I recently saw a commercial for Norton protection services and while it absolutely offers a good reminder to back-up important things saved on your computer, I found its message a bit unsettling. In case you’d like to follow along, here is the commercial.
Norton suggests that you should protect the items saved on your computer because, “what are you without your stuff?” Better yet, “without your stuff, who are you?” The commercial seriously implies that if you lose your stuff, you lose your identity. It plays on our cultural fear of not having a tangible representation of how cool we are individually. I think the reason the message in the commercial bothered me is because it was probably very effective.
In the commercial, the two “stuff creatures” were attracted to one another because of the other’s stuff. My cultural studies education forces me to interpret that Norton is suggesting that your stuff is what attracts others to you and if you don’t have stuff, you’ll be lonely! So now we are afraid that if we don’t buy Norton, we could end up unvaried and alone forever. How much!?
It’s a strange notion that we’re all so obsessed with our “stuff” and hold the belief that our stuff defines who we are. Yet, as a society, it’s common to collect things in hopes of defining personal value. One article suggests that, “we grow up in a world where our self-worth is based upon the material possessions that we acquire. From the schoolyard to our office cubicles, we spend our lives desperately trying to prove our existence through the cheap, mass-produced, disposable and completely worthless things we own.”
The idea of “stuff” seems to now be going a step further. We attain this “stuff” and then store the proof on our computers or on the web so we have online confirmation of our identity as well. On our computers and online, we house our photos, interests, friends, and activities. Without them, we must have no distinctness from anyone else, right? Norton saw this as an opportunity.
It is so ingrained in our culture and society to feel this impulse to buy, to own, and especially to display possessions or things we think define us. However, my aversion to this commercial reminded me that our possessions do little to prove our self-worth or display our personality. It is so important to our well being to truly believe that who we are is contained in ourselves, and not our things.