I have an angel knickknack from when I was a child that is stamped with “June” for my birth month. I am sure at the time this was a novelty, something that was “personalized” and thus more attractive as a keepsake.

Over the years, technology made it much easier to add variety to items. The options expanded to include a wide spectrum of names embossed on items (e.g. keychains, ornaments, pens), then it became easier to put names on everything through computers and home printing. Most people are no longer impressed when they see products with names or the ability to include personal information, such as on mugs or pictures on cake icing.

But I will admit I paused when I saw the latest evolution of customization: personalized fabric. Now a baby’s blanket can have their name woven into the material, or kids can have clothes made of cloth bearing their moniker. I wonder when it will stop or whether we will get to the point where everything has an individual element to it.

All this personalization isn’t inherently bad, but I think it has unintended consequences. Joey isn’t going to want to use that blanket because it says Lucas. He’ll want his own, and probably other things of his own too. Goodwill will have a harder time getting someone to buy it since it is no longer generic. All the personalization requires additional energy to make and ship, increasing the environmental impact.

The less the commonality, the “more” that results. Think about the the broad picture before you opt for the narrow one.

beth triplett

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