A Tribute to Consumerism

I, like every other human in this fantastic western society, love consumerism. We have built a society in which we can throw away any possession and replace it with a newer, better version affordably and efficiently in a matter of minutes, without having to feel any guilt. I can have an entire wardrobe of clothing (and the wardrobe itself, if required) delivered to my door by the next working day. I can have access to thousands of films, television shows and millions of homemade video clips, without having to leave my bed, through a few clicks of a computer mouse. I have never had to write a letter, I can send a vibration to any of my friend’s pockets at anytime I want by pressing a few keys on my phone. I am closer to some people that I have met once, than people I grew up with, because we can keep in touch from anywhere in the world.

We have reached the pinnacle of design and, with it, we choose not to enrich our lives, but instead we become reliant, antisocial and lazy. We have technology so complex that it offers us the ability to become greater than any generation that ever came before us, but instead we use it to distract us from our dull lives.

Working in a restaurant, witnessing the bullshit rituals of wine tasting and tipping, confuses me. We have created a system of artificial formalities that allow us to feel superior for a few moments. And despite my hatred for the ceremony of eating at a restaurant, the most depressing sight that I witness at work is watching the social dynamic of the tables with children. It is extremely rare to witness a child between the ages of 5 to 16 engage in a conversation with their parents whilst waiting for food, thanks to the innovation of portable gaming.

I’ll admit, when I was a teenager and I received my first iPod Touch, I spent the beginning of some family dinners distracted by it. But only a few, because for my generation, these innovations were exciting – revolutionary. I grew up with the release of the Nintendo Gameboy, the original playstation, the Nokia 3310 and a dial-up connection to our family desktop computer. And because I know life without this new technology, I can appreciate life without it. But nowadays, it is so easy to distract a child by throwing them an iPad – it eliminates boredom. We used to thrive in boredom – boredom leads to creativity. Technology defeats boredom and therefore restrains creativity.

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club (1999)

The movie Fight Club captures the essence of consumerism perfectly. It comes down to the idea of spending money to show others that you have money, and branding is evidence of this. Some companies have the ability to sell tee shirts with their brand name on it for five times the price of it’s plain equivalent, because their brand has connotations of exclusivity. Another example is Dr Dre’s “Beats Headphones” – conceived as a way for the mainstream audience to hear all of music, instead of listening through cheap headphones, Beats takes advantage of the “Dr Dre” branding and charges twice as much for headphones that are half as good as some alternatives. But still people pay for these headphones, not because it will improve their musical experience, but because it adds to the image of “having money to waste”.

For me, buying brands has never appealed. If I were to buy things that represented how rich I was, it wouldn’t be classed as bragging. I don’t need to navigate my way through the dark crevice of Hollister in order to find a jumper to keep me warm this winter. And as he emerged from the depths of Hollister, wearing the new red jumper, the world finally accepted him as one of their own. And that’s what it all comes down to – our impression on others. In almost every human is this innate idea that when we die, we will live on in the memories of others. And so we do everything we can to be accepted by the others, because they are the ones that will remember us. People react in two ways: they try to be accepted, or they try to stand out from the crowd.

And despite this, I am a slave to consumerism. I buy new clothes almost weekly and don’t wear 90% of the tee shirts that I own. Christmas is my favourite time of the year, because I love spending money and having money spent on me. I own an iPod Shuffle, an iPod Touch, an iPhone, an iPad and a Mac Mini. Do I take responsibility for this? Do I blame others for making the same mistakes as me? No. Because this lifestyle should not come so easily. Things are not built to last. We are sold 2-year phone contracts because the contractors know that after two years, that phone will be obsolete – whether it is physically deteriorated or simply outdated, we will require a new one. And this brings me to my final point.

How can Apple still be unsustainable? Seriously.

Apple revolutionised the technology industry, taking everything done before and redefining it. And after the iPhone, there was a big question to answer – “What next?” Maybe instead of wasting time recycling the same design with new products, Apple could design a product that will last. Imagine if, when faced with a “hardware error”, the user could open up the phone and fix it themselves. Or, when the processor in their Mac became outdated, instead of buying a new computer, they could just pick up a new processor and keep the rest of the components. Most rival companies will have these features to some degree. But maybe that is the future.

Introducing Project Ara from Google – the future of smartphone technology and hopefully the downfall of Apple. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQjGBEEiejU


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