The upgrading society

Offer and demand – the key elements of our global economy. Every year there are produced thousands of new technological products and each company tries to convince the customer, that their product is the best. Just recently, Wednesday 20th of February, Xiaomi and Samsung, two of the world’s top leading smartphone companies presented their new high end phones, the Xiaomi Mi 9 and the Samsung Galaxy S10. Faster processors, better cameras, more ram (max. 12 GB for the explorer edition of the Mi 9), more storage, in screen built fingerprint sensors and slightly new software features are the main upgrades. However is it really worth to buy a new phone, laptop, tablet, TV, camera etc. every year because the old technology is outdated and therefore not good enough anymore?

This can’t be right. Even though the companies praise their new products each year as the best ones ever, the improvements aren’t really groundbreaking. Slightly faster processers, higher resolving cameras with better zoom, and a batterie life, that kind of stays the same. Also the software upgrades, like better voice and face recognition or new augmented reality apps and features don’t differ so much from the ones a year ago. So why do many people still make the upgrade and buy new products every year, even if the things they have are still fully functional and working?

Photo by Julian O’hayon on Unsplash

First of all its a status symbol. Owning the newest phone, laptop or car is for a lot of people a way to show others, that they are “rich” and have enough money to afford these things. This urge to be the better and have something other don’t goes even further, for example that some people are camping in front of stores when a new product is released. No resonable person would do this voluntarily. The influence of powerful companies and economy in our lifes spreads out more and more. Of course it’s true, that companies have to sell new things every year and compete with others to survive. Furthermore it accelerates innovation and the economy in industrial countries nowadays, like USA, China, Germany and Japan is flourishing in contrary to the exploitation of humans in poor countries and the awful living conditions these people have to live under (I won’t talk about these terrible consequences right now). Nevertheless the system of economy we are living also puts pressure on us. A lot of the time while are surfing in the internet, scrolling through social media platforms or watching TV, we are confronted with advertisement. The key is to make people think consum is important. Only if you own these new divices, clothes, whatever it is, then you are happy. How is it possible for a single person to resist this urge of buying and consuming and being part of this material society?

In my opinion it’s important to think about it that way: Every time you buy something or feel like you need to get this new product everyone is talking about, back of a little bit and think about if you really need it. Does it deliver value to your life or is it just a short pleasure or something to increase your fictional social status. Do you need it for work, for a hobby or is it just for entertainment.

Furthermore you should ask yourself if you have enough money to buy it. If not, then don’t do it or wait until you can afford it. Accumulating debt especially in young age is very dangerous, because it’s hard to get rid of them. I wouldn’t recommend letting your debt determine your life. According to statistics from creditcards.com the average credit card debt per person in the US is over 6000$. This should make us think about our relationship towards consumerism.

The last question is, whether the upgrade to this new product really helps you getting better at what you are doing and the new features are worth the upgrade, because most of the time they are not. A common example therefore is photography. Many people who like taking pictures and uploading them for example to Instagram are blaming their camera for the bad pictures. However famous photographers, like Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984), didn’t have nearly as good technology as we have today and were still able to take great photos.

Photo from Ansel Adams (source)

Maybe it doesn’t always depend on the technology, but on your own skills and willing to learn something new. To come to a conclusion, buying and consuming isn’t a bad thing in general. It helps the economy to grow, which creates jobs, leads to innovation, international trading and cooperation and much more. However it’s important to remember, that you shouldn’t hop on every new hype or upgrade you’re technological devices to newer once, just because they’re one or two years old. Ask yourself: “Do I really need this?”

Our own relentless search for novelty and social status locks us into an iron cage of consumerism. Affluence has itself betrayed us. 


Tim Jackson – professor, author and economist


Main photo by Andrae Ricketts on Unsplash

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