Several recent studies examine hypothesized links between humanness, or human-like physical or evolutionary characteristics and ascriptions of humanity and social perceptions (e.g. Wang et al., 2019). Humanness, or lack of dehumanization, is associated with the possession of sophisticated cognitive and agentic capacities and emotional and experiential responsiveness (Deska et al., 2018). Humanity and humanness, while intertwined, are not synonymous.

Humanity is not simply defined as a collection of human beings; it is also characterized by the enactment of compassion, sympathy, generosity, kindness, and benevolence (c.f. Krishen and Berezan, 2019). In this age of digitization and analytics, societies are grappling with intersections – human- computer, human-machine, and human-human (race, religion, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, country-of-origin, etc.), among others. At each of these intersections lies another challenge for humanity, especially in relation to digital vulnerability. To further understand how digital marketing relates to humanity, we offer three aspects of individuals as dimensions of their humanity:

1. Individuals as seekers of capital, including informational, intellectual, social and cultural,
2. Individuals existing and functioning with change, agency, and empowerment, and
3. Individuals as progressively moving forward and creating capital. As conduits to these dimensions lies digitization and multiple intersections of communication.

1. Seeking capital: Information, social, and cultural

Individuals spend much of their time consuming. This consumption can be tangible (e.g. physical objects) or intangible (e.g. relationships). Digital marketing and social media marketing provide a mechanism by which to gather vast amounts of information, a phenomenon known as information overload (Hu and Krishen, 2019). To counter the overload, sophisticated hardware and software solutions enable adaptive choice sets and recommended products and services (Krishen, Raschke, and Kachroo, 2011). As seekers of social and cultural capital, consumers participate in multiple forms of social media; ideally, this could lead to a lived experience of mindfulness, happiness and belonging.

Paradoxically, digital marketing simultaneously enables negative mental health issues (e.g. loneliness) while facilitating solutions to them (e.g. social marketing campaigns encouraging mindful consumption). In the process of seeking various types of capital through digital marketing , consumers experience both positive (benefits or “gets”) and negative (costs or “gives”) effects.

2. Encountering change, agency, and empowerment

Cultural agency refers to an analytical lens for understanding individual actions and decisions as emergent from interactions between public and private experiences and ideas; for example, the purchase or desire for skin lightening creams stems from complex layers of individual agency and public hegemonic discourses (Wong & Krishen, 2019). The digital marketing ecosystem provides an environment within which individuals encounter change, agency, and empowerment.

Digital marketing services can enable consumers to access vast amounts of knowledge regarding diverse populations throughout the world: some who share similar ideas and others who live in completely different environments. This ability to understand and interact with multiple cultures and societies through online forums, support groups, information repositories, eWOM postings, and so on, has the potential to facilitate greater intersectionality, diversity, and inclusiveness throughout humanity.

For example, through online representation via Twitter, fourth wave feminists can champion discussions and debates, mobilize social justice, and become change agents with organized political activities, and create allies, collaborations, and coalitions (Zimmerman, 2017). Alongside the ability to learn about other people and environments, individuals have access to information that can enable them to make data-driven decisions with potentially higher quality data (Zahay et al., 2014). Technologies also allow consumers to act as agents, empowered or unempowered, as they traverse the marketplace. For instance, fitness trackers enable social networks to share common health goals and track individual and group progress.

Digital marketing platforms provide forums though which consumers can work across boundaries in a plethora of ways, including:
1) as empowered agents seeking to collaborate,
2) as data- driven decision makers enabling transparency, and
3) as social change humanitarians spreading knowledge through their voices.

3. Moving forward and creating capital

As a facilitator of intellectual capital, digital marketing and social media marketing services allows consumers to circulate new knowledge through complex gatekeeping processes that track both its quality as well as its popularity. Creativity is not limited to written knowledge and spans products and services that can be self-created (do-it-yourself), a process that can lead to greater well-being and mindful consumption. Through transformational leadership, individuals as part of teams can convert cognitive diversity to team creativity. These creative processes and systems exist in face-to-face environments but also in digital and social media ones, which often provide additional tools and mechanisms.

Digital marketing platforms have the potential to unlock multiple forms of creativity and knowledge alongside the sophistication to carefully link them together.