The Language of Self-Commodification

People often complain about how capitalism dominates all aspects of life and ruins everything it touches. Yet when I hop on LinkedIn, I constantly hear people urge each other to “Sell yourself!” and “Build your personal brand!” It makes me roll my eyes so hard that I’m surprised they’re still in my sockets.

I’m worried about the commodification of people, and it scares me that people are doing it to themselves. Isn’t that what we do when we advise each other to “brand” and “sell” ourselves? Like sneakers, laundry detergent, or breakfast cereal?

At the same time, businesses have entire departments dedicated to giving their social media profiles a “personality.” So while businesses embrace the value of being human, actual people opt to treat themselves as products instead. Isn’t that ironic?

This, my friends, is what the triumph of capitalism looks like.

I never tell people to “build their brand” or “sell themselves.” Instead, I advise them to “build a reputation for competence” and “grow their relationships.” It may sound like I’m splitting hairs, but I believe that the language we use to talk about ourselves matters. When people self-identify as commodities — rather than human beings — the world is a bleaker and more dystopian place.

Header photo by Xiaolong Wong on Unsplash