How do consumerism and technology relate to identity loss in Feed?

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Consumerism and technology are related to the loss of identity in Feed because human relationships between individuals are replaced by relationships between humans and advertising.

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In order to fully appreciate the insight of this connection, it's important to consider the publication year of Feed: 2002. At this time, Instagram and Snapchat didn't exist; by 2019, they had had 111 million users and 210 million daily users, respectively. Spotify didn't exist, either, and by 2019, it had 232 million users.

What difference does that make?

Social media and online streaming services have impacted more than our social networking. Because of an increasing tendency to navigate online, most of us are exposed to advertisements through these forms of social media and streaming in much greater amounts than we were in 2002—and those total ads just keep climbing. In Feed, Anderson saw the writing on the wall in the connection between our burgeoning electronic lives and the advertising we were therefore exposing ourselves to, and he created a novel where characters were impacted by massive advertising efforts.

Consider what happens when Titus gets off the ship in chapter 2:

When we got off the ship, our feeds were going fugue with all the banners. The hotels were jumping on each other, and there was bumff from like the casinos and mud slides and the gift shops and places where you could rent extra arms. I was trying to talk to Link, but I couldn’t because I was getting bannered so hard, and I kept blinking and trying to walk forward with my carry-on. I can’t hardly remember any of it. I just remember that everything in the banners looked goldy and sparkling ...

Titus (and everyone else) is slammed so hard with advertising that he cannot form another thought. He mindlessly walks forward, his attention drawn not to his friends and human relationships but to the advertisements which clog his feed. People are targeted in very specific ways; their age, gender, and purpose for travel is being used to send them electronic ads that are likely to grab their attention. And since Titus finds it impossible to talk to Link, it's clear that consumerism interferes with human interaction.

Also consider this impromptu shopping trip:

Loga and Qendy said we should go in and buy some cool stuff to go out in. That seemed good to us. I wanted to buy some things but I didn’t know what they were. After we walked around for a while, everything seemed kind of sad and boring so we couldn’t tell anymore what we wanted. Our feeds tried to help, and as we were walking around we were getting all the prices of things, but really the only thing that I wanted to get was a pair of infrared knee bands, and I could get better ones off the feed, and have them sent to my house, than in the stupid physical moon stores. Quendy bought some shoes, but the minute she walked out of the store she didn’t like them anymore. Marty couldn’t think of anything he wanted, so he ordered this really null shirt. He said it was so null it was like ordering nothing.

The kids' desires are completely controlled by advertising. We see them walking around here, vapid and mindless, wanting to purchase something, anything. They have been programmed to consume—and consume a lot. Yet there is nothing that they particularly want. They are empty and sad because this role of being a constant consumer is ultimately meaningless to them; their feeds constantly shift in what is relevant, popular, and necessary, so they have no foundation upon which to build a solid sense of identity.

Thus, the kids have no true sense of identity because they have never really developed the ability to shape this for themselves. Technology has robbed them of independent thinking. Consumerism has robbed them of realizing a sense of peaceful satisfaction. This novel was ahead of its time in warning of the dangers of an overwhelming presence of technology and advertisement in our increasingly technology-laden lives.

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Feed by M.T. Anderson, is a dystopian novel. Dystopia is a genre of fiction in which future society is depicted as being in disarray or decline. Dystopian novels are extrapolations based on the exaggeration of current trends. Most characters in Feed receive constant information and have the ability to communicate with others instantly through feeds installed into their heads, but along with information, (which is positive) comes a constant barrage of advertising. Sound familiar? Anderson is darkly parodying our current online society, where we see groups of teen friends sitting together not speaking but texting. Another trend central to the book, and to your question, is targeted advertising and its detrimental effect on independent thinking and personal identity. Everyone suddenly wants to buy the new cool thing they've seen everywhere online.

Consumerism through feed technology and the loss of identity are shown in the novel as completely intertwined. Everyone is subtly controlled by the feed. Titus shrugs off the effect of targeted marketing as being just 'how it is' with the feed, and he is actually impressed that they (advertisers, corporations) know what you want before you yourself do. This indicates how Titus's identity is being slowly eroded. After being stuck in the hospital without their feeds, Titus, his friends, and his new girlfriend, Violet, are overjoyed when they get reconnected, after the boredom and loss of self they felt when off their feeds. This shows how their identities have become terribly dependent on the feed.

Violet’s character resists the feed and its effects on her identity. This is seen when she tries to confuse advertisers with quirky, unrelated shopping choices. Her aim is to lessen the feed's control of her. Violet’s family is against feeds and didn’t allow Violet to have one until the age of seven, but ironically, it is Violet who directly loses part of her identity after her seizure, when her memories as a six-year-old disappear. Titus's relationship with Violet has had a deep effect on him, however, expanding his consciousness and identity, though briefly. It does seem to have opened a more fundamental and lasting change in Titus’s identity, though. As he cries over Violet when she dies, he shows he is finally able to feel true human emotion.
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The rise of social networking and the instant availability of new technologies have heightened the capacity of today's youth to produce and circulate texts. Anderson’s novel Feed is a story about a future, in which a corporation, FeedTech Corp, implants a computer chip to children. “The feed" connects them to a fast-paced world of media images. The corporation monitors people’s thoughts and emotions and uses them as conduits for advertisements and infotainment. Teenagers are a target audience for feed, as they are vulnerable to media hype. They are in search of an identity, and advertising companies offer them one. The feed obliterates Titus' ability to read, write, or think for himself. Violet tries to disrupt the feed but falls prey to a world in which consumerism has run amok.

The novel highlights the corruptive power of consumerism that bombards the individual with information, products, and services. It overpowers their economic and political life. It denies them the privilege to make informed choices.

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Because the titular Feed is a constant presence in people's lives, there is no way to live individually without the Feed and its influences. People live according to what their Feeds suggest for their interests, and have little autonomy for their personal tastes. This is similar to the current homogenizing of interests and the instant access to information and entertainment seen in modern cellular phone technology. However, the Feed overpowers almost all sensory input, creating a person who is less of an individual and more of a type; everyone likes the same things, and voices the same opinions, because that is what their Feed tells them. In the novel, the protagonist briefly suffers a virus that disables his Feed; this allows him to begin experiencing conversations, foods, and ideas that might never occur to him otherwise. When the Feed returns, he has trouble re-adapting to the constant flow of advertising and information; at one point, he drains his credit account buying a single pair of jeans instead of different fashions, which is seen as deviance.

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