The Dystopian Consumer-Driven Culture In Anderson’s “Feed”

The fact that the world realizes new wisdom faster than understanding exposes generations to immeasurable danger. Nothing exemplifies this statement better than technological invention and its utilization in the information realm. Feed is a hi-tech novel by Mathew Tobin Anderson that ridicules the present and future generations that tend to rely excessively or blindly on technology. This matter exposes humans to an uncontrollable world where societies and individuals become dysfunctional. Anderson is concerned by how technological innovation gradually exposes generations to unending advertisements from multiple corporations to the point of converting them into dependent unreasoning zombies. The novel’s theme is that capitalists’ consumerism spirit will eventually take over humans’ lives and freedom if care is not taken. Unlike many people’s thoughts that technology makes lives better, the author believes that invention takes away humanity and kills societies. Almost all the characters in Feed appear dull and mechanical followers of the internet and its unending supply of disruptive information. Therefore, dependence on information delivered by the technology offered by influential corporations leads to a dystopian consumer-driven culture instead of the intended utopia.

Understanding the risk of relying on information technology supplied by big companies requires one to appreciate the meaning of utopia. Kashima and Fernando define such (a utopia) as a community (imaginary) with highly desirable merits for its dwellers (102). Scholars denote utopia as a society characterized by ideal perfection in matters of governance, social order, and laws. The term (utopia) implies the realization of a civilization full of order, making humans the very best versions of themselves. Confusion, alienation, blind capitalism, and consumerism that force people to buy items out of habit and not genuine need are not physiognomies of an ideal social setting (Daum 745). Conversely, all these features define anti-utopia, also known as a dystopia, as an imaginary culture characterized by great injustice and suffering (Daum 747). A dystopia is a frighteningly undesirable society where social order is hard to find and where jungle law, instead of the rule of law, dominates. With this understanding, it is clear that reliance on technological inventions supplied by large companies leads to a dystopia, as foretold in Feed.

Reliance on information technology supplied by powerful businesses gives unnecessary power to corporations. Anderson’s Feed uses young adult characters to show that capitalism-minded companies are always self-centered and constantly think of maximizing profits, even at society’s expense. Titus is the main character in Feed, and together with his friends, they have implanted microchips in their brains that connect them to a powerful internet known as ‘feeds’ supplied by a corporation named FeedTech. The chips link the young fellows’ intellects to the internet and continuously observe their considerations to generate consumer profiles on them and direct the intellectual equivalent of automatic ads to their heads. This development, though technologically progressive, leads to the rigorous destruction of people. Titus complains that “Our feeds were going fugue with all the banners… I was trying to talk to link, but I couldn’t because I was getting bannered so hard” (Anderson). Goldsmith backs Titus’ claims by noting that “the banner headline screams…” (301). Accordingly, the character proves the dangers of corporation-supported technology to societies due to the creation of a dystopia.

Dependence on media and advertisements supported by influential businesses leads to a dystopian culture where people become zombies. Self-will is one of the principal elements that distinguish humans from other creatures. People require controlled and unbiased external influence to make sound decisions. Healthy communities need free persons who can reason with minimal external disruptions. However, the prophesied technology-dependent civilization in Feed, which assumes the nature of the present and future digital generations, lacks this freedom. The dystopian consumer-driven nation experiences disruptive information from organizations like rainfall. Titus laments that “the feed was pouring in on us now, all of it, all the feed net… it came down like Frikken spring rains, and we were dancing in it” (Anderson). Supporting Anderson, Harari says that “every day I absorb countless data bits through e-mails, phone calls, and articles…” meaning that technology steals humans’ freedom (342). Thus, Anderson uses reminiscent words to imply the absence of psychological stability in the digital culture, a sign of social disorder characteristic of a dystopia.

Dependence on information from influential corporations promotes consumerism and, in turn, greed, leading to dystopia. Sinkovics and Sinkovics define consumerism as an economic and social state characterized by blind acquisition and utilization of commercial products in ever-swelling volumes (439). The behavior mainly benefits businesses that sell items to the senseless public. As per the writers, improvements in production technology, together with the rise in the number of business entities, lead to overproduction in many societies. Consequently, organizations depend on the media and advertisements to create artificial demands and cause shock purchases at times. The aspect occurs due to the profiling of customers and their online purchase tendencies through digital devices, such as smartphones. The adverts keep promising ‘cooler’ products to the bombarded customers resulting in endless buying. The aspect is foreseen in Feed, a 2002 novel by Mathew Tobin Anderson. Titus says that “It was like I kept buying these things to be cool, but cool was always flying just ahead of me and I could never exactly catch up to it” (Anderson). The character’s confession implies a technology-generated dystopia where people remain frightened by addictive consumption.

Corporation-supported technology leads to dystopia by promoting constant dissatisfaction and social instability. Kashima and Fernando describe discontent as a major social problem worth killing people’s self-esteem and self-worth (104). Similarly, the spirit triggers unhappiness, a critical feeling that exposes cultures to vices and disorder. Due to the continuous bombardment with new information about flashy products by organizations, individuals become unsettled while looking for more money to meet their unending needs. Those that cannot afford the desired ostentatious lifestyles, especially young adults, engage in practices such as undertaking multiple jobs, entering into debts, especially the employed team, and even stealing. Furthermore, children become disrespectful to parents when they cannot support their corporate-triggered wants (Kashima and Fernando 105). The zeal to have the newest version burns until a distant time when the satisfaction is no more, possibly due to the rapid production of fashionable items. In that situation, many people become like Titus, who says that “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck” (Anderson). Such sucking feelings, even when humans are way beyond their normal standards, indicate a dystopia.

Addiction to information by technology corporations leads to dystopia by encouraging ecological crisis. Receiving unending adverts about new items pushes many people to forget about their real human nature. The outcome of such is emergent terminal conditions, where humans fall sick due to overworking. Still, getting messages about delicious meals triggers digital individuals into over-eating or reckless consumption, frequently initiating obesity. The young generation possessing smart devices hardly gets adequate sleep due to their commitments online, either chatting or viewing new items. Kashima and Fernando insist that humans, as much as they struggle to beat limits, are not infinite creatures (103). Such means that understanding one’s capacity and ability is vital for a stable civilization. Titus, in Feed, confesses experiencing this on the moon with his friends, something he has to tolerate despite receiving warning signs from his body. The character notes, “I wanted to go to sleep, but every time I tried, bam! Link and Marty would suddenly go all fission on me, saying, “Titus! Did you fuckin’ see that?” (Anderson). Therefore, this statement shows the link between corporations’ technology and the ecological crisis, where humans harm their future.

Media-based adverts operated by businesses lead to confusion and approval of abnormal aspects of the digital age leading to ill health. Titus addresses the issue of lesions among his friends in the Feed inversely at different times. When the condition is mentioned at first, the protagonist regards the condition as disgusting. Quendy cries, “Omigod! It is going to be like larger than my whole head! I am going to need a hat… It will like to go onto the brim” (Anderson). The skin female character shouts this way because she fears her skin condition. However, the matter later turns into a beautiful thing, where people celebrate having lesions, with some wishing them to grow around their whole neck to appear as a necklace. The facet portrays blindness, alienation, lack of sense, and self-harming in the name of beauty. Titus says that the change of mind about the malady results from the media. According to Titus, “The stars of Oh? Wow! Thing! Had started to get lesions, so now people are started to think better of lesions” (Anderson). This changed perspective connotes dystopia, where people embrace ill due to alienation.

Lastly, feeds from corporations makes people indifferent to misfortune and the unfairness around them. All the other characters in Anderson’s Feed, but Violet, are exposed to the internet while young. Therefore, they are used to partying life and excessive exposure to news about everything. Consequently, only Violet cares about real-life issues besides social status. In a bluster, she cries that “We are hovering in the air while people are starving. This is obvious! Obvious! We’re playing” (Anderson). Titus and the other alienated friends hardly care about the other individuals. Thus, the novel somehow depicts a dystopia where internet-soaked young adults do not care about the plights of others, including parents who possibly sacrificed a lot to have them get informed. Moreover, unfeelingness emerges when FeedTech fails to fix Violet’s feed because she is not a dependable investment, courtesy of her ability to reason and avoid impulse buying (Anderson). The matter shows an anti-utopia where money-centered firms neglect some individuals since millions of other persons are available for meeting selfish interests.

In conclusion, dependency on information supported by technology provided by corporations causes the dystopian consumer-driven civilization that Anderson foretells in Feed. The novelist uses at least seventy characters, mostly young adults to show the dangers of technology enslavement among societies. Anderson’s work is fictional but depicts a more than the real image of the present and future generations. Humans continuously lose sense and humanity due to technology and excessive advertisements by product makers. Therefore, the world needs to establish effective countermeasures to this matter before all of humanity is dead.

Works Cited

Anderson, Mathew Tobin. Feed. Candlewick Press, 2012.

Daum, Thomas. “Farm Robots: Ecological Utopia or Dystopia?” Trends in Ecology & Evolution, vol. 36, no. 9, 2021, pp. 774-777. ScienceDirect. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2021.06.002.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. Let’s Get Lost. The Wired West. 2016.

Harari, Yuval N. Big Data, Google, and the End of Free Will. The Wired West. 2016.

Kashima, Yoshihisa, and Julian Fernando. “Utopia and Ideology in Cultural Dynamics.” Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, vol. 34, 2020, pp. 102-106. Elsevier, doi:10.1016/j.cobeha.2020.01.002.

Sinkovics, Rudolf R., and Noemi Sinkovics. “The Internet and International Marketing–from Trigger Technology to Platforms and New Markets.” International Marketing Review, vol. 37, no. 3, 2020, pp. 437-446. EBSCOhost. Web.