Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Devil and AT&T: Is Faster Really Better?




The upside to inane and amusing commercials is that it allows serious companies to take themselves less seriously. The downside to this is that it allows serious companies to take themselves less seriously. Indeed, as long as the commercial is funny, no one really cares what the message is. In fact, by the time the commercial is over we generally remember the punch-line without ever remembering the product. One wonders if this is what these companies intended, or if they have spent so much time being relevant and cool that they have forgotten the purpose of advertising. At any rate, I would argue that this kind of "hipster" commercial making is indicative of a larger problem in our culture today, and that AT&T's "faster is better" campaign is a prime example of just how superficial we've all become. What concerns me most about it is not that these commercials are funny, but that the people who made them really don't understand the reason that they are funny in the first place.

The premise of the ad is that the primary aim of AT&T is so simple that a child could get it (viz. faster is better), "oh and by the way kids say the darndest things, don't they?" While both ideas may be true, the real humor in this is something a little more ironic. The fact that the AT&T representative in the commercial chooses to interview children to find answers says less about the product and more about what our society values at the present moment. The truth is we have all become about as childish as a classroom of elementary school children engaging in a game of M.A.S.H. For those who are unfamiliar with the game, it is one in which you attempt to tailor your life according to your own personal preferences (e.g. who would you want to marry, what kind of car would you like, and how many children will you have). Obviously there is some element of chance in the game, but generally speaking you are able to engineer it in such a way so as to attain a desirable outcome. When you ask a group of kids what they prefer- of course they are going to be inclined to say that "more stuff is better than less stuff", easier is better than harder, and that we would prefer that grandma had a "cheetah taped to her back" so that she didn't require so much of our time and attention.




But is this what we want to say as a society? The commercial is funny because the imagination of children is both wonderful and outrageous. Indeed, choosing to help your grandmother move faster by taping an exotic and dangerous beast to her back is nothing short of hilarious. Yet believing that your grandmother is somehow deficient because she moves too slowly is also deficient in its own way. Part of the reason we teach children stories like the Tortoise and the Hare is to introduce them to ideas and concepts that are decidedly more subtle, like, for example, the fact that while speed and efficiency are very important, they are not the be all end all. I do not disagree with the idea that "faster is better" when it comes to those things in life which are less essential (like a slow internet), but this commercial makes no such important distinction. Like a child operating on the instinct of instant gratification alone, commercials like this imply that the only real enemy in life is (God forbid) having to wait for something. Patience is not a virtue, rather it is something that stupid people say while they are waiting around for the internet to work.




This is a scary proposition, and one that is no doubt heartily endorsed by the devil himself. I would be a hypocrite if I didn't admit that I appreciate all that I am able to accomplish on this Apple device. However, in spite of my appreciation, I would also be remiss if I failed to mention the irony behind the product's symbol (i.e. an apple with a bite taken out of it). In the garden of Eden the first two human beings were also told rather cynically that "faster is better" and that knowledge is preferable to ignorance. And all of this logic seemed to line up. For as you can see in the photograph above, having access to the tree of knowledge is not only pleasing to the eye, and heaven to the touch, but it is also greatly to be desired for gaining an endless amalgam of information. Consequently, we are a lot like gods knowing what is good and what is evil, the only problem is we are having more and more difficulty distinguishing one from the other.  
            
The final question to ask in this "faster is better" climate is just how much longer we can survive with this kind of mentality. Do you think a culture like this possesses the will and/or fortitude to stave off any substantial enemy? Do you think a world like the one pictured above possesses the attention span to engage in any of the complex moral struggles of the day? Do you believe that a culture that values efficiency and immediacy over goodness is capable of constructing something so beautiful and magnificent as one of the great gothic cathedrals? Faster may be better when it comes to the internet, but as it relates to any of life's essentials, there is something fundamentally flawed about encouraging it as a philosophy. At the moment, the tasty death-fruit of efficiency demands our allegiance and obeisance, but if we are not careful that pleasing fruit will no doubt become the very bane of our existence. Below I offer photographic evidence that when it comes to the essentials not only is slower "better", but it may in fact be the only thing standing in the way of another Dark Age inaugurated by the barbarism of a one Justin Bieber:


1. Art       

                                             Faster


                                              Slower



2. Architecture


                                              Faster



                                               Slower



3. Literature:


                                 Faster



                                  Slower




4. Music


                                           Faster


                                           Slower



5. Intimacy


                                           Faster



                                          Slower



6. Weight Loss

                                          Faster

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xczm9g_ride-the-snake_fun#.Ucnx2xZ0VaU


                                          Slower






2 comments:

  1. Love this post! I too find that our society has become poisoned by this instant-gratification mentality and that it has turned us all into over-sized, impatient babies. I see it in the classrooms, I see it at the supermarket, I see it all around me and I find it frightening. I completely agree with you that art and beauty are in danger of becoming extinct as a result.
    Also, you made a very interesting analogy with the forbidden fruit.

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