Sunday, February 24, 2008

Self Analysis of a Self Proclaimed Geek

Lately I have been controlling this urge to buy an Apple iPhone. The people at Apple are very good at designing human interfaces. The phones touch screen interface is bloody brilliant and the phone is simply beautiful to behold. Cost aside, I just can't bring myself to buy a phone that I need to hack to use and need to send back to Apple every time that the battery needs replacement. The open source evangelist in me takes over every time I come across a product that has some kind of vendor lock in and keeps me from purchasing it.

Having convinced myself into sticking with my old Nokia E61, I came to the realization that I love my current phone. I have found the Nokia E61 to be one of the most functionally usable phones that I have ever owned and the fact that I was willing to blow a hell of a lot of money on a new phone that I really didn't need put me into an introspective phase. I needed to sort out why I had this tendency to spend money on things that I really don't need. Maybe buying new things has the same effect on me that comfort food has on some people! This blog entry is my way of bringing to the surface what is inside me. Self analysis is a really difficult thing to do.

What is it that makes me want to buy a new product?

Looking back at gadgets that I have bought in the past, every time I have bought something I have always thought that it would improve the quality of my life in some way, make me happier and make me more productive. Guess what, it never did! What I have now learned from this is that when you have your heart set on something, your mind automatically creates justifications for it. The mind is really finicky in that way, always jumping from one desire to the next.

Advertising is a source of desire and evil!

Yes I like to make my section headings dramatic and will now tone down the rhetoric to advertising is a source of desire. Whenever I have bought a new gadget it has been after seeing an ad for it online or on TV. Companies like you to know they have a new product out and they like to package it to appear all shiny and pretty.

Most ads make you believe that buying the advertised product will make you cooler, make you more desirable and change your life in some way. You know that hot babe in the ad, she doesn't come with the product and there is no guarantee you will bag one such as her if you buy it!

The “Axe Effect” ads are the worst offenders. I pity the poor sod who believes that spraying himself with a product from Axe will get all these hot women to chase him. What about the fairness cream ads? Does the product work as advertised? What is this sick obsession our society has with fair skin! My friends maid spends a major chunk of her salary on fairness cream. That money I believe would be better spent on the small irrelevant things like food, education and housing!

Its all in the packaging people! What I suggest is ignore the hype and look at the product beneath the packaging, its just all just plastic and circuits. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating not buying these products at all, that would be bad for the economy and that would translate to loss of jobs. I'm just suggesting that we make intelligent purchases. See if the product is really needed and then go ahead and make the purchase. For example if you have children, disposing of your old black and white phone and buying a new one with a five mega pixel camera might actually make sense. You don't know when your children will be up to something that makes them look adorable and carrying a digital camera separately with you all the time is a pain.

Companies create a hype and will have you buying the same product again and again!

If companies had their way they would make us re-buy what we already have. I have a big collection of DVD's and these same companies would have me buy the same titles again in a more high definition format. Forget a new high definition format, companies release multiple versions of the same movie on DVD itself. Look at the multiple editions of “Lord of the Rings”, they first released a two disk version and went onto release a four disk version! They released the two disk version first and the four disk version a lot later so die hard Tolkien fans who could not wait to own it, first bought the two disk version and later went on to buy the four disk version which they packaged very well. The movie “Blade Runner” has three editions that I know of – the theatrical version, the directors cut and the final cut. I can assure you that die hard “Blade Runner” fans have purchased all three editions.

I for one am guilty of purchasing the different editions of “Star Wars”. George Lucas, you have made a succor out of me!

Now back to the self analysis of narcissistic old me!

If I sum up all that I have spent on impulsive purchases that I have felt would make me happy, I'm sure that it would be a significant amount that would have been better allocated to something like mutual fund investments. Not only did I fall for the hype but wasted a lot of time researching the tech specs of the product / reading reviews to make sure it was the best purchase etc. This is time and money that I will never get back!

I think this flaw in me of impulsive wasteful purchases comes from the fact that I spend long hours in office in front of a glowing screen working on complicated things. Work is worship but not having the time to do much outside work is also sensory deprivation and also has lead to burnout. In the little free time that I have I try to get as much sensory pleasure as I can. My mind goes on fooling me into thinking that a certain new purchase will help me get the best experience in the little free time that I have. Hey for some people the temporary fix is stuffing themselves with junk food ... for me it has been cool new gadgets and DVD's.

Materialistic pleasures are only temporary. The day the Apple iPhone was released, people waited the entire night in line to be amongst the first few to purchase it. It seems this problem is extremely widespread and says a lot about the direction that society in general is headed. I think we all should make a sincere attempt to live less materialistic lives.

I for one am now making a sincere attempt to list the non materialistic things that make me happy and be truly grateful for them. I just made my first entry today. My niece and nephew are staying with us in Pune for a couple of days. When my niece Vyndhia laughs, she really glows and it makes me feel all mushy and happy inside.