car keys to explain how we find our keys when were looking for them and optimism bias

You know what I have an issue with? Albanian ads, specifically TV or radio ads.

When I was a kid, I used to watch ads on Italian channels. I loved them. I didn’t skip them or go on my phone when they played. Sure, I didn’t have a phone and I don’t think we could skip ads yet back then, but still.

They were a joy to watch. There was always an element of storytelling involved. Cartoons and ads are how thousands of Albanian kids and I learned Italian. Davvero!

sabbia magica old italian tv ads
my dream

It seems to me like Albanians reached the pinnacle of TV copywriting back in 2000. 

Maybe I think so because, like many others, I now reserve a healthy amount of skepticism for anything new. I will never allow Gen Z slander or condescendingly say the string of words “things were different back then,” but I can’t run from the dubiousness inside me. 

The 2 most memorable Albanian TV ads

They’re both coincidentally about drinks. Maybe that’s not much of a coincidence. It’s surely easier to create a memorable ad about beer than about insurance (Lemon‘s an exception). 

The ads are about coffee (Lori Cafe, an Albanian brand) and beer (Amstel).

I think the Amstel beer one was a translation, but it did not miss the mark. “Amstel, cause that’s the way I like it” quickly became the new thing we said in daily conversations and remained such for years. 

On a recent road trip, a Heineken ad started playing on the radio (yes, we still listen to the radio). It was a conversation between two colleagues. It went something like:

C1: Where are you?

C2: I’m having a beer. 

C1: Whaat? You’re about to miss the meeting.

C2: No, it’s a beer without alcohol. 

C1: Hahaha. The meeting…

I can’t find the actual ad online, but trust me, it was this bad. 

This may have nothing to do with Albania. SinceHeineken is a global brand, I’m sure they have strict brand guidelines about what ad agencies can/can’t say. MaybeHeineken ads come directly from the HQ leaving zero room for changes or improvements to factor in cultural differences.

It would explain a fewHeineken billboards with the copy “Beer and a meeting? Now you can.” and “Beer and driving? Now you can.” to promote their new non-alcoholic beer.

As I’ve mentioned quite a few times, Albania is a strange, lovely…

[Something happened in the middle of that sentence. I wrote all about it in Blood Is Thicker Than Oil and Vinegar: My Shaky Hands and a Summer Camp Secret.Because I started this article almost a month ago, then took a summer break, I have no idea where I was going with this… But I remember what the point was, so I’ll keep writing until I uncover the plot.]

All this to say, Albanians drink beers during their lunch break and will drink another one before driving home. The beer doesn’t need to be non-alcoholic for us to do that. 

Is it wrong? Maybe. Is it the way it is? Yeah.

Amstel, cause that's the way I like it

The other ad was about Lori cafe. A man was asking a woman on a date. She says “Varet çfarë kafe ofron.” which roughly translates to “It depends on what coffee you’re offering.”

But it’s not just that. It’s the playfulness, the way she says it, the implications, the feel-good interaction. It was a lovely ad. Like Amstel, it also became part of our slang back then. 

It depends on what coffee you’re offering.

I remember what I wanted to write about. 

“It depends on what you’re looking for.” It sounds woo-woo, but stay with me for a second. 

You’ll inevitably find what you’re looking for. 

If you’re looking for good people, you’ll find those. 

If you’re looking for bad people, you’ll find those. 

Sure, this is a basic physics concept that we’re more susceptible to the things we’re looking for. 

  • When you’re leaving the house and need your car key, you look for your car key and you find that. 
  • When you come back home, you look for your pajamas. You find those. 

You expect to find your pajamas and the car key when you look for them. The car key can’t replace the pajamas and the pajamas can’t replace the car key… unless you decide to say fuck it and stay home in your pajamas so you don’t need the car after all.

I’ve realized that these past few years I’ve had a similar “I’ll find what I’m looking for” bias.

I’ve met so many people- good and bad, kind and cruel, brilliant and dumb. Because I’m looking for the former, I’ve found them more and more and more. 

I truly can’t remember the last time I met a bad person who was dumb and cruel. 

Does my memory fail me? Am I abnormally forgiving in my character assessments? 

It’s more likely that I just don’t pay a lot of attention to all that’s bad just because there is SO MUCH MORE that is good. 

Steps I’m taking to further my optimism bias

1.

I’ve started saving every time a person (usually a stranger) takes time out of their precious life to send me a thoughtful message to say that they’ve loved an article of mine.

The folder is on my desktop and easily accessible any time I feel like humanity is failing me. 

2.

I try to avoid the news as much as humanely possible.

My favorite news sources are Next Draft, The Morning News, and The Skimm. My news notifications are off. I never read the news when I’ve just woken up. I don’t need that kind of energy.

I’ve found The Happy Broadcast, a quasi-daily positive news publication filled with all that worked out spectacularly in the world. Following this account on Instagram has really put things in perspective for me when it comes to how things are going on planet Earth. 

Hint: they’re going well.

Bruce Sacerdote, an economics professor at Dartmouth, and two other researchers looked into Covid media coverage. Using Feature-Based Opinion Mining and Summarization, aka analyzing language by classifying it as positive, neutral, bad, they found that: 

“Most well-read U.S. media are outliers in terms of their negativity.”

Molly Cook, co-author of the study, for The New York Times

I’ll include this excerpt as well and rest my case:

Sacerdote is careful to emphasize that he does not think journalists usually report falsehoods. The issue is which facts they emphasize.”

Which facts do you emphasize? The existence of which kinds of people do you emphasize? 

3.

Another step I’m taking to further my optimism bias is to question the bad things I hear. 

Sure, sometimes bad things happen and there’s no explanation for them other than bad people do bad things

But sometimes the bad thing didn’t even happen. Or it did, but it was wildly blown out of proportion. Or it was severely lacking in context. 

It’s true, I have rose-colored glasses on, but I’ve fought long and hard for them. I don’t intend to take them off. I can’t pretend I don’t see allll the people who are making the world a better place just by the way they’re existing and what they’re emphasizing.

😎

We’re taught that it takes heroic acts and thousands of dollars to be recognized as a benefactor, an altruist, a philanthrope. 

But I am a grand fan of the small things. A snowflake + a snowflake + a snowflake + other snowflakes make an avalanche. 

By choosing to believe (and thus being rewarded with more reasons to believe) that most people are good and brilliant and kind, I’m creating my own little revolution and having so much in the process.

Imagine if everywhere you went presented a chance to strengthen your beliefs that people are inherently good and the world is a beautiful place.

Live accordingly.


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Comments

To me that would look like me being one of the many snowflakes piling up together until we reach the point of the avalanche that will bury negativity and the snowflakes will be holding the shovel!! Every human being has the choice. Let it snow,let it snow,let it snow.(xmas carol by Frank Sinatra) 🙂

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