So Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

About two weeks ago I sprung for a new iPhone. The reasons and justifications for this purchase are not important and, to be honest, largely suspect. What is important is that I have traversed the chasm between “God, am I sick of hearing about iPhones” factions and landed squarely in the “have you heard about my awesome iPhone” clique.

But, what I love best about my iPhone is not the apps, the cool swipey interface, the 3G networkativity or any quite so tangible or understandable feature. So far, what I like best about my iPhone is being seen having an iPhone. It is through intense efforts of will that I don’t constantly point out to people who do not have an iPhone that, unlike them, I do have an iPhone.

I am not proud of this, but neither am I alone. As I had suspected all along, one of the best things about adopting the fancy new tech, though not quite so fancy and new as it once was, is being part of the cabal. And, lest you feel inclined to hop onto your high horse and ride around bespeaking the greatness of you for not being such an ego driven chamberpot of self-satisfaction, I daresay that this is almost certainly a driving motivation for virtually every technophile.

As you sit there thinking what a fool I am for buying into the cult of Apple, and how your Zune has so many better features without being a badge for conformity, I dare you to stand there and deny that one of your favorite things about not owning an iPhone is not being a person who owns an iPhone.

When I show you my iPhone, and you show me your Zune, you will almost certainly derive only pleasure when some disheartened and stormy expression navigates the landscape of my face upon discovering some function that my cult-box can’t do. You derive joy not from the application alone, but from my lack of access; from your own perceived superiority. Just like me.

It’s not like I’m cracking some hidden and heretofore unexplored psyche of the human mind. To have where others have-not is as fundamental to the human condition as men thinking about breasts or women wishing men would stop looking at their breasts all the time.

I just don’t think we technonerds have historically been quite as willing to accept that our meat-brain flaws are the same ones shared by BMW owners and pharmaceutical executives. If you have ever wanted an easy explanation for why console war is even a meaningful phrase, I offer you the best possible evidence. The deep and entrenched desire to identify superiority through possession. This isn't cortex and cerebellum humanity here, folks, this is down and dirty amygdala kind of stuff.

Despite everything people might say, I think those proselytizing Xbox owners, the evangelists who seem to invest themselves in ownership, really do on some level want PS3 owners to feel bad about their purchase, or vice versa. It is as plain and obvious a thing as a sunrise or an episode of Two and a Half Men.

I hate to be all Molly Ringwald from the Breakfast Club, but let’s face it, sitting at the cool-kids table of technology is a weird kind of power trip. When it comes right down to it, there’s no good reason, for example, to rush out and buy the latest $600 video card or the fanciest new mp3 player, except to be able to say that you have it. When it comes right down to it, there’s pretty much no reason for me to have an iPhone instead of a sensible base model except status.

We don’t talk much about geek status, but don’t kid yourself. It’s there. Hell, chances are if you’re reading this then you’re already in neck deep.

I have this strange daydream. Should you encounter me on the street with an unfocused wistful gaze aimed nowhere in particular, perhaps absently looking at women's breasts, there’s at least a reasonable chance I’ve been consumed by this particular musing. In my mind’s eye I travel back in time to, say, 1982. I show this person what the future of technology looks like, maybe a really cool game cutscene or an app on my phone. They are dazzled and amazed. Their eyes bulge with desire and their mind is literally blown by the crisp visuals, the furious bending of data and the sheer efficiency of what they have seen. And then, they are forever ruined on the substandard technology of their own time. Mission complete to my satisfaction, I return to my own era and leave them with unfulfilled dreams of what will be.

I do not think I’m the only one who has dreamed up this impossible scenario, and if I am then maybe all of this says more about me than it does about every one else. I’m sure most people will want to rise above the degradation of what I am suggesting. No, you may say, I am more elevated than that. I derive my pleasure from the purposeful ownership of equipment that facilitates my professional and recreational desires.

Thing is, I just don’t buy it. I think ownership is as much a source of our desire as the function of objects themselves. I don’t even necessarily believe that it’s such a bad thing.

I’m just saying, the next time you buy a new piece of technology, or lust after some amazing gadget that has little practical application in your life, give yourself just a moment to consider. Is it that you want the thing, or you want a thing that others do not have?

Comments

Pages

May you burn in hell for that title, Sands.

Rat Boy wrote:
May you burn in hell for that title, Sands.

Cummon. You totally wanna zigga zig aaah!

When I got my iPhone a couple of months ago I did feel empowered in a way because I had one and everyone else had the crappy flip phones. One of the things I was most excited about was showing it off and amazing people with all the things it can do.

As a couple of months passed, that urge to show it off vanished a bit. However, I have become so addicted to the damn thing that it rarely is separated from my hand. Almost every part of my life is attached to it in some weird way.

So what you say is definitely true. I have come to the realization (here in the office anyway) that everyone who owns an iPhone keeps it on their desk instead of in their pocket. I guess to show it off just like I wanted to.

I now find myself questioning whether I truly want to friend you up, or if maybe I only *think* I want to friend you up.

Thankfully, I can drown out these questions with mindless pop lyrics.

Given my last name, I have my own supply of these from the same era as this article's title.

Can you tell me?
No you can't, 'cause you don't know.
Can you tell me?
You say you can, but you don't know.
Can you tell me which flower's gonna grow?
No you can't, 'cause you don't know.

Hehe! right on, I recently joined the club and purchased an iSmug too. For two days I went around going I got an iPhone, