I don't recall when this idiotic notion first emerged, but it has somehow spread like Ebola in a bathhouse. While “have it your way" is a cliché of fast food's halcyon days, it now seems to drive everything from advertising to manufacturing to technology. It’s as if we have surrendered the ability to make our own choices among many offerings -- or worse, have asked others to make them on our behalf, based on data they have assembled about us.
It’s as if we have become so egocentric that appeals must be made to our individual tastes, habits and inclinations in order to have an impact. Really? It seems odd to me that that most of the populace spends countless hours on social media trying to create some semblance of community that has gone out of our daily lives -- thanks, ironically, to technology. This seems to me evidence that what creates bonds are things we have in common, such as the shows and movies we like, or that our kids say the same annoying things. Yet we have marketers who think that the right message to the right person at the right time has to be virtually unique to be effective.
With the exception of certain narcissistic teens who will go unnamed, I rarely encounter people who only buy products and services because they were designed specifically for them. Yes, some folks get bespoke suits and dresses, but the vast unwashed masses of us are happy to buy off-the-rack, especially when there is a sale.
As a matter of fact, I can't think of anything that has to be personalized for me to buy it or use it online. It’s nice that Amazon occasionally recommends a book I actually buy, sure, but I could live long and well without it. If asking for guacamole and sour cream on my pork plate at Chipotle is a form of customization, then what were mustard, relish and catsup at the burger stand at high school games all those years ago?
I guess I’m happy that I can customize the toolbar in Word, can do presets on my car radio, and use music services to assemble playlists -- but none are purchase-drivers. Are there certain things I would love to customize more to my tastes? Certainly. I wish I could pick the movies that show up at local theaters, and I wish I could eliminate all the pro sports coverage in my local paper in favor of more in-depth high school and college coverage (kind of the price you pay when your local teams include the Knicks and the Jets).
But by and large, I am happy to see the same media, consumer products, technology, groceries and clothes that everyone else has a chance to pick. And then feel free to pick and choose. You know, to satisfy my "individuality."