A “megatrend” often talked about is customisation: especially the scope technology provides to ‘make yourself unique’, find your own voice and expression.
On the surface, this looks like a much needed step towards diversity. But the consumer trend is actually called “mass customisation”, which is a bit funny when you think about it. Below the surface, it is another step towards everyone doing the same thing, but with different jingles. Usually it doesn’t awaken our genius, it just helps us consume more – it’s a manufacturing technique.
Most of the customisation is being done to other people’s content. When this happens, the underlying matter is identical, it is just given some cosmetic enhancements so the user can, sometimes quite creatively, “say something about the real me”. This has been going on for centuries, just sped up by technology – but it all involves an unhealthy linking of your identity to external things.
Customisation isn’t necessary when people are producing their own content. By this I mean the experiences a person generates from living according to their own true values, rather than in response to what our culture broadcasts to be important.
I believe the urge to personalise and lead a unique life is inside every person; it’s part of being human. Perhaps when we are given the occasion to immediately and superficially customise (e.g. our Facebook page, our kitchen design or the optional extras in our Range Rover), we can mistake it for something that satisfies that deeper need; in which case our soul becomes sleepy, and our content diminishes. The things that constitute humanity are not found on the well-lit path of least resistance. That path distracts us from shining our own light elsewhere.
We desperately need true customisation, to generate new content by stepping off the path other people have laid out and attractively lit. It is essential in order to redirect the relentless advance of the western monoculture. In this passive and dumbed-down monoculture, we all think we are different but we behave like sheep, we are nice in our heads and on our profiles but harmful in our actions. We thoughtlessly and greedily consume because we think there is no other choice, and we are disconnected from the effects. We lose touch with what our lives are about.
I aspire to overcome the temptation to just personalise Other People’s Content. A dose of O.P.C. is fine, but the problem arises when that’s all there is, and I have ceased bothering to evolve.
Learning to move beyond Other People’s Content is learning to give rather than take. It’s no longer about consumer choices, but fundamental life choices.