Are We Becoming Commodities?

Do you know your Klout score? Do you care?

Klout measures the extent of influence and power one has in today’s networked world. “Discover and be recognized for how you influence the world,” is their web-site’s tag-line. Some months ago a respected professional colleague offered to help me increase my Klout score. His well-meaning attention aggravated me, though I could not fully explain why. I was tempted to sign onto the Klout site and begin tracking how much clout I have in the world of social networking. But I demurred.

About the same time I had the privilege to hear Carlo Strenger give a keynote address at an American Psychological Association Conference . Strenger, a psychologist, philosopher, psychoanalyst, and author, referenced extensively his book entitled,“The Fear of Insignificance”. I subsequently read the book over the summer. And I re-read it, marking it profusely with underlining and notes to myself. It is the most important book I have read in the last five years (or longer). Here’s why: Strenger astutely addresses the “commoditization of human beings” in today’s signed on, logged in, tagged, “liked,” rated and ranked, virtual marketplace.

One definition of “commodity,” according to Webster, is “a massed produced un-specialized product.” Strenger argues that in an era of mass globalization we are victims of two primary models of success – “celebrity – a quantification of how well you are known – and financial success.” He invites individuals to a more reflective, integral expression of self which may not be a function of mass-appeal or social ranking at all.

“How did we succumb to the belief that the person with the most hits is the most valuable?”

“The infotainment system has made us forget that the true drama of human life is the process through which we become individuals with character, voice, and a worldview. The point is to live lives that are our own creation rather than adapting to the demands of the world marketplace,” to quote Strenger. How did we succumb to the belief that the person with the most “hits” is the most valuable anyway?

Toward the end of my last posting on this blog six months ago, I commented: “As I write, I am becoming more familiar with myself and the power at play in my life, past and present.” I continue to write but with greater awareness, including the power of attraction and distraction of the internet (all the more prevalent in my life since my recent acquisition of an iPad).

In the past six months I have become more aware that:(1) I know and express myself more fully and completely when not worrying about how I will “tweet” a link; (2) I listen to myself more effectively – mind and body, heart and soul – when not distracted by SEO (search-engine-optimization) considerations; (3) I like to be “liked” but that very phenomenon limits my speaking the truth as I discover it and come to know it.

Whatever clout I have it is because I have found ways to be myself in a world which endlessly conspires to help us be “successful.”

Don’t let desire for approval compromise being true to yourself!