Commercializing the Soul (Part I)

Updated: May 14



You guys, I am a stubborn, neurotic, and self-flagellating pain in my own ass. My mental network is constantly exceeding capacity as I buzz around reading too far into things. I have so much fixedness, Aquariusness, and Saturnness in my chart that I didn’t stand a chance to be one of those naturally content go-with-the-flow types of people. Damn, I envy the heck out of them though.


I tend to not take anything at face value, but I also get stuck on topics and grate them down to absolute dust on my intellectual cheese grater, philosophizing the shit out of them until I figure out what the spiritual significance is and how it needs to be fixed.

Social media is one of my THINGS. Though demonstrably non-PC and snowflake culture, I’ll still admit 110% that I am triggered by it. Thankfully most of my complaining is safely nestled within my journal, but every once in a while I feel compelled to let it rip in a public setting, like I did HERE, and I'm about to do again.

Culture of personality

Speaking of public settings, have you noticed that the public self seems to be a ruling entity over our lives? Susan Cain wonderfully summarizes this as a 20th century shift from a “culture of character,” in which the emphasis was on deeds performed when nobody was looking, to a “culture of personality,” in which you are highly esteemed for outward displays of charisma.

So then we get to what makes me absolutely lose my wig about social media, and that is how it has become a way for people to put forth this personality as if it is their true self—their character. They curate their very lives into what they deem worthy of public consumption, selecting and filtering what they will reveal. Someone’s profile is a digital altar to this version of themselves, with every post being another offering to add to the display in reverence and perpetuation of the personality. Then they wait for the congregation of followers to come by the altar, genuflecting and showing their devotion with a like or comment.


And some people are really skilled at making their public personality enticing, as you can see with the manifestation of “influencer marketing.” Wow, look how real and relatable this person is. If they’re wearing these jeans, slathering on this face goo, and using this bougie organic meal subscription box in their real lives, I must do it too.

Or maybe the personality is selling spiritual or other I-really-care-about-helping-people services. A butt shot for body confidence (or something) coaching, a perfect Insta-aesthetic altar shot for a tarot reading (because perfectly coiffed houseplants, vintage woodwork, and crystal points are the sign of a real Miss Cleo), or, one of the most egregious, some whitewashed #blessed mirror selfie proclaiming the life-changing nature of your pyramid scheme selling shampoos or shake mix (or more accurately, recruiting other people to recruit other people, etc., to talk about selling shampoos or shake mix).

There’s an absolute commodification of our humanity going on here. It’s not like this is hidden either. Just look up on Google how to “brand” yourself. Read: Turn yourSELF into a brand. Read: Turn yourSELF into merchandise. Keep reading: YOU are the item brought to market to achieve a given level of financial success.


Commercialization

When I did work in an office (on the corporate branch of an MLM, no less. Boy have I learned my lesson), I attended weekly meetings we called “commercialization” meetings. As I was in the purchasing department facilitating the acquisition of raw materials, I represented part of the process of commercializing products, bringing them to market, along with the product development group, volume planners, logistics/transportation, finished goods buyers, packaging buyers, and the marketing department.


The very revered marketing department was always late with their high-level projections, the product development group liked to pick rare and impossible-to-source ingredients for the formulas, and the finished goods buyers got flack for submitting purchase orders at the last minute because of the preceding delays. The logistics people strolled in and said oh yeah, sure, they’ll make sure to expedite the shipment if necessary.

Isn’t it a little bit strange to think of treating your very divinely given and sacred humanity like a product to formulize, package, market, and profit from?

Did your soul choose this life in order to be commercialized? For you to assess market conditions and put forth for d consumption? In other words, for you to live by and FOR the approval of others?

You’re telling me that the person carefully curating their Instagram feed of the most photogenic moments in their life to present to the public is doing so for their own sovereign joy, self-esteem, and celebration of being alive?


…or is the process behind this curation an exercise in commercialization—estimating what the public wants to see, then putting it to market and hoping for a positive response in the form of the right number of likes and “engagement” to assure them the picture (and by extension, themselves) is approved and worthy?


Here is PART II of this essay, in which I promise I’m going to see things from the social media user and influencer’s perspective, as well as offer some thinking points to decide if your use of social media is actually good for you.

©2020 by Molly Cardinal

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