If I was in line at the local grocery store and walked up to a total stranger and asked him or her “who are you, tell something about yourself”, the responses would go like this;
– “I’m a retired school teacher and enjoy spending time with my grandchildren.”
– “I’m the Vice President at ABC Savings and Loan and my wife and I are expecting our second child.”
– “I’m a college student working on my MBA and working part-time.”
– “I’m a researcher at ABC Technology working on the next generation smart phone application.”
– “I’m a ________________ insert whatever label you want.”
These are all perfectly normal responses that we would pass on as pleasant conversation, very comfortable and non- threatening. The point here is we identify ourselves with the labels, and in fact we take them very seriously. We even assign social/value points to them i.e. its worth more points to be a practicing physician as opposed to being an unemployed dock worker. Assigning values to the labels we identify with is nothing new and we do it so much we don’t even think about it.
Assigning value to the physical possessions associated with the labels is also nothing new. Merchants and advertisers have successfully done this for hundreds of years, the things you own solidify the labels you identify with. For example, would you expect a television star to drive the same car as an elementary school custodian? Do you think the Queen of England has more pairs of shoes than a single mother working two jobs? Do you have a peaceful feeling after purchasing an item that has social value points associated with it?
While this discussion may seem painfully obvious, there is a space in our consciousness that yearns for something more, something of intrinsic value that isn’t associated with labels or values associated to labels. That space I’m referring to is the topic of thousands of books and ideas written by people much wiser than me. I don’t believe anyone would refute its existence, and for this article let’s just say there is something more to our identity than just labels. So where does technology come into all of this?
Technology most certainly enhances our ability to measure, manipulate, predict, protect, enhance, and understand the world around us. When it comes to commerce technology helps us enhance the perception of social value points associated with services or products. Moreover, they associate products and services with human emotions associated with fear, appearance, pain, and the valued social points. Advertisers are masters of this concept; use the product they are promoting and your life will change for the better, right? Well it works; take an inventory of the things you posses and ask yourself how many of them are for the strict purpose of keeping up what’s new, what’s in… and so on.
There is no ethical issue with any of this if we choose not to base our whole identity on the labels. We did agree that in our consciousness there is more room for self- identity that doesn’t contain any labels. Technology is a clever tool that we should embrace to develop our understanding of the space where we live. Just remember not to identify with it and your approach to each day will be more balanced and pleasant.