People used to make things, completely on their own. If you were a potter, you made bowls and pots, if you were a tailor, you made clothes, etc. Then, later on, people became part of an assembly line. And a person would make a zillion little bits of something a day. Now the machines do that. What do people do? They work in the service economy. Like Billy Crystal says in City Slickers, "What do I do? I sell air!" When all you do is sell air, empty space is all you have to show for it.
It was bad enough when people had to buy things to prove how worthy they were as human beings, how "classy" (what an terrible word!) they were. The new car showed you were somehow better than the neighbor who didn't have or couldn't afford the latest model.
Now, people aren't even that connected to each other anymore. People don't consume to prove their worth to others, they consume to prove to themselves that they have an identity. That they exist. In a world where people are expected to be pleased to sell hot air to one another, the only thing you have to show for what you did and who you are is what you buy with that money. Not only are people isolated from each other, they are isolated from themselves.
I think everyone has an internal need to be creative, to have something to show for themselves. Even if it's just in their spare time, to write, to draw, to code their own program, to make quilts and clothes like my mother, to create a small world of 1954 Kansas centered around a railroad layout like my father, to do SOMETHING that not only helps keep you in touch with other people, it keeps you in touch with yourself.
Sure, I still buy stuff. We all do. But I want to choose those things I buy out of who I am, not have them choose my personality for me.
And, also, thanks to all the people who are involved in a creating and participating communities like LJ. It's keeping connections where they should be, and I love that.
End of rant.