Remember Death by Matthew McCullough, Free for CAPC Members
Matthew McCullough suggests that death awareness allows us to find joy in the problems of this world.
It feels as though four companies currently rule the world: Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google. These four companies touch every single American home in one way or another; in fact, many homes have all four represented. In his recent book, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, Scott Galloway looks into who these companies are, where they came from, and where they could be headed in the future.
They have promised to make us omniscient, gives us things, make us cool, and provide us with community. But they can’t. And if we understand that, our relationship to these companies will drastically improve.Galloway describes them as the Four Horsemen of god, love, sex, and consumption. Each of these companies plays on a different desire of our hearts and offers us the promise of salvation: Google helps us try to be God by making us omniscient, Facebook promises us love by connecting us to the world, Apple makes us cool (and by extension, sexy), and Amazon can get us whatever we want. Galloway goes deep in his book but not quite deep enough. He focuses mainly on the business aspect of things and how these companies are racing to be the first ever with a trillion dollar market cap, but I think the true story here is how these companies are in an even bigger race for our hearts.
Google is the know-it-all, telling us that we too can know it all. Thanks to Google, there is rarely a question unanswered. Gone are the days where you are left to wonder whether or not you recalled a fact correctly; Google is here to tell you all the answers to all the questions. We take this power, and we truly believe we can have every answer, thus allowing us to rely solely on ourselves. Millions of inquiries are put in every day, asking the most random questions (my own search history can attest to this) in an attempt to be omniscient.
Amazon is our dealer. If you want it, they have it. Not only can they get you the random obscure book or the specific flower pot you were looking for; they can get it to you fast and cheap. In the age of Amazon, everything is available right at our fingertips. What this does is feed our consumerist hearts. The craving for more things is never satisfied, Amazon knows it, and when you’re ready, they’re ready with another hit.
Apple makes us cool. Let’s face it, every keynote Apple address has one goal: make you believe the incremental upgrades from your old phone to the new one is worth it. If you don’t get the new product, you’ll be left behind, and to be left behind is to be uncool. Apple feeds into our desire for the latest and greatest. It doesn’t matter if the iPhone 8 is literally just the 7 but a little shinier or that the $1,000 Xr is only a slightly shinier X: we must have it. We must be on the cutting edge. We must be cool. Apple’s chief mission is to get us to believe the lie that our value is found in what we own.
Facebook just might be the most dangerous of bunch. Galloway’s statistics are chilling:
“As measured by adoption and usage, Facebook is the most successful thing in the history of humankind. There are 7.5 billion people in the world, and 1.2 billion people have a daily relationship with Facebook.”
Beyond the funny cat videos and problematic posts from your crazy uncle, Facebook promises something it cannot truly give us: community. Because of Facebook, we are more connected than we have ever been and yet simultaneously more lonely than we’ve ever been. Facebook has caused us to live our lives in front of screens while being only partially known. The best evidence of this is the Facebook-owned property Instagram. People share the best pictures and parts of their lives to the world around them in what essentially amounts to our life’s highlight reels. Even when people post the real and ugly sides of their lives, it is still often highly manicured and done for the consumption of others. God said it was not good for man to be alone; Facebook tries to answer that by connecting us with everybody and nobody at the same time.
The most dangerous part of all of this is that we are being asked to turn our lives over to these companies. Between the four of them, they have every piece sensitive information about you: your address, phone number, credit card information, and, based on your search history, exactly what you like and are interested in. I have seen enough movies to know that putting this much of our lives into the hands of a few companies doesn’t end well. Most importantly though, they have our hearts. We’ve entrusted Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Amazon to fill the holes in our hearts—holes they could never possibly fill.
The big four will drive us down a never-ending loop if we let them. We will continue seeking to know more, buy more, and be cooler, and we never stop scrolling those feeds. Anxiety and depression rates have risen in direct correlation with the growth of these companies. I dare say, this is not an accident. Even the founders themselves knew this. Steve Jobs didn’t let his own kids use iPhones and iPads, and Mark Zuckerberg has already expressed desires for his own kids not to spend too much time in front of screens.
I believe Jobs and Zuckerberg are onto something with that. It is virtually impossible to deny these four companies access to our lives at this point. Fifty-two percent of U.S. homes have Amazon Prime. That’s more than the number who go to church, have a landline phone, or own a gun. They have successfully schemed their way into our hearts and taken up much more space than they should.
These companies are here to stay, but they do not have to take over.
They have promised to make us omniscient, gives us things, make us cool, and provide us with community. But they can’t. And if we understand that, our relationship to these companies will drastically improve. They are merely tools; they are not the end themselves. Seeing them rightly renews our perspective and puts the power back in our hands. If they’re just tools, then they can be replaced, and if they can be replaced, then they hold no power over us or our hearts. After all, there is nothing Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple want more than your heart. And only you have the power to decide who gets it.
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