The Introvert’s Guide to Killing Media Clutter

door sign

How much media clutter do you experience each day? A few months back, that old guesstimate that we each see around 5000 pieces of advertising each day was revised to be around 300, which makes more sense but is still way too much. Turns out our brains only absorb about half of that… but what if you could make your life almost “media clutter” free?

As a curmudgeonly introvert, I don’t want to see ads, especially for stuff I have no interest in. I don’t want to deal with flyers, catalogues or emails with suggestions of stuff I might like. I know what I like, thanks, and can usually use the old Googlebox to find it for myself.

Eradicating media clutter not only has environmental benefits, but with so much less “noise” coming in, it allows for a more tranquil life.

Working from home, the only time I now encounter advertising I have not intentionally sought out is when I’m on the street (billboards, bus shelters) or when I ride transit. I love, love, love not being inundated with ads for crap I don’t want or need. Here’s how I did it…

Ad Block Plus
Install it, use it, love it. I can’t believe there are people out there who don’t use some kind of Ad Block plugin. I would probably not be able to use the internet without it. Some indie websites will chastise readers who use ad block because online ad revenue really does help their bottom line – in this case, be nice and turn it off for that site so they can earn the page view revenue.

Facebook Purity
I am always confused when people refer to the creepy personalized ads that pop up on Facebook. There are ads on Facebook? I wouldn’t know because I’ve used the amazing Facebook Purity app for years. Not only does it filter out ads, but it can be set to filter out the gazillion things on Facebook that you might not care about like relationship status, chats, videos, etc. Maintained and updated by one guy for free – and Facebook hates him for it – so if you use this and love it, send him a donation to thank him.

If you’ve ever tried to drive traffic to a website, you’ll no doubt have read the advice to add a mailing list to your site. I’ve never been able to figure out what I’m supposed to include on these email blasts, given that the stuff to read is here, on the site. Just visit the damn site! I get it, people are forgetful, and need a reminder, but when I visit someone’s blog or a shopping site, and get inundated with pop-ups asking me to subscribe to their stupid mailing list, not only will I not subscribe, I probably won’t be back. Having said that, not all mailing lists are useless. Go through the ones you subscribe to and keep any that are genuinely useful, but… cut the ones that aren’t. Let them go. You probably won’t even miss them.

Physical mailing lists
That is, for the clutter that ends up in your snail mail box. If you’ve ever subscribed to a magazine or made a charitable donation, it’s likely your mailing address was sold and propagated out to tons of other companies.

A quick story – some years back, one of my husband’s relatives sent me a gift copy of a new magazine. They used a weird, hyphenated version of our last names, so the mag was sent to “Sheryl Kirb-Clow”. The magazine was cute, a start-up about Maritime culture from Nova Scotia, so I bought a year subscription, in my own name. All of a sudden I was getting piles of junk mail in my real name, with duplicates of everything sent to Sheryl Kirb-Clow. The magazine had not only sold their mailing list of paid subscribers, but also the list of unpaid gift copy recipients. A cranky letter was sent and the subscription cancelled, but it took me a good year of replying to every piece of junk mail (well over 100 different items) with a stern “Remove me from your mailing list!!!” comment to make the deluge stop.

And stern letters are really what is required if you want to stop the flow of addressed junk mail and charitable requests. Those postage paid return envelopes are your friend, use them to let the organization or publication know that you do not want your contact info sold or traded to any other organizations. And if you’re making charitable donations or ordering magazine subscriptions, add that comment to the form you send in. If you’re doing so online and there’s no place to opt out of additional mailings, send a quick email to customer service after completing the payment.

Bulk Mail
A sign on your mail box should be enough to cease the delivery of bulk mail. In apartment buildings where the postal carrier sorts mail from a separate room behind the wall of mail boxes, there are stickers available to put in your mail box letting the carrier know you don’t want bulk (junk) mail. In Canada, these are available from Canada Post, or make your own.

While I live in a supposedly “secure” apartment, a couple of times a month someone comes around and leaves flyers for crappy pizza joints in people’s doors. Less often are the canvassers and solicitors, but they still crawl the halls like roaches every so often. My polite but handy sign tends to weed out about 90% of the junk flyers and door knockers, and those who ignore the sign do so at their own peril. Usually I just stand silently and tap the sign until the canvasser looks up, then slinks away. But I did once literally chase a pair of (lying, shit heel) missionaries down the hall to the elevator, screaming “Fuck your god!!” the whole way. Fun times.

Ditch the Cable
Unless you need the stuff on the specialty channels (and if you’re a sports fan, you’re probably not hitting my site anyway), you can make your life mostly ad-free by getting rid of your cable and paying for a VPN connection instead. Not that I’m advising you to do illegal things, mind, but downloads don’t contain ads, y’know? We disconnected cable about three years ago. We still watch way too much TV (mostly UK and Australian shows), but I can’t remember the last time I watched an ad on my home television. And when I see ads on televisions in bars or someone else’s house, they’re vaguely terrifying and overwhelming. And almost always for things like cars or diapers or stuff that I wouldn’t buy anyway.

Newspapers, Magazines, etc.
As someone who occasionally writes for print media outlets, I probably shouldn’t advise people to ditch the dead tree versions of their favourite magazines and newspapers. But… if the publication is available online, and you can run Ad Block on the site, why the hell would you subject yourself to all those ads AND get ink all over your hands?