iPhone, Therefore I Am

Photo by Rebecca Blumenthal

Have you bought your identity or do you walk around comfortable in your natural skin?

Mostly it's the first case. Judging from money spent on brands over equivalent no-names, branding matters because people define themselves by what they buy.

They do that because they either don't like who they are inside, don't know organically, are denying something or are reinventing themselves. Any way you slice it the purchase becomes a symbol of the sought-after self.

Voting is a kind of purchase. You can think of elections as referenda not on the candidates but on what we imagine them to be. We pick one based on the self we want to align with - the one that boosts our self-esteem.

The theory that voting is an expression of brand preference, mostly, means that elections are marketing contests. Elation or depression at the outcome is the result of your substitute self either rising or falling.

Do most people pore over policy documents and news before they vote? Or do they watch TV commercials, scan the headlines and commiserate with friends - whose opinion and approval matters because they are part of the constructed self?

Are people upset or joyful at the result of a vote, or its symbolism?

I had an epiphany today - I am persistently culturally "chasidish" (Hasidic) despite never having lived in Brooklyn nor being even remotely as observant as them. All my life I wanted to be a regular American, and yet in my heart I am somehow like the Fiddler On The Roof.

Interestingly, after this epiphany we went shopping and I still cared about buying Brand X vs. Y.

How might our psychology and our society be different if we could just live without the contortions branding feeds into?

Just a thought, a little frightening.