Recharge your battery!

There is a new ad by a product called 5 Hour Energy that I found really appealing—until I had a chance to think about it. [1] Then I found it appalling. Today I’d like to write about the appalling part.  I’m thinking along the lines of: “The understimulated life is not worth living.”  Something like that.

The idea is that over the course of the day, your “battery,” your sense that you have enough “power” to do all the things you have to do, runs down. In the picture below, you see people wandering around with just so much juice left in the battery.
The guy at the left with the tie and the beard has 46% left. The woman to his left, with the red blouse and the glasses, has 79%. I have stopped imagining that anything in these pictures is left to chance, so I pause to note that the blonde with long hair at the right of the picture has only 27%. The men in the middle have 19% and 12% respectively.

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 7.22.22 AM.png

There is no way to tell what time it is [2] but there is nothing in this picture or in the voiceover that goes with it to suggest that the alertness of any of these people would be improved by a good night’s sleep. Anyone with a good video management program could make this picture suggest that it is the end of the work day and everyone is, understandably, tired and hoping for some rest. That’s not what we have here. This is all times on all days and rest is not an option to be considered. Stimulants, now called “energy” are what is needed. Apparently.

5 hour 6This is a very large change is how we have understood what we need to have to do our work during our workday. There was once the very general sense that you needed to do what was necessary to get a good night’s sleep because that was the foundation of a good day’s work.  Consider Point 4 in this chart.  From a commercial standpoint, that is a terrible plan because it provides no chance at all to sell energy drinks. [3] Nothing in this picture cues the reflection, “I’m really dragging today. I need to be sure to get a good night’s sleep tonight so I am more alert tomorrow.”

One of the fundamental falsities of this metaphor is that it imagines that you “have” 5 hour 2and battery and that “it” needs to be charged up so that “you” will feel energetic. In fact, you ARE the battery and the recharger—both, simultaneously—and if you were really determined to stay with the metaphor, all you need to do is to make sure the battery charger part of you is still connected to the house current. The only way I know to do that is to sleep adequately and to eat well and to exercise wisely. You, the battery recharger, will work just fine if you do that and you, the battery, will have all the portable energy you need.

Unfortunately, that is a lifestyle fix. Nobody wants to change a favored lifestyle, particularly when the culture generally and the advertising world particularly are busy praising you for being stressed out. It’s a badge of honor that you wear yourself out and have no time for anything but work. Fortunately, we have a product for you. [4]

Destructive Metaphor

I have pointed to a few uses of this metaphor that seem to me to point in the wrong direction. But there are also some things in the metaphor itself that trouble me. One is that you might be feeling draggy for any number of reasons. Your blood pressure might be low. Your blood sugar might be low. An extended period of stress may have left you without any energy at all. All those causes are common and all have solutions that are appropriate to them. The battery metaphor lumps them all into one sensation and offers one solution. It tells you that “your battery is low” and precludes those other questions.

This is like having a doctor who is all about treatment and who has no interest at all in diagnosis. The battery metaphor simply obliterates the diagnostic phase and proceeds directly to treatment. And there is only one treatment.

I know this lament isn’t going to do any good. Ads mutate like viruses. The “low battery” gambit is just the latest one. If there are long term costs to using products like 5 Hour Energy (and that seems likely to me) [5] there will be a backlash of sorts against those products or those ways of selling products and then the ads will mutate to the next form, whatever that will be. I’m just glad to have had the chance to think my way through this one. I will be as surprised by the next one as everyone else.

On the other hand, if I could sleep like this [6] I don’t think I could possibly have an energy problem.

[1] I can’t find a way to hyperlink it, so I encourage you to do what I did. Go to YouTube and search for [5 hour energy ad] and from the list, choose “Get back to 100% with 5 Hour Energy.”
[2] Which is certainly a good idea if you are trying to link the need for a boost with a feeling you have, rather that with any more general matters, like what time of day it is.
[3] It does sell mattresses and sleeping pills, but that work is already done and there are still products to sell.
[4] You can hire people to do what you no longer have the time to do including changing your oil and preparing your family’s dinner, just as you can “get by” on too little sleep by abusing stimulants. Who needs a lifestyle change?
[5] It is currently of no interest to the Food and Drug Administration because it is 5 hour 3neither a food nor a drug. It is a “food supplement” and they don’t study the effects of those until they start making people sick.

[6]  Just an excuse, really, to put this great puppy picture in.

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About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. My wife, Bette, is the First Reader (FR) of the posts. I have arranged that partly because she helps me write better posts than I would otherwise and partly because I can hold her responsible for the mistakes that I would, otherwise, have to own up to myself.. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsey. I'm a dilettante.
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