There are some “environmentalists” who say that we should be as concerned about the clean state of our minds as we are about the polluted physical world around us. Their concern, according to an article in the Guardian, is that many of us are suffering from a “toxic mental environment”.
Bombarded by advertisements and marketing ploys, people’s minds are becoming ‘poisoned’ and making them prone to stress and frayed nerves. Take for instance, an ad that repeats five times during a programme and then five days a week, several times a month. Even if it is aesthetically or cleverly done, this repetition is bound to irritate.
Or take telemarketers, the scourge of our modern era, who call at the most inconvenient times to sell you something you don’t want. These daily invasions are borne stoically by some, but for many others, they are troubling and troublesome. TV ads certainly have escalated in recent times, with some programmes switching to commercials seemingly every few minutes. It often seems that there is no getting away from someone who is trying to push something on you — and this is what makes our minds toxic, say those fighting for a clean mental environment.
Anand Wahegaokar, a chemistry professor, cannot stand ads whether on TV or radio and the issue clearly burns him up. “I find it very irritating when people ask me, ‘Did you check the new ad for this particular product?’ I hate the question. How can one be so easily lured by clever marketing? And these ads are so repetitive that it tires you out, time and again you hear and watch the same thing.” His response is to “just switch off the TV” or change the channel.
So, why are people so irritated by ads and marketing to the point that they leave a room, switch off their TV or grind their teeth in frustration? It could be partly due to the fact that we are constantly exposed to information but don’t always get to choose what we want to see and when.
Dr Shekhar Reddy, a psychiatrist feels that people today have hardly any time to relax, which is in itself stressful. “The toxic mental environment works at a multi-dimensional and multi-media level. Most people have a problem with product marketing and advertisements. This is the reason why mobile advertising has been banned. The mind is unable to cope with the pace at which its being fed with words, information and even reactions. This could ultimately lead to mental fatigue, wherein the mind just shuts off.”
As many as four out of 10 people are affected by this type of bombardment, even to the point of becoming emotionally unbalanced, he says. It would seem that even as consumerism and our spending ability increase, our tolerance for being the targets of marketing campaigns decreases. For many people, the mute button on the remote is the key to enjoying television — and if the remote has gone missing during a commercial break, there is often hell to pay.
Yet, ad filmmaker Mohammad Ali Baig feels that it is unfair to put all the blame for this syndrome on advertising. “Advertising is an unavoidable disturbance. They are revenue generating and make it possible for channels to air TV programmes that people enjoy.” However, he admits that excessive, uncontrolled advertising on TV is not a good trend.
“This can be disturbing to viewers and affect people temperamentally. TV has a penetrating effect, so they can influence people and even create an unhealthy environment.”