Why Paying For Commercial-Free Television Is The Most Important Investment For Our Minds

by Jason Najum

The season finale of HBO’s "Game of Thrones" will air this Sunday and tens of millions of passionate fans will be glued to their television sets and computer screens.

Not only is the series breaking records for HBO ratings (it just surpassed "The Sopranos" as most popular series in HBO history), but last season’s finale of "GOT" (season three) was also the most illegally downloaded show of all time.

"Game of Thrones" keeps growing and gaining momentum. Skeptics who previously dismissed it as a barbaric, homoerotic show about titties and dragons are now getting fully on board. These naysayers were presumably unable to ignore their friends’ passion, obsession and cries of agonizing surprise from the living room.

The explanation for this historic success is simple: It’s a great product, and dare I say, a great art.

But there’s another reason that I cheer wholeheartedly for the show and for the network: It’s cheap. I, like most of you, do my fair share of downloading and streaming, but not with HBO; I pay my monthly subscription fee of $15.99 and I pay it gladly.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the value of a dollar and won’t try to save one when I can; it’s actually just the opposite. Lately, I've come to develop a deeper appreciation for what things are worth, especially when you consider what the media is constantly trying to throw at you.

Paying for HBO means I don't have to sit through commercials picked out by someone who thinks he or she knows what's missing in my life, and that's an investment I'm interested in making.

If you take a drive in your car and flip through the radio stations, or spend a few minutes clicking through television stations, there’s an approximately one in three chance that you will hear or see a commercial. Industry averages vary, but most hover between 15 to 20 minutes of advertisements during every 60 minutes of programming time.

We were raised on TV shows and the commercials that fund them, so we don’t realize how ridiculous and insidious this model is and how much of ourselves we are giving away in the trade. So, allow me to reiterate: For every hour of our lives spent in front of a TV or listening to the radio, approximately 20 minutes goes to the absorption of advertisements.

These bombardments are just part of the approximately 5,000 marketing messages the average North American sees per day. There is overwhelming evidence that the mind can indeed be polluted; although, the degree to which advertisements cause specific personal and cultural problems is hard to quantify. Taking even a moment to contemplate the amount of toxic mindlessness we consume can be extremely helpful.

Children pick up on ads that tell them how many toys they should have and what they should be interested in. Women are constantly reminded how they need to be looking thinner, while men are taught that they have to have the right car or suit to land the woman of their dreams. So what does this do to our minds?

Questions of judgment and measures of self-worth come into play. These are some of the most essential things a person can possess, and all of them can be severely and negatively affected by paid advertisements. By giving these parts of yourself away so easily, you are setting the price for your most valuable personal assets at approximately 40 minutes of "The Bachelor" viewing time.

When did we start giving ourselves away this easily? When will we stop?

If I pay $5 for a coffee and $400 for a phone, why would I cut corners on what I put into my mind? Things are changing and industry models are being reshaped. Sure, you could illegally download the finale of "Game of Thrones," and nobody would judge you or even have to know; however, in this hyper-capitalist world of ours, if you want to ensure you're getting what you want, the most efficient tools at our disposal are our dollars and our time.

The largest corporations shudder at the thought of you being an active, conscious user of your own time and money. Make your mark clear: Give your money directly to those who produce quality content and stop letting big box corporations spoon-feed you crap.

Photo via Tumblr