Many things in the modern world encourage the infantalisation of adults, but the cult of personalisation is among the worst of all
There comes a point in every gal’s life when she has to ask herself: what would Karl Marx think of my bank card? Would he admire its bright colours? Its snazzy fonts? Or would he view it as the very epitome of commodity fetishism?
This point will probably come when you see a particular TV advert, one that will, in all likelihood, make you mutter: “My God, end of days!”
End of Days adverts are a very special breed of advert. They are not merely bad (most adverts are bad because they treat the public like idiots); they convey something very worrying about the times in which we live. Other End of Days adverts include, in no particular order: Tiffany from EastEnders talking about her digestion in a chair hanging on a chain; a dancing Gavin Henson promoting online bingo; Peter Schmeichel playing an accordion for the benefit of bacon sales; and any “Trojan personal massage” adverts you might see in the US, if you get lucky. Or not, as the case may be when it comes to “personal massages”. These adverts present the greatest argument there is that Darwinism is a myth.
But this particular advert is, I believe, the endingest day of all. Never mind Kevin – we need to talk about this advert.
It’s an advert for a particular service offered by a particular bank that allows you to “personalise your bank card”. What this means, in non-bank speak, is you can put a photo of your children, your friends or your pet on your bank card. Because nothing says “loving parent” more than sticking your kids’ faces on a bit of plastic and then mashing said plastic into a machine that is helping you spend your children’s future inheritance that little bit faster. I am failing to think of a purer example of social relations being translated into economic relations between people, just as Marx foresaw.
So I took to the phones to find out more about this heinous scheme from the bank’s press office and for the very first time in my 15 years of dealing with this bank – which happens also to be my bank – I got through straight away to an actual human being. Some could say this suggests the bank cares more about journalists than its customers, but let’s not get distracted.
This service, the spokesperson explained, is a way for “customers to express their personality through their bank card”. Yes, that sentence was uttered by a human person on the planet on which you live.
This service also allows the bank “to express what it represents, which is bringing a personalised element to banking”, which is funny as I thought what this particular bank represents in most people’s minds is bringing a Libor-rigging element to banking, as opposed to a comedy photo of someone’s dog, but it’s amazing what you can learn from a press office. “It’s a way of expressing the personal services offered here,” she continued – although seeing as she then said she’d need more than 24 hours to tell me what photos most people put on their bank cards, that service is clearly still lacking in something, personal or otherwise.
“People are always looking to personalise things these days,” she continued and here this bank has a point. There are many things in the modern world that encourage infantalisation of adults to varying degrees, from those babyish sippy cups in which you tote your takeaway coffee to Crocs to talking in text speak (“Lolz!” “OMG!”) But the cult of personalisation is among the most infantalising of all.
Many pieces of technology have an element of personalisation now, from phones with their screen savers of family photos, to Facebook pages that are decorated with more care than the master bedroom in Versailles, to Pinterest pages whimsically festooned with twee inspirational images. This is what happens when anthropomorphism meets narcissism in the capitalist world, and it is little more than a higher-tech version of the rubber-stamped cats I put on all my things when I was seven: “Mine!” “Me!” “Me, me, me!”
Personalisation is, of course, very convenient for manufacturers as it creates the illusion that this phone, web page, this ruddy bank card, is your special cuddly item when it is nothing more than a bit of gadgetry that makes money for someone else. Mobile phones – which already feel like an extension of our bodies, an external and second, better brain – seem even more intimately part of (and, yes, bank man, an expression of) the owner when a personally significant photo is embedded on the dinky little screen, encouraging an emotional attachment with the phone itself which never happened when well-thumbed photos were carried about in battered wallets. Did you ever tape a Polaroid to your landline phone? No, you did not. That is what you are doing with a screensaver photo, only it’s digital.
Many people already talk about computers and phones as if they were people (“It’s thinking”; “It doesn’t want to do that”), an equation that feels all the more natural if a giant photo of your husband on holiday in Cornwall is staring at you from the background of your screen.
But in the case of personalised bank cards, this particular bank has inadvertently played a clever card. We all must be extra-vigilant these days about how banks behave and to whom they lend money. The latter issue is neatly dealt with by these cards as anyone who gets their bank card personalised is basically saying: “No, I have no concept what money is at all, me. A £1,500 TV? Awww well, if it gives me an excuse to get out my cutesy-wootsy debit card, why not?” Lolz.
Need a Loan? Visit Secured Loans Broker.
View full post on Free Secured Loans Advice