The Digital Narcissist

Dear buyers,

Here’s wishing you a belated Happy Easter! I hope the merrymakings have treated you kindly and have shown generosity with an abundance of chocolate bunnies and easter eggs for your devouring.

Now leaving the festivities aside, this Easter weekend has brought upon me a revelation. No, I’m not referring to the kind where Jesus resurrects from the dead sort of revelation but rather a more first world problem sort – the selfie phenomenon. I know you must be thinking that it’s a stretch to draw a connection between the (commercialized) religious celebration and the ‘selfie’ but bear with me, as I have a simple explanation as to how I arrived at that thought.

Easter Sunday started out like this. With an itinerary of attending church service, followed by a family brunch at this pretty fancy Chinese restaurant, my sister was more than invested in the act of self-beautification. And since these meticulous, feminine things of dressing and making up are rare, especially in this excruciatingly hot and humid weather (where makeup melts right off your face), it is almost instinctive of her to want to commemorate such an occasion. Cue the selfies!

The age of digital narcissism has befallen us. The signs are undeniably clear when even Obama succumbs to such millenial practices (he went as far as to wink). This peacocking behavior that ordinarily in societal norms would, if not should be considered vain, self-absorbed and egotistical is suddenly given a rightful place within social media, and even more incredulous, is celebrated of. The embrace of this culture is borderline pervasive in my opinion, going as far as to sustain the existence of some celebrities such as Kim Kardashian. In all honesty, other than living her life under public scrutiny while looking good, I’m not too sure what she does for a living (note the sarcasm).

Well enough about her. From the perspective of a media user, digital narcissism has certainly redefined the roles of consumers. Courtesy of social media, consumers have now become the producers as well as the commodity both at once. To paint this picture, my sister takes a photo of herself (producer producing the commodity, that of the producer) then posts it on Snapchat or Instagram (commodity consumed or for consumption). Sigh, how times have changed the simple and well meaning maneuver of taking photos. Or at least, have changed its connotation.

Meanwhile, I like to think of myself as less narcissistic when I’ve so generously shared this frame with 11 other people. The way I see it, 12 smiling faces are always better than one.

Finishing up post,

Regret not choosing a more flattering filter.



The Starbucks Experience

Dear buyers,

In these last 2 months of my undergraduate life, I could say for certain that the only thing keeping me alive (and sufficiently sane to continue writing) is my ambrosia, COFFEE! This nectar from the study gods helps get me outta bed and keep outta bed. So of course, I’d have to dedicate at least one post as a form of high reverence to this liquid gold. A no-brainer, the coffee brand up for scrutiny today is the infamous STARBUCKS.

Here’s a little infographic about the global brand I’d had a bit of fun whipping up:


Now for some deeper thoughts, how did selling coffee in a paper/plastic cup manage all these commercialistic accomplishments it has today (like the few from the above)? Simply, branding. According to an interview with Stanley Hainsworth, who was vice president global creative at Starbucks, he defined ‘brand’ as being ‘an entity that engenders an emotional connection with a consumer’. And how did Starbucks do that? Not only were they selling the commodity, they attached an experience to consuming coffee. Every decision that Starbucks has made was a conscious strategy towards providing their consumers that experience, this includes the music that their stores would play, the design layout of the space, pieces of furniture, the decor, the color and size of your cup, wifi access etc. The brand has us all engaged (later addicted) through our 5 senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. The bottom line being: Starbucks, through providing their customers these experiences, had successfully created a communal ‘third-place’, albeit a capitalistic one.

So the next time you visit Starbucks, perhaps stick around the store a bit longer, get your money’s worth of that Starbucks experience.

Breaking for coffee,

Regret getting my Starbucks using drive through.


The Cultural iCon

Dear buyers,

‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year! And no amount of physical and Maria-from-West-Side-Story-GIF twirls would suffice in expressing my innermost childlike joy. For it comes the time to welcome a new commodity into my life. Oh, the pleasures of consumerism! And if you are a fellow subscriber to the digital world of disposable technology (like yours truly), this escapade that I’m about to recount will ring true and hopefully, resonate.

