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A Darker Consumerism
Our relationship with social media has made us consumers of people.
As early as when I was a child in the late 1990s and early 2000s I remember a lot of talk and concern about consumerisms, with people often holding up the modern shopping mall as a sort of edifice of worship to stuff. Then, in the later 2000s and 2010s, concerns around consumerism floated away from shopping malls as stores closed and toward Amazon as we all began using Amazon Prime.
Two Kinds of Consumerism
Of course, it is right that we all be a little bit concerned about what a culture defined by two-day shipping and on-demand music, movies, and TV shows is doing to us. This is a kind of modern consumerism that, in a way, replaced the consumerism that was once embodied by shopping malls. This, you could say, is an “objective consumerism.”
I, however, fear a darker consumerism in which we are all engaging to some degree almost every day we get on the internet—a “human consumerism,” if you will.
Both kinds of consumerism have their problems, and, without getting too gloomy, we ought to be concerned about both of these.
But it is human consumerism that concerns me the most.
The Darker Consumerism
Our relationship with the social internet has led us to consume one another. We consume people. People made in the image of God.
We expect to be entertained by people who were made for more than our amusement.
We devour people with whom we disagree because we care more about what they think than who they are.
People are more than the sum of their opinions, which most of us would say we believe in spite of how we often act.
We consume each other because the disincarnation of our screened existences has made it so that we see others as means to our own ends rather than people who are made in the image of the Maker himself.
Ultimately, our relationship with social media can lead us to see people online as avatars alone—facsimiles of humanity, but not truly human.
When we get to this place—usually without even realizing it—we begin to evaluate people based on their utility rather than their personhood.
Effectively, we rob people of the image of God and replace it with an image we project onto them.
When we forget the people with whom we interact online are, in fact, people, made in the image of God created for his glory and not our utility, we begin to walk a dangerous road that only leads to destruction, damaging ourselves and others in the process.
Sure, our obsession with Amazon and shopping malls and Netflix may have made us consumers of “stuff,” and that can be a problem.
But our relationship with social media has made us consumers of people.
And that’s worse.