Living an ad-free life is possible

Natalie Connors, Editor in Chief

Media bombards us with millions of messages every day. Just walking down the street exposes you to signs screaming, “buy this” and flyers fighting for your attention claiming they have just what you need. At this point, trying to avoid advertisements might feel like a useless quest.

Why not just lie back and allow the consumerism to wash over you like a glittered tide? I imagine my friends ask. “Because,” I hypothetically answer. “My mind is mine to fill or empty and I’d like to keep it that way as much as possible.” If you too are sick of total encapsulation of media marketing, then come with me on a journey, a journey of clearance and renewal, where a little effort will give you back some of the mind space thieved from behind your eyes.

Youtube used to be a well from which to draw hours of uninterrupted cat videos. The elders of the millennial generation remember this well, but those days are long dead. Now, expect to sit for at least eight seconds, waiting for an uninvited disembodied voice to insert ideas into your inner ear.

Luckily, some people got sick of this and figured out a solution. There are multiple ad blocking extensions available to download into your internet browser. Adblock and AdblockPlus are both free, highly rated, and effective at keeping most obtrusive ads out of your Internet experience. This includes pop-ups, sidebars and videos. They ask for a one time donation at the of the download, but they only get funding from this honor system.

When using adblock technology, it is important to consider why organizations are advertising in the first place. Making money and profit is the main goal and if you are blocking ads from sites that you want to support, you could be hurting the businesses you are trying to help. Ads can easily be disabled from a menu in the top of your browser screen.

Paying for video services is another way to avoid advertisement. Netflix has thousands of movies, television programs and documentaries available for a low subscription price. There are no ads inside of Netflix; every program is streamed without interruption. Netflix also has considerably more content than HuluPlus a paid subscription service that put ads in mid content.

HuluPlus specializes more in current episodes of cable programming. In my first year of college, I bought myself a student subscription, overjoyed to have some control of the programming I wanted to see. Over the next few years, I watched House, Angel, Glee, Fringe and more; it was my first time ever following TV series as the episodes were released. I am now thankful I never had much opportunity to binge watch television as a child, or the habit would be horrendous to break now.

HuluPlus also has original programming, but after paying for several years, I cancelled when they changed their policies. Paid members now experience several ads per show. Movies are usually set up with a few ads or trailers at the beginning and then continue without a break. However, if I’m paying for a service, I really want an ad free experience.

Similar to paying for video services, PandoraOne and Spotify also offer ways out of ad bombardment. PandoraOne is what you always want Pandora to be, craftable radio without any ads. It’s less than four bucks a month and I haven’t had an intimate evening ruined from ill-timed Clorax promotion since subscribing. That’s worth one hot chocolate a month.
Spotify gives you a choice of several different level of paid experience, its advantages include being able to create playlists and search for albums and tracks. I paid for the lowest level of Spotify until they too changed their policies and began including advertisements.

If you don’t mind sharing your media tastes with other people, sharing a subscription is another way to shave a few bucks off your monthly expenses. Netflix contains a device limit, but sharing with roommates, family members or friends can be convenient and fun. HuluPlus and AmazonPrime also have device limits. Pandora’s website states, “Pandora One accounts are meant for individual, non-commercial use. To support this, simultaneous streaming is limited.” If Pandora detects use on more than one device, it can pause or stop the music you are streaming. This might throw off plans to share, but in personal experience, this doesn’t happen much.

Radio in the car is a whole other beast. I don’t have a smartphone, so, while in a vehicle I have the choice between the music of my soul or whatever the powers that be have determined to be popular music that week. As bad as pop music can be, it is nothing compared to the inane drivel that pours out during radio ads. In the Madison area, cars salesmen are particularly obnoxious. Many stations offer nonstop play blocks during peak times. At other times, my hand remains ready to mute the volume controls.

It doesn’t always seem like there’s a choice in the media we consume, but there are things to do to avoid the worst of the propaganda. All of these small steps help protect your sensitive eyes and ears from getting ideas you didn’t really want in the first place. Now, if we could just get the product placement out of programming…