The 'Laws' of Spamming Part 3

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of people in our lives: those with whom we have close relationships based on family affection, friendship, romantic attachment or care, and those whose relationship to us is commercially based.

When we buy car insurance or a pizza, for example, we converse with people with whom we have probably never met and the substance of our interaction is the transaction in which we hand over money in exchange for a product or a service. We don’t usually feel any kind of connection with the other person and maintain the minimum of affinity or communication needed to get the transaction done as pleasantly as possible. Anything other than money changing hands for a wanted item or service seems out of place. Whereas, when we engage with our family or friends, money is not normally the basis of the relationship - in fact, if money intrudes into that bond, it can feel awkward and unnatural, such as asking your best friend for a loan.

This is why ‘selling’, as it is usually encountered, can feel so alien and false: someone approaches us to try to sell us something, and their only aim is to exchange what they have to offer for our money - but to accomplish that exchange, they often try to pile on the affinity, the affection and closeness which belong instead to the other kind of relationship. Knowing that what they really want is our money, we usually see through the falseness of their position and reject it.

The latest trends in obtaining demographic data from us via social media, search engines and trading giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon are based on this need to sell us things by using information about us which is more personal, intimate and closer to who we are. Advertising and marketing have progressed from placing information about a product in front of us in case we need to purchase it to placing information about us in front of a producer to make it easier to sell products.

The whole process of getting ‘closer’ to us in this way can feel artificial and many of us instinctively react by shunning it as much as we can. We still have a need to purchase some things, but would rather be at the cause point of that transaction, deciding if and when we want to make that purchase, rather than being ‘snuck up on’ by the seller using data and techniques which don’t strictly belong to a simple commercial exchange.

It’s a natural consequence of a social system based on consumption that, in order to maximise consumption, these methods would develop. If the whole huge advertising and marketing industry were to stop trying to persuade people to buy, leaving the purchasing decisions in the hands of people at large, the entire basis of the society would be undermined. How could populations be sustained, it would be asked, if the volume of purchasing were to be left to the whims of the public? Producers would go u