Do you really need that?

April 16, 2008

A photo of women shopping

In the digital age, we are bombarded from all directions with social links, RSS feeds, tweets, and all manner of other social media gizmos. We are constantly plugged into the world of Look What Just Came Out That You Need Now messages from friends and colleagues. Oddly, we never stop to think whether we really need that new gadget. Lately, I've been feeling pressure to buy an iPod Touch. A thousand little voices tell me I need it, I can afford it, what will it hurt to just buy the lowest-storage model… but they rarely, if ever, touch on the most important topic: do I need it? As a web worker and an erstwhile member of the “coworking coffee crowd,” I experience near-continual exposure to the Benefits and Advantages of Switching to Mac. I own a first-gen iPod Nano that I almost never use, and that's about the extent of my Apple-ness. So, one voice is telling me to get the Touch because, hey, it's an upgrade over my ancient Nano.

Another voice, from the people in the coffee shop, is telling me - sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly - that Apple is what all the Cool Kids have. I try and rationalize it. The iPod Touch can store contacts. It can access the Web via wifi for free. It lets me view the weather forecast wherever I find a hotspot. It plays music - and doesn't need to be connected to my computer to get new songs. It plays video, and if the rumors are true, Quake III Arena. All things that, as a web worker, I Need. …but do I really? Will my life be any more complete after buying a Touch? I tend to think not. After all, most purchases we make in our lifetimes should satisfy a genuine need. Entertainment, personal growth, and other less tangible concepts can easily be obtained through non-material means. Hiking every month, for example, is a lot cheaper than buying a new video game every month... and a lot better for you, too.

So the next time you're tempted to buy that new gadget that just came out, think long and hard about WHY you need it. The decision may make you a better person. If you have a story about a time when you passed up (or bought!) a gadget you didn't really need, go ahead and share it!