Long before Facebook and Instagram gave the masses the tools for deceptively projecting the perfect life, the masterminds at the Transience Corporation had the market cornered on unrealistic expectations.
It was almost too much for my 8-year old brain to take. Pictured was, the perfect nuclear family of mutant sea creatures living their perfect life in a bowl.
There was the mother- you could tell it was the woman because she wore a pink bow. The father, a responsible looking man. Probably held down a steady 9–5, firm but fair with the kids. Seemed like he’d enjoy spending a lot of time with them on the weekends. And then there were the older brother and young sister.
The ad actually pitched it as “A bowl full of happiness”.
All that was left was to send away my $1.25 and wait 6–8 weeks until they arrived in the mail.
In the meantime, I imagined my new life with this family. There would surely be some adjustments. Some getting to know each other, our schedules and stuff, but I had a feeling we were all going to get along just fine.
For some reason I remember seeing an ad where the Sea Monkeys were having breakfast. The mom was cooking up a plate of pancakes. I pictured waking up in the morning to watch the family scramble to get ready for the day.
In hindsight, I probably should have stopped to wonder how they were going to work the stove underwater. Never mind, this was a family that had it all figured out.
Then the box came.
And that was moment I learned, things aren’t always as they seem.
Inside the box wasn’t the perfect nuclear family of mutant sea creatures, but a couple of pouches of what kind of appeared to be fish food and laundry detergent.
Not to panic. Just read the instructions. Surely this was all part of the plan. Soon enough I’d be watching the family enjoy flapjacks and conversation around the breakfast table, just like the picture on the ad.
And so, I opened the instructions and followed them with the focus precision of someone listening to control tower tell them how to land a plane.
Trust the process I thought, as I watched specs of dust turn into slightly larger specs of dust. About six days into this I began to realize that maybe I had not gotten my $1.25 worth of prefect mutant sea creature family fun.
Looking back, this was a harsh but valuable lesson. If they would have told me upfront that I was going to make some interesting primitive almost microscopic sea life, I probably still would have been into it. Instead they promised the perfect nuclear sea family. I could hardly be anything but disappointed.
And that is where I learned the key to happiness- low expectations. Or at least not setting unrealistically high expectations. All this is to say, that’s why I don’t use filters on Instagram.
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Greg Hahn is the Chief Creative Officer of BBDO New York. His work has won numerous international awards and has interrupted some of your favorite programs and media. You can follow him on twitter at @maxcatt