“Nerds!” people shout from the passing cars, but you just grin and bear it. After all, you’re in line for the newest [iPad/iPhone/iMac/pick a shiny gadget], and you get to test it out before anyone else. For many geeks, this is our idea of a fabulous time. We bring along dice games, card games, board games, and friends, or else a portable gaming device to keep us entertained. We camp out in front of the store the night before, and drink enough caffeinated beverages for a small army.
When the store opens, there’s a mad rush (or an orderly file, but more commonly the former) to the display of gadgets, and before you know it, you’re home and playing with your new gadget. (Or doing so while driving – not recommended under any circumstances.)
After we get home, stay up another twelve heavily caffeinated hours playing with the new gadget, we post frantic reviews on our blogs, Facebooks, Youtubes, and Twitters as fast as possible so as to be one of the first to review it.
Aside from the hit to your wallet, have you ever stopped to think about the impact of this geeky gadget mania? Sure, I love having a new electronic toy before anyone else as much as you, but like everything, there has to be a hidden price tag. Let’s take a look at the social impact of our habits.
The Impact on Manufacturers
Thanks to the pressing demand from us, they continue bringing out new, shiny gadgets on a regular basis. They build their business around “new and improved” goods, and as a result, they try to convince us we simply “need” this new gadget.
How much money are companies pouring into advertising their new, shiny doodads that have three extra functions and an all-new, upgraded memory chip?
Does this encourage manufacturers to continue adding bells and whistles, rather than improving the core functionality and tweaking things that don’t sound so nice or understandable in the ads?
Is this an inevitable slide to a “profit grab” where manufacturers realize that more new gadgets equals more money and start pumping out gadgets to try and capture market shares, without really solving any more urgent crises?
And what about the sheer human impact? You probably anticipated that I’d mention the suicides that were allegedly related to poor working conditions at the factory where iPads, among other gadgets, are produced. That kind of issue certainly can’t be underestimated.
The Impact on Stores
Now, let’s look at the next link in the chain of consumption. Manufacturers ship the products to stores, which sell them to the public.
Truck drivers have to deliver the products to stores all across the country. Security guards have to keep them safe. Store employees have to work late nights and early mornings, sometimes even full nights, to get the product displays set up and host “launch parties” for the gadgets.
There are mad crowds, fights to break up, tears, and a lot of stress. It’s exhausting if you work in a retail store that sells the newest gadgets, and you’re likely to be screamed at by an upset geek who waited all night only to find out that the person ahead of him in line took the last one.
How much of this is due to geek gadget obsession? Well, when was the last time you saw people lined up for a block to buy the latest, newly-improved, ultra-awesome toilet paper that was released today? I thought so.
The Impact on Consumers
Finally, there’s us. You might not feel like you’re being taken advantage of or put-upon – in fact, you probably feel thrilled whenever you can follow the live news feed or Twitter hashtag about a press conference announcing a new, upgraded thingamabob.
We all know that there are crucial things in life like air, water, food, friendship, love, and all those sentimental or biological things. Yet if asked what possessions you’d take to a desert island – and let’s be honest here – a lot of us would probably name at least one gadget, if not more.
Is this geeky gadget mania screwing up our priorities, or is it okay to spend the money if you have it (in other words, am I just being a technology-hating hippie)?
Do you feel happy when you have the latest gadget, or are you feeling like it just creates the drive to always have the newest, biggest, fastest, best, shiniest gosh-darn thingamabob on the block? I can raise my hand here… I remember when I bought an iPod Nano just before they released the new edition. I was crushed. I immediately started saving up for the new one.
Maybe this is just encouraging us to be consumerist and focus on money so we can afford the latest gadget that we think we absolutely need. Is that healthy for us?
Food for Thought
So… at the end of the day, is that geeky gadget really worth it? Maybe you don’t intend to stop lining up for new releases, but at the very least, it’s food for thought about the hidden costs of our obsession with gadgets.
Do you think we’re at least in part responsible for the increase in consumerism, and the negative effects of the geeky gadget mania that’s so common in, particularly, North America? Or is it all the manufacturers’ faults? Or is it not a problem at all, and a simple byproduct of our society or the type of economy we have?
One more thing – do you like these types of (hopefully!) thought-provoking, borderline philosophical articles, or would you rather have more “normal” geeky articles about anything from manga madness to video game vendettas? Let me know, I’m listening!