Should You Feel Guilty for Using Adblock?
Two months ago I started using Adblock, and my Internet experience has never been better. I view sites without clutter now. The tops, bottoms, and sidebars of articles are unobstructed by surveillance-guided advertisements and tacky Taboola links. I can read in peace.
But actually…I can’t.
I feel guilty for using Adblock. Instead of seeing pages with no ads, I see pages with ghosts.
Every Internet ad you see is the sum of many parts—designers, sales people, marketing people, etc. By installing Adblock, I negate their entire existence. I’m nullifying every single ad person’s work (as well as the work of the marketing and sales people) whenever I browse the web now. And while Adblock certainly enhances my web browsing, it’s psychologically problematic. How can I be a good, considerate person and still use Adblock?
Some might argue that anyone in the ad industry itself is not a considerate person and that I shouldn’t feel bad snuffing out their life’s work with just a few clicks. I can sort of understand this. Advertising is definitely one of the first world’s lowest and worst pursuits. It exists solely to manipulate and exploit. And I’m not trying to be disparaging here (hell, I receive monthly paychecks to write about borderline illegal fist fights—aka mixed martial arts—so I’m just as bad as anyone). I’m just writing what I perceive to be the truth. You ever see the Creative Confessional? Even the ad people admit it’s one of the world’s worst businesses. Advertising, like its cousins PR and sales, is, at its core, professional lying.
When I reflect on the issue long enough, a tug of war ensues in my brain.
First, the money made from advertisements bankrolls the editorial staff—the writers, the people I support. On some websites, that even means me. If I use Adblock, I’m implicit in stealing money from writers I like, editors that publish and proofread my work, and from myself.
Second, erasing someone’s hard work, even if it’s of questionable value, doesn’t sit right with me. When I use Adblock, I imagine the ad people feel like I feel when my articles don’t get much traffic. It’s a terrible feeling. Did I do something wrong? Am I just not good? Did I fail to resonate? I suppose I could be wrong in this. The sales and marketing chain behind many a website is complicated, after all. Perhaps the ad people simply write copy and then move on with their life. Still, cutting out all their efforts just seems wrong.
At the same time, I feel guilty for even feeling bad for advertisers. The people behind the ads don’t care about me. They’re trying to deceive me and part me with my cash. They’re trying to dupe and manipulate me. They’re trying to obstruct my web browsing experience. Why not smite them with Adblock?
I’m torn over the issue. While Adblock-immune sponsored content is trendy now that it’s been hailed as an industry-saver, many sites still rely on traditional web advertising (hideous banner ads and the like). Nobody is forced to consume sponsored content. Sites might try to disguise its dubious nature, but as soon as you realize what it is, you can click away. Traditional ads are not voluntary (sans Adblock, at least). They pollute pages like pimples.
When I started viewing certain sites without Adblock, I started to appreciate how beautiful they were. With ads, they look like 2001 Geocities web pages. Without them, they’re absolutely gorgeous.
Nevertheless, I try to be a man of honor. I don’t use Adblock on any site that pays me.
Perhaps a valid conclusion is this: Use Adblock, but always be cognizant of the voices you are silencing, lest you forget that nothing is truly free on the Internet or in life.
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