Yesterday was Cyber Monday, the alternative consumerist 'holiday' online retailers created to cash in on the Black Friday bargain-hunting craze. If you're reading these pages, then chances are that you too watched people line up their tents outside of a Best Buy for a shot at a cheaper flatscreen TV, saw a woman mace fellow shoppers in a frenzied discount melee -- and shook your head. Look what we've come to; it's so not worth it, people.
Yet, in recent years, Cyber Monday is, as Gawker points out, increasingly being embraced by many of the same folks who make deriding Black Friday's grim paean to unbridled consumerism an annual event:
... where are all the gloomy think pieces about the record $1.2 billion sales projected for today, Cyber Monday, a "holiday" made up by online retailers in 2006 in the hopes of sucking up even more of your money into this year's barely-improved new gadget. Apparently the majority of American workers will be spending most of their time clicking around Amazon today, but we've decided it's less ludicrous to waste time and money via the internet than in real life. Cyber Monday gets a triumphant write-up in the Times ... And a slick Mashable infographic. The same people tweeting their disgust of the scenes at Walmart are smugly bragging today about their deals on fancy West Elm furniture. Be a mindless consumer: Just don't try too hard while you do it.Amen. While Black Friday may be a disturbingly visceral reminder of the lengths consumers are willing to go to get cheap stuff, Cyber Monday is equally unnerving. There were no cameras in the private living rooms where millions of online shoppers sat for hours, hitting refresh over and over for a chance to get a discounted price on an electric toaster oven on Amazon, but the same brainless consumerist impulses took hold there, too.
The larger point is an important one: We must resist the temptation to be romanced by aesthetic makeovers of fundamentally pernicious principles. Cyber Monday may sound cooler (maybe, though the last time I saw the word 'cyber' written earnestly in any other context was probably in 1998), more advanced; less low-rent. But it still encourages the very same kind of unfettered consumption that Black Friday does.
It still incentivizes ritualized shopping, and encourages us to buy more stuff we don't need. In other words, go ahead: Keep heaping scorn on Black Friday. But save some for Cyber Monday, and every other engine of conspicuous consumption marketers dream up, too. There are sure to be plenty more to come.