Recently I received a free iPod Touch, and I was very grateful for the gift and the gesture. However, I would never have bought one for myself. I never understood the Apple obsession, nor, in a more general sense, the need to always have the newest, fanciest electronic device.
My cheap, simple phones always seemed to far outlast my friends’ app-loaded devices in terms of battery life. All their little features sucked it dry. All I care about, really, is calling and texting. I can live without an app for everything. My mom and sister always insisted on fancy, expensive phones. My mom could never figure hers out. My sister would inevitably lose hers within a couple of months.
This satirical piece from The Onion makes fun of this widespread phenomenon: our need to have the newest — and therefore better — phone, TV, computer, etc. Sometimes, a newer device is better. But by how much? Does it really justify the price difference? Could you have gotten by just fine without it?
I understand that people love Apple products’ beautiful shininess. My designer colleagues find their software essential to their work. Some see the brand as representative of all that is great about America: innovation, progression, envy-inducing glamour. Personally, I prefer my old Samsung phone and my HP laptop — and don’t get paying hundreds more for something that can easily get broken, stolen, or quickly become obsolete.
Someone once told me that owning the latest iPhone made him feel part of an exclusive society. He was willing to stand in line for hours and pay as much was required to join this elite cadre. Whenever he saw someone else with the same gadget, he felt they were connected. We all get part of our identity from the things we wear, carry and own, but this is a little much for me (this same person felt the need to lease a BMW because it is ‘an adult car’).
Because of people like him (and me, and you), Americans toss about 130,000 computers every day and about 100 million cellphones a year. This adds up to staggering environmental problems. The point is that there are no green electronics. So while we can’t live without them altogether (or can we?), we could probably live with less.