It’s been a bad week. The sun sets at like 3 pm now. Amazon is coming to Queens.
I keep forgetting to call my gynecologist back to dispute an $800 insurance charge; now they’ve sent me another letter about it. It was my birthday on Sunday, which means I am older than I was, which doesn’t bother me so much as it reminds me that everyone I love is getting older too, which bothers me. What if they die?
This is what I’m thinking about when I take the 2 train uptown from Vox’s office in the Financial District to go to the flagship Macy’s in Herald Square and see the holiday retail pop-up Facebook has installed in the men’s section.
Facebook’s pop-up, which opened on Monday and will run through February in New York and eight other cities, is a Facebook-curated boutique selling items from 100 different small businesses that have Facebook business pages and submitted applications to be part of Facebook: The Market @ Macy’s.
This includes a Charleston burger restaurant that sells barbecue sauce and a place called Bourbon and Boots, which sells Southern-inspired home decor, including a crystal skull-shaped lamp full of vodka.
“The gifts you found on Facebook are now at Macy’s,” is the tagline. (Sometimes you have to go boring-but-informative with your tagline when the premise of your project is confusing.)
Retail Dive commented on the partnership, saying, “Facebook’s involvement indicates that the storied department store has grasped, at least to some extent, the experiential value of its stores.”
I would like to add that Facebook’s involvement indicates that Facebook is no longer confined to our computer screens, where it is already doing more than enough. And that I suspect it is wiggling into the holiday shopping season in an effort to steal some warm and fuzzy associations from you while your heart is amped up on caffeine and overt sentiment.
Anyway, Facebook: The Market @ Macy’s is immediately inside the front door of the department store, taking up about 200 square feet in between a Samsung Gear VR demo area and something called b8ta, which is where you can buy the Quip electric toothbrushes you see advertised on the subway, the motor-powered Boosted skateboards you see advertised by men on Tinder, a supplement meant to defer dementia, a headband meant to force you to meditate, and a “personal safety device” called D.A.D. (It appears to be pepper spray, though the description says “IT IS STEALTH.”)
I feel it’s worth noting that all of the available gadgets in Macy’s, including Amazon and Google and Apple products, are available exclusively in the men’s section.
I will not buy any of these items for my loved ones because I am only here for Facebook’s The Market @ Macy’s. I scoot around the edge of The Market taking photos of the signage with my phone, with earbuds in so that I won’t be able to hear it if anyone asks me to please stop taking photos.
Each item in the Facebook market at Macy’s is framed in a mockup of a Facebook post, so you can see how many likes it has received. Each item has received 250 likes. There is also a larger mockup of a Facebook post labeled, “The most liked gift of all,” which you’re supposed to put your face in, so that someone can take your photo. You, as the most liked gift of all, received 450 likes.
What will I buy for my loved ones? Maybe a “LoveBook,” which is actually an instructional booklet that costs $40 and will direct me to a website where I can order a customized children’s book about my relationship with my boyfriend or mom. Maybe a LuMee Instafame lighted case, as seen on television in the hands of Kim Kardashian. Maybe an Inspiralized “noodle twister.” Maybe a Henley, which is sitting next to a framed print-out of an Esquire article titled “14 Gifts That Work for Men and Women.”
A couple of elegant, middle-aged shoppers stop to inspect 4ocean, “the bracelet that’s cleaning the ocean,” but they move on quickly. A clerk in a gold vest asks me “Do you need help, or are you just taking photos?” in a tone that implies that she actually isn’t being passive-aggressive, she literally doesn’t care what my intentions are, she’s just stating two choices for me in case I was frozen in indecision about what to do with the next few breaths of my one short life. I hope she gets the holiday shifts she wants, and not the terrible ones everyone hates.
I do not subscribe to the look-don’t-touch philosophy of perusing expensive goods you probably don’t have the means to buy, which is why I pick up a box of NeuroGum, which is $20 gum that provides energy, clarity, and focus, to “the artists, the dreamers, and the doers.”
I also touch makeup made by Jessica Alba’s the Honest Company, makeup made by VC darling Mented, and makeup made by FabFitFun sub-brand Ish, all of which, by merit of being in Facebook’s holiday shop, remind me of what “makeup” and “Facebook” typically mean when they appear in the same sentence. I would buy some for my younger sisters, but they are already so beautiful! I write down that Jessica Alba is a small-business owner on Facebook.
Obviously, I am making fun of Facebook: The Market @ Macy’s because I don’t think Facebook’s definition of “small business” makes any sense, and I don’t think these choices of gift are any better than the ones on QVC.
But the real reason I’m making fun of Facebook is because I am afraid of it, and the fact that its sterile, thumbs-up definition of affection and approval and time-stamped definition of memory represents such a cold distortion of what we are actually doing when we go out to buy presents for people because it is the end of the year. We are spending money and making lists, sure, but we are also trying to tidy up our mixed feelings and put a bow on them.
We have to take stock of everything we’ve allowed to happen, and then we have to say it’s mostly fine because there was also a Carly Rae Jepsen single. Many of us spent the past 12 months talking about student loans and income inequality and now we’ll have to spend money on each other, which we are glad to do, it’s our pleasure.
The snow will be so good. Maybe next year there will not be snow? Maybe next year global warming will convince the island of Manhattan to slide into the sea. You are obligated to spiral through thoughts like this and then placate yourself with a candy cane. This is what makes you a person!
There is openly no reason for The Market to exist, other than to ingratiate an overreaching monolith to a public that no longer trusts it or likes it. But Facebook is not human; it does not feel dread and warmth at the same time, it is just a tech monopolist edging into our glittery, manufactured rituals, looking for one more data point on what makes us tick.