Why our consumerist lifestyle has transferred over to our relationships with people.
Consumption – no, not the disease – has been a hallmark of human behaviour since our ability to hunt, gather and graze lands which has since been turbocharged by the industrial revolution. Ergo, (Martyn, you’re not The Architect from The Matrix), I’m sorry, I mean therefore, it seemed only a matter of time before this behaviour wasn’t limited to our production of goods and services and usage of resources, but vis-à-vis our relationships with other humans.
Imagine walking into a supermarket, but instead of the usual bread and milk you have time or potential opportunity with other people allocated on the shelves. Now, some will say this is what “Tinder” is – and we’ll get to dating apps later on – effectively a shopping cart for sexual partners. In my supermarket analogy, I’m using relationships here in a broad sense to include friends, family, acquaintances, online interactions, that sort of thing, but I’ll make it clear when referring only to intimate partners.
So, you have a supermarket of people who have been metaphorically transformed into consumable products ready to be used and disposed of – we’re not quite dressing everyone in orange suits, shaving their heads and giving them numbers (instead of names), but you get the picture. However, you see the way people interact with one another and this “transformation” is also very literal.
“People are now the product.”
We follow people until we get bored and then move on. There are so many to choose from we are spoiled yet can be left wanting plus there is no need to continue following someone that isn’t working for you all the time, right? One can get intensely attached or obsessed until someone new comes along (think: honeymoon period infatuation). Essentially, what happens is an increase in narcissism/selfish behaviour, a decrease in delayed gratification and increase in impulse satisfaction, all which leads to an increase in relational disposability of humans.
There have been significant changes in four (4) key areas which I believe has caused a rise in the treatment of humans as disposable in relationships (especially intimate relationships); The way we interact, the way we date, what are we dating for and what does it mean to be together with someone.
The way we interact
The advances in technology was pushing us more online and the coronavirus pandemic has just added strength to that push. This has been a well-established trend and has had a significant effect on our relationships, how we communicate and how we process and feel things. These technologically-assisted interactions have a tendency to be more impersonal, less intimate and can be colder, harsher in tone and less feeling. This is turn lays the foundation for conditions which make for “disposability” more likely and easier e.g. just unfriend/follow/block etc., send message rather than talk face-to-face, passive/indirect public post rather than specific private message).
The way we date
The online side of our relationships seem to have as much presence as the real world side of them, perhaps even more in some cases as they can take on lives of their own. The amount of dating apps and online websites designed to bring people together and match-make is astounding – and lends credence to the supermarket analogy I introduced earlier. It feels ironic that we’re living in a “hook-up culture” yet this generation is having the least amount of sex as any generation for the same age range. Which leads to…
What are we dating for
In a hedonic manner, I think a number of people are dating simply because it feels good “right now”, and not with any real long-term goals in mind because we’re told that scares people off or makes them feel trapped or, and this is the worst for me, prevents them from finding someone better (one foot out the door mentality). A sort of novelty or hyper-novelty feeling has gripped modern people and doesn’t seem to be going away – the constant need to experience something new leads people to the perpetual honeymoon period dating style. “Satisfy/please me always and on demand or I’m leaving” is not a good recipe for long-term relationship success. A number of people also find it difficult to be on their own which leads them to being together with someone out of need rather than want.
What does it mean to be together with someone This ties with the above, and people are more reluctant to give their relationship a chance to blossom and persevere and develop some resilience (see: delayed gratification) thanks to the “as long as it’s good for you” attitude which seems to translate to “as long as you’re getting your own way and there’s not too much of an issue.” This “make sure you get yours” thinking leads to selfish behaviour and an increase likelihood in partner disposability. If you’re always worried about what you’re getting (or not getting) this is also not a good recipe for long-term relationship success.
You’re a two-person team vs the world. It rarely is 50:50. You grow together by having experiences. You’re both flawed. You will frustrate one another. Communication is key to continual understanding, respect and love. You won’t get far without courage, trust and vulnerability. Your dream partner probably wouldn’t accept you whereas you real partner in front of you has.
I understand there are a number of complexities working against our ability to find, create and sustain human relations. We are going through a loneliness epidemic, something I’ve talked about previously, with a lack of connection, love and understanding. People fear opening themselves up (and not without good reason) so keep within. Therefore, people don’t see the real you, so people can leave/don’t hang around or are attached to a false you (generating its own set of problems). Pornography, nestled under a hybrid of hedonism and nihilism, has heightened the idea of people being consumed for pleasure and not needed or cared for after that because why bother, they’ve served their purpose.
I see so many people keep wanting to feel that high from the lust period of their relationship, so they go through the process with a new partner again and again – disposing of their last partner in pursuit of a false sense of novelty, freshness and excitement – demonstrating they haven’t matured in their relationship or as a person.
The next time you visit a supermarket I would like you to picture human beings on the shelf instead of the usual consumable products. I would like you to imagine their price and more importantly, their used-by date. Then I wish you to visualise yourself as one of these disposable entities. Our demand for and consumption of products is insatiable, but a similar style relationship with our fellow humans would lead to a catastrophic derangement and, concordantly, is something we can ill afford.