We bought it. We didn’t need it. But it was $12 so… why not? Well-played Hulu. Well-played. That said, even though it was comparatively cheap, I want to get my money’s worth. I’m the rare human that goes to the gym because I bought a gym membership. In other words, I’m the opposite of any subscription business’s ideal customer. I actually use the product. And I get rid of it if I don’t.

All that to say, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Hulu lately.

And it’s odd. I haven’t been forced to watch commercials in a long time. We don’t have cable. And I don’t do much streaming. And the streaming we do have (Netflix), doesn’t run ads. So I’ve forgotten what it’s like to pay for something and still be stuck with commercials every five minutes. But hey, it was $12… it was $12… it was $12. *Serenity now.

 

To ad or not to ad

The ads run for roughly two minutes. Not a ton of time. But still… it’s time. I’m getting served ads for things I don’t want and for brands I don’t enjoy. And so I can’t help but wonder… how would an intentional person spend that time? I’m careful about what I put in front of my eyes. Case in point, when I got my Kindle, I upgraded it so that it wouldn’t promote products on its cover.*

*If you aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about, let me briefly explain. Imagine that when your phone is asleep – as in your phone is on but not in use – you are shown an ad. If you have an iPhone, it might be an ad for the new AirPods. If you have an Android, it might be an ad for a new smartwatch. Well, that’s what the standard Kindle does when it’s asleep.

It shows you an ad for whatever book Amazon wants you to buy. I don’t like that. So I paid a couple dollars more to remove that feature. End of tangent.

By allowing these ads into my consciousness, I push aside all sorts of potential. For instance, an ad for a coffee place shoved into my mind may corrupt a loving thought I was having about my family. And so like a torture device from a 90’s Sci-Fi film, or a brainwashing device in a 90’s gay-to-straight camp, or really anything related to the ’90s at all, I sit strapped to a chair, eyes taped open, forced to accept whatever imagery is flashed in front of me. All from the distance of a few inches. From my eyes to the phone in my hands.

 

Get over yourself

Now you may be thinking – this guy’s neurotic. Or, just put the phone down and go do something else for two minutes. Or, mute the ad and read a book then. You may be thinking – is this what the complaints of modern society are today? How tragic. Or, you should’ve just sprung for ad-free. Or even, stop being dramatic. Just watch the ads and get over yourself.

And to all those points, I say – you are absolutely right.

At the same time though, I pride myself on my intention. On the things, people, events, and stimuli I give focus to. It’s not just about Hulu. And it’s not just about ads. Because I voluntarily chose to partake in the program. Unlike anything from the ’90s, my participation wasn’t mandatory. I chose to sit in the chair. I taped my eyes open all by myself. And I pushed the play button and consumed the flashing images.

 

Where are you going with this, Corey?

I’m using a lot of hyperbole right now. I know I’m being over the top. Obviously, two minutes of ads isn’t that big of a deal. Even when it does happen several times during a 30-minute show. I am exaggerating for effect but also as a means of learning.

I heard an author once explain that there are two ways to write a novel. One option is you start with a beginning and end in mind. The rest of the time you spend connecting the two. The other way is to start it and see where it goes. To bring it to its natural conclusion with no expectation of what the end may be.

Well, this article is just like that second way.

I didn’t realize how frustrating I found ads until I sat down to write this article. All I knew was the title I wanted to use. Everything else has unfolded in real-time. But you don’t care about that. You want to know how my rambling will help you. Which, hey I get it. You don’t want to read my diary entry and I don’t want to read yours. So let’s make this valuable for you, shall we?

 

A little something for your trouble

There is nothing wrong with ads. In fact, some of them are great. Especially when they’re relevant. Especially when their existence allows the product to be free (like YouTube). But, in general, I prefer a life that is ad-free.

So try this… Practice being aware of how you’re feeling in situations. Try it whenever you remember to. The more you do it, the more you will be aware of those feelings. The more you are aware of those feelings, the more you can do something about them (ie. change the situation, learn to accept them, etc.).

I just deleted Hulu from my phone.

This all but guarantees I spend less time on the platform. Don’t worry though. I’ll be sure to get my $12 worth of content. A year is a long time. And I’ve certainly gotten my dollar’s worth out of this month alone.

So try this… Give a little intention to your life. Bring some consciousness to your actions. For instance, you may still want to watch shows, but perhaps there are shows you’d rather have influence your life over others. Take note of them and steer your gaze in that direction.

*Rant, and unsolicited advice, over.