I wonder sometimes about what we’re doing here. Not really in that eternal existential sort of way, but more in terms of what is real. How much of our wants, desires, needs are prepackaged and sold to us. Apple has become the largest company in the world, with the largest market capitalization by selling us things we didn’t know we “needed.” I remember when the first video iPod came out, my first reaction was, “who wants to watch a video on a 3” screen?” The same is true of camera phones, and indeed cell phones before that.
Our “needs” are analyzed, packaged and sold. We’re willing to pay more for something familiar, so we’ll spend $1.75 for a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke over the $0.88 for a generic store brand. Car manufacturers don’t really manufacture anything – they assemble parts sourced from other companies stamped from their specs. They’re really engineering companies, or perhaps not even that given that a substantial amount of the engineering work is outsourced too.
We choose one box restaurant over another even though they sell the same food sourced from the same place. Want a McDonalds Chicken McNugget? It’s the same Tyson nugget you can buy at the supermarket. Tyson is just a marketing company selling variously sourced chickens. McDonalds is nothing more than a marketing company promoting franchised restaurants selling cooked, variously sourced food stuffs. We’re given food, made to taste more “real” with artificial flavors and processing.
You can go to Ikea in Connecticut and buy the same particle board television stand you can buy in Stockholm. Buy a Chevy in the United States that’s sold as a Holden in Australia. We come up with neologisms to elicit a feeling or to avoid negative connotations – “Infiniti” to elicit that sense of infinite possibilities or “glicee” to avoid the stigma of “computer generated print.”
We have made ourselves nothing more than small, economic units. Where we’re not used to earn money through acquiring products and services, we are used for the information we create which is then used for the purpose of selling us products and services. Despite the variously viral rumors Facebook will begin charging for use of the site, the fact is its not the use of their site that costs money – the use of the site MAKES money. The user is not the consumer, but is the product. The same with Google. Our relationships and interests have been monetized, in fact it is difficult to think of something that hasn’t been.
It just makes me wonder why we spend our lives earning money doing things we don’t like that we then spend on things we’re told we want at prices made higher by the cost of telling us that we want them. I criticize DisneyWorld and frankly most of Central Florida for being nothing but a facade and a fake, but in a way it’s honest – it doesn’t try to pretend its anything but fake. Which is more than what most of what we consume can say.