Consumer Pulse
- Spectre of
Anxiety
Dev Toor, India

Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. General anxiety levels seem have drastically shot up over the last two centuries, synchronous with radical transformations in our social reality. Briefly examining two seminal historical events of the 18th century is key here in understanding the possible link between anxiety, especially identity anxiety, and rapid social change.

  1. The French and American revolution laid the foundation for the notion that man is free and equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights. And that man ought to, and not just can, construct his unique identity and be the architect of his destiny. 

  2. The Industrial revolution set the wheels in motion for accelerated, and still ongoing, material and technological change. Over time, it also gave impetus to a capitalistic framework that combined with a democratic order gave us a semblance of choice in crafting our identity

Both phenomena radically reworked our primordial ties or fixed identities and more stable social patterns of organisation and biased individualism over community and competition or standing out over cooperation.


Fast forward to the current era of smart phones, the pressure to construct and establish one’s unique identity in a social reality:

  1. That is changing way faster than the speed our brain has been biologically wired to process (as Jerome Kagan, Professor of Psychology at Harvard argues)
  2. Where competition is rife and sense of relative deprivation high, may be attributing to feelings of doubt, worry and uncertainty, and hence the higher levels of general and especially identity anxiety

Brands aid in the construction and expression of identity in a rapidly changing world. But, do they have to change more fundamentally to aid the arrest of currently increasing levels of general anxiety across the world?

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