We came across a debate on Twitter recently where Amanda Chapel, the faux persona charged with poking fun at social media thought leaders, referred to Søren Kierkegaard‘s existential theories that people hide the meaninglessness of life by drowning themselves in diversions. (In case you miss the Amanda Chapel arguments, she’s a mask, she’s brilliant, she’s caustic, and she thinks the social media craze is overblown — which is right, of course.) So we read up on Existentialism and came to the concept of dread.
Dread. You know, that itching feeling that something bad is about to happen. Existentialists use the common experience of hiking to the edge of a cliff, seeing the abyss and getting a wave of confusion as you ponder your own ability to throw yourself off. This nasty little buzz is the human mind recognizing that nothing is really in control in your life, disaster could happen, and you might even bring it upon yourself.
Newscasters love dread; the weather forecasts are filled with it. In the days before Hurricane Ike slammed Texas, CNN, Fox News and the other broadcast outlets were salivating at the thought that cities could be decimated, Galvestan drowned, ships sunk at sea. “CERTAIN DEATH!” cried the headline at CNN.com.
We’re going to start searching for examples of advertisers who play this same game. It is a powerful emotion, at least as riveting as sex or death or chocolate, and when the wave of dread surges, we want to watch it come, hoping in some secret part of our souls that the worst will happen. If we see it, at least we’ll be in control.