Back to my narrative… After 5 long years of loyal service, my Samsung Note 2 had arrived at its ripe old age suited for the shelves. How do I know, you ask? Apart from the fact that it switches itself off on a whim and has a response time of somewhere between forever to never, it has been challenging due to its inability to update apps with a measly storage of 8GB. And so for the past few days, I’ve been dedicating quality dissertation-writing-time to googling and comparing phone specs like how a rational prospective consumer would.

AS IF. Who am I kidding? I have been anything (prejudiced and biased) but rational. Such preposterous behaviours include spending almost 2 hours watching the entire YouTube playlist of iPhone advertisements (among other things in that black hole of moving images). But something did prove intellectually fruitful because while I was consuming Apple propaganda, I begin to question my preference: Why an iPhone?

With a little scholarly reading to put my thoughts in perspective, I have reached an ‘aha’ moment in my little digital dilemma. The answer was simple: iPhone, other than a powerful consumer good is as well a powerful cultural icon. This little piece of 5.5-inch technology is ultimately empowered because society attaches cultural meanings to it.

Speaking for my own, the Apple brand was always representational of the American ideal in digital technology. Darn you, product placement in most American movies and TV series! I suppose it does make the technology that much more desirable when Elle Woods flaunts hers in a sea of monotonous black slabs of plastic and metal (obviously referring to my younger days when I thought vibrant orange was desirable).

Besides, the iPhone is also what I consider as the status symbol of the century. One has got to be loaded (or have loaded, pampering parents) to ride this constantly renewing wave of iPhones every new year. Not to mention, there is the need for youths to identify (of which I am likewise guilty). Wanna be a Techie? Get an iPhone. Boho-chic? iPhone. Hipster? iPhone. You get the picture. If you really think about it, there is NO homage to originality. How are you different from the other youth subcultures? Is not the unique identification what we’re striving for?

But sadly, despite my little critiques, my desire to be in trend is too strong to resist. You have to understand, this is the golden opportunity to up my photography game with iPhone’s Live Photos. To boot, the rose gold option does make it all the more aesthetically tempting.

Well, the only thing standing in between dream and reality is for the already-financially-prudent me to skimp on other expenditures, just to save enough for a consumer good that has an expiry date for trendiness. Ten points for American cultural imperialism, zero for me.

Switching off,

Will regret spending that money in another 5 years.


Cereal Killer: An Introduction

Dear buyers,

Just as I would, like a child that gazes upon the supermarket with wonder-filled eyes while armed with a shopping cart to call my own, I stepped through the welcoming retractable glass doors only to be slapped in the face by the cool breeze of dispossession.

Ah, such crude awakening! When will I ever learn to numb my senses to these shiny, neatly wrapped and priced temptations? With them piled high throughout the seemingly endless aisles of planograms of desires and wants, is there any room then left for needs? Moderation? Rationality?

“Excuse me while I go get them. I’d left them in the car. On purpose.”

I’d imagine myself with little limbs, tipped-toed with arms stretched yet still unable to reach that foreign, imported, 30 ringgit per box cereal. Though maybe inappropriate, the fresco painting of Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam does come to mind. Perhaps not the hand of God per se but in its place, consumerism. While on the other side, the immortalised hand of Adam (or mine), forever suspended in the vacuum of infinite dissatisfaction (with the usual box of Cheerios). You could say rationality (and my puny allowance) won one for the team, but I certainly did not feel like a winner.

Image result for touch of god
So close yet so far.

Yes, thus is the cruel fate of consumers, as good as any plot for a Shakespearean tragedy. If MacBeth had ambition as his fatal flaw, I’d have the impulse to spend to match. But that is all there is to our similarity because unlike him, I choose to question the author (p.s. the capitalists, the system, the consumer culture etc.) and I choose not to concede to this fate. At least not without a fight.

Ultimately, in the rewriting of my own play, I set out as a millennial heroine navigating the raging seas of commodification, popular culture and consumer trends, sailing the ship of critical thoughts, and battling my demons of needless wants. Thus, I bid you come journey with me as I account my adventures in this little corner of the internet. Till then, I shall leave you with this refined quote.

“All the world’s a supermarket, and all the men and women merely shoppers”


Regret not getting the cereal I want.