We are dying from consumption.

Oh yes, this is another late capitalism rant.

Annie Lowrey from The Atlantic wrote an article about the recent resurgence of this concept:

“Late capitalism,” in its current usage, is a catchall phrase for the indignities and absurdities of our contemporary economy, with its yawning inequality and super-powered corporations and shrinking middle class. 

—Annie Lowrey, Why the Phrase ‘Late Capitalism’ Is Suddenly Everywhere (The Atlantic)

Capitalism has hijacked and upended our lives at the level of interaction.

Want a greeting from your favorite artist? Cameo.
Want an ASMRtist to read you a bedtime story? Patreon.
Want to commission a painting of your cat? Instagram.
Got a highly specific fetish? OnlyFans.
Wanna see the world burn? Facebook (Or Twitter!).

Every need, every thought, every desire at the tip of our fingertips and we dove right in. The pandemic further fueled this consumptive disease as our lives screeched to a halt and our hunger bled online.

It’s maddening!
And seductive.
And utterly terrifying.

I recently succumbed to consumption as I fell deeper and deeper into booktube and booksta.1 That is to say, I binged a lot of booktuber content and mindlessly scrolled through thousands upon thousands of posts from Instagram and Shopee2 book sellers, bookstores, and book shops.

Yes, even the seemingly sedate hobby of reading has been monetized to death!

We have booktubes and bookstas, book reviews and book recommendations, book pasabuys3 and book requests, read with me and book vlogs, reading playlists and bookish podcasts, librarian aesthetic and dark academia4, mugs and coffee and tea and Kindles and rugs and shelves and fairy lights and candles and pens and highlighters and journals and sticky notes and flowers and blankets and plants and polish and typewriters and couches and lamps and pillows and blinds—a window with a view—glasses and grass and desks and notes and doodles and wine and crippling anxiety and therapy, of course.

If people can buy a package of a life, they would. And capitalists will find a way to sell it. Perhaps they already have. Consolidation is nigh.

It is the greatest irony of my pandemic life that I succumbed to booksumption, because I leaned into reading to slow down on the purchases in the first place. I cancelled my subscriptions to different streaming platforms and deleted e-commerce shops to finally chip away on my TBR5 pile. How naive. Before I knew it, my addictive personality simply shifted from clothes and cosmetics to books and bookish stuff.

I watched video after video and post after post of book recommendations and book sellers. I did not do much reading at all! (Well, that’s not true. I did my fair bit of reading, though always with the next book in mind.)

This manic journey down the rabbit hole of booksumption was likely triggered by other personal issues which I will not detail here. Needless to say, I am both amazed and scared at the speed in which society can quickly capitalize a hobby as well as socialize a formerly solitary past-time.

There are now read with me videos, read-alongs, book reviews, writing sprints, writing prompts, rehoming books, reselling books, pasabuy for locally unavailable books~

Is booktopia a utopia or a dystopia? I don’t know. Every aspect of human life has been hijacked by capitalists. When will they monetize the very air we breathe? Don’t- Let’s not go there.

To be fair, I did seek out these creators. And it has been a known phenomenon. Search booktube and you’ll likely see a video of a booktuber getting disillusioned by the movement and turned off by the sheer capitalism of it all. The whole endeavor quickly turns into a money-making scheme even for the best of them.

It sucks. And I have been curled up in a ball trying to think of solutions on how we can slow down. Because isn’t the point of reading to slow down? Can we calm down a little bit and stop gaming every little action we make in our lives? Hobbies do not always have to be monetized. Says me who started this blog. AH!

Anyway, there have been efforts in the community. Some people have gone on a book buying ban since their books are piling up faster than they’re being read. Some only buy secondhand books. Some donate books, others do book swaps, etc.

After a booksumption detox, I experienced a slump. I did not want to read. I was unfocused with my viewings. I couldn’t concentrate on my podcasts and audiobooks. I just wanted to listen to rain or white noise…to drown out my thoughts.

I actually had to do the dishes and I was happy to! It felt great to finally concentrate on something that doesn’t require me to think too much.

So, if you ever find yourself afflicted by booksumption, here are possible remedies to this addiction:

Read a classic

Nothing slows you down than a good, juicy classic book. If you’re a bookworm, then you probably have one of these lying around, gathering dust. The dated language forces you to slow down in order to digest sentences. The zeitgeist will make it a more immersive reading experience as you place yourself in the shoes of the characters. On the other hand, it could be boring, but then that just means you could transition to the next remedy to consumption. Reading as a precursor to napping.

Nap

A nap is an excellent countermeasure to consumption. Instead of draining your finances, it is energizing. Napping enables your mind to rest as well as your wallet. Your imagination gets to play with all the content you’ve accumulated in the waking hours, provided, of course, that you get to the REM cycle. But even if you don’t reach the dreaming, it can be a nice reset.

Have a conversation

Ideally, the conversation will not revolve around products and content and upcoming sales because this will just send you back to a shopping spree. Instead, talk about life events. Milestones. Catch up. News about your community. Plan a vacation. This will motivate you to save. More importantly, this will ground you and remind you that there is a whole, wide world out there which you can experience for free

Concentrate on chores

Turn off the podcasts, the audiobooks, the music, and just do the work. These moments devoid of the need for multi-tasking will prevent your brain from buzzing. Mindfulness, I think, is the buzzy term for being totally present. So, do that. Clean in complete silence or with only ambient sounds to keep you company. Make friends with your anxiety. And then it won’t be so overwhelming when you’re forced to face the silence.

Write

This has been my go-to remedy during this whole pandemic era. The act of writing is a kind of exorcism. My demons excised from my mind to the page. I often find clarity in the exercise. And when the worries are planted on the page, my mind breathes a little better. Journaling, I think, is the buzzy term for this.

Create

The antithesis to consumption is creation. Write, draw, or do something with your hands to quiet the mind. The temptation will then be to sell your creations, but if you don’t need the money you don’t have to go that route. Create, don’t produce. Creating is motivated by passion, producing is motivated by money. This is the fine line creators tread when they finally find an audience big enough to monetize. It’s a tough call, but it’s helpful to be aware of the delineation.  

These are not groundbreaking solutions, rather uninspired suggestions that prove effective. At least they worked for me. These things helped me get out of the rabbit hole. The point is to be proactive; create safeguards from consumerism. Because while there is no escape from consumption, it doesn’t have to be a terminal disease.


1 These are book-related YouTube and Instagram accounts.

2 An e-commerce shop popular in Southeast Asia.

3 A portmanteau of pasabay (asking for a favor) and buy in which you buy products online as a group to save on delivery fees.

4 When you’re a bookworm, but also a goth.

5 To be read

One thought on “On consumptive reading

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