There used to be an easy solution to those annoying little ads on Facebook that make it harder to focus on the diversion of keeping up with other people’s lives. Ad blockers were the go-to answer for many who tired of slower load times, imbedded tracking software, and the host of other inconveniences that so often accompany those messages about products you most likely don’t want. However, that’s all changed now—at least on Facebook—as the social media giant announced on Tuesday that they’ve found a way to block the ad blockers.
By formatting their ads in a way that renders them indistinguishable from normal content, blockers can no longer rely on differences in coding to filter out the things people want from the things they don’t. For a company that generated the majority of its $17.93 billion in revenue last year from paid advertisements, making sure those ads actually get to the consumer is a vital part of their business model.
But while Facebook needs that revenue, they understand that most people don’t go to their site to check out the latest developments in unsolicited marketing. That’s why the company gives its users the chance to help determine what kinds of ads they will see. You can now opt out of seeing certain types of ads if you find them too distracting or simply aren’t interested in what they’re selling. The hope is that such options will create a middle ground of sorts that benefits both the users and the advertisers.
While Facebook’s solution is unlikely to satisfy everyone, the current trend of blocking advertisements is simply untenable in the long run. As Mike Isaac of the New York Times notes, “Ad blockers have become a threat to publishers,” and “Facebook’s move is set to add to a furious debate about the ethics of ad blocking.” After all, the revenues generated by advertisements are what allow many websites and news agencies to continue existing in an increasingly virtual world. It would be hypocritical to demand others essentially work for free when most of us would never consider doing so in our fields of employment.
And for those who may remain annoyed by the inherently annoying advertisements on the sides of their favorite websites, perhaps it would be best to weigh the costs of a truly free internet. While ads may anger you, you’d likely be angered even more if those websites ceased to exist because they simply couldn’t generate enough revenue. As Paul instructed the early Christians, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7).
Paul’s statement to conclude that passage in Romans 13 is part of the application for the principle he described in chapter 12. In that preceding chapter, the Apostle encouraged his readers to view their treatment of others as an extension of their service to God. In the same way, when we are quick to pay our debts in a culture where such fairness is increasingly uncommon, we make a lasting impression on those around us and serve our Lord by serving them.
So the next time you find yourself hesitant to give someone what they’re owed—be it money, respect, honor, or any other such obligation—remember that your payment is ultimately to God rather than people. If that’s not enough to make good on your debts, I’m not sure what will be.