Each Monday, Julio Vincent Gambuto presents “Modern Muting” — a weekly Medium story series dedicated to helping readers step back from all the bullshit of modern life, create quiet, re-evaluate, then go forward boldly. It’s 500 words a week of “self-help meets the system.”
We often think of boundaries as emotional. We have to put up a hand or build a figurative wall or reply with well chosen words to ward off consuming other people’s anxiety, distress, animosity, their general toxicity — as I have argued in my other work on and off Medium: their bullshit. For many of us who were raised without boundaries properly modeled, creating them from thin air is often a painful pursuit. Saying “no” is difficult. For some, nearly impossible.
What few don’t often see is that there is a direct relationship between an inability to put up emotional boundaries and a willingness to subscribe to constant consumption. At least there was in my life. My struggle with “no” extended beyond people and into my shopping habits, the lack of cleanliness in my bank account, and my readiness to click, buy, get, sign-up and sign-on so that I could be bigger, faster, stronger, richer, prettier, skinnier, better. The list goes on.
Capitalism has always exploited our emotional weaknesses. The Mad Men of mid-century understood that by using incredibly powerful storytelling tools (emotional messaging, photography, color, design, movement), they could equate happiness with the products of a growing post-war economy. Feeling bad? Buy something. Feeling good? Buy something. Feeling like buying something? Go ahead and buy it. Get it. Rent it. Lease it. Lay it away. Own it. Consume it.
Sixty years later, that same system is now fueled by tech tools that move and amplify those messages at the speed of light. With the advent of the internet and smartphones — just 20 years ago, mind you — we put that speed at our own fingertips. And we broke through the limits of it all. Then we used financial technology to tether your credit card — and your data — to constant automatic payments. On a loop. An infinite one.
The subscription economy was sexy at first, but now it has become relentless. And rather unnecessary…