Does Believing the “First Kiss” Video Mean You’re Stupid?
by R.L. Stephens II on March 17, 2014
The “First Kiss” video made the rounds on the internet last week and really had people excited about ideas like love and affection. At the time it was released, the video was presented as strangers coming together and kissing for the first time, so people assumed that it was about intimacy and human connection. In reality, it was just a clothing commercial featuring actors and models.
Despite people being totally unaware that this video was just a marketing scheme, watching and sharing the “first kiss” video doesn’t mean that people are stupid or gullible. In fact, the visceral pull that the subject had on millions of people doesn’t say much about people’s character; to me, it’s a commentary on the structure of our society.
Recently, Pew Research released “Millennials in Adulthood“, a report looking at trends among people in the U.S. between 18 and 33. The data shows that my generation is detached from institutions like organized politics and religion, and is defined by an overall distrust of people.
What we have here isn’t simply a jaded generation, we have a crisis of community. Without empowering social institutions and interpersonal trust, a healthy public sphere cannot thrive. The Pew Research data shows that each generation for the last 50 years has been more detached and distrustful than the one before it, and it’s no coincidence that this generational trend has coincided with the rise of neoliberalism over that same time period.
We live in a time of deep alienation where social support networks, political unions, and general human to human bonds have all been drastically fragmented and reduced. Our public interactions have become exercises in efficiency and consumption. Everyone and everything is a commodity to be bought, sold, and disposed. Even Facebook, which is how the “first kiss” video got much of its traffic, is a space that creates commodification and alienation– so much so that it’s been linked to depression.
A Limit to Your Love?
We want to believe that spontaneity and connection are still possible in a world where the public sphere is continually shrinking and increasingly subject to “market forces”. Instead of spontaneity, we have efficiency. Rather than connecting with people, we consume them.
If the public sphere is under assault, largely transformed into a soulless commodity-driven marketplace, is meaningful love even possible? What’s love in a world where you can pick a life partner using similar web algorithms to the ones that help you order a movie on Netflix?
If we see these viral outbursts of meaningless sentiment like the “First Kiss” video as existing within a broader context of social deprivation, then we can see that people consume them not because they’re stupid, but because we yearn for community, for connection, for meaning that we don’t often find in the current system. Marketing companies know this tendency, and they prey on it.
The Free Association talked about this crisis of connection in their discussion of the self-help industry, and I think their analysis applies to our desire to love as well. There’s a limit to your love, and it’s called capital.
This urge for [love] is the same urge that animates social movements. All that is needed is to exceed the straitjacket that capital has imposed on it. Hidden away on the pages of the Sunday supplements, obscured by the empty sheen of the latest commodity, we can still detect the outline of moments of collective creativity when people asked such fundamental questions as: What sort of life do we want to live? Or indeed: What is a life? We want to re-insert that collectivity back into the urge for [love].
In order to be happy I’ll have to change the whole world!
Whenever someone shares feel-good fluff like “First Kiss”, it’s not a sign of stupidity, perhaps it’s a sign–however fleeting– that they want to overthrow capitalism.