Daily #66: New things

What is it about brand new stuff that humans find so appealing? For the record, I certainly include myself in this group. When the object you’re holding is new to the world, shiny and fresh, you can’t help but feel a sense of triumph and satisfaction.

A new phone, for instance. There’s nothing wrong with your old phone. But you’ve had it for two whole years – not only is it clearly used, dinged and scratched; it doesn’t receive the latest updates, and the camera isn’t as crisp or flashy as the latest model. So you go out and buy a new one. And you love it. The peel of the smooth plastic protector as you take it out of the box. The flawless, factory-smelling plastic and metal of its case.

You savour it, running your fingers along its back, exporing the new software gimmicks and whistles, and taking photographs of nothing and everything. Though the photographs are indiscernible from your previous phone’s, you ooh and aah over their quality and colours. At its core, it does the same thing as the one you already have – but it’s new.

I’m criticising the glorification of new items as someone who subscribes to that way of thinking. I bought my new phone in October 2018 for a fairly large sum, and it was glorious – but I’m already considering what my next phone might be. I refuse to allow myself to buy one until at least two years have passed, and even that would be far too soon to replace a high-end phone.

As a tech-head, this “new toy” feeling happens often. From new peripherals for my PC to more smart-home speakers, all of these products are designed to make you love the feeling of getting a new one. Tech companies like Apple have whole teams dedicated to the experience of unpackaging their products – ordering dozens of test samples, trying every imaginable layout, and changing materials – for the sole purpose of making people crave the unboxing sensation.

An increasing number of people subscribe to the minimalism movement, and disposing of any objects they own which aren’t essentials. It ranges from just getting rid of junk, to minimising their wardrobe to just a few key items. Those who partake in this claim that it helps with how they think; that their clean, uncluttered space helps them think in the same way. I’ve never tried this as I both live with someone else, and have too much for it to be viable, but I can see how it might make things more efficient – not least by way of reducing distractions.

However, I also believe that if having things makes you genuinely happy, then it shouldn’t be avoided on principle. Of course, buying too many things can cause problems, such as reducing living space and putting one into debt, but I would then argue that they don’t, therefore, make one happy. Stuff is okay to have in moderation, and buying new stuff just for the sensation is perfectly normal. I think a lot of people decide their stance is the best, and proceed to criticise what others enjoy.

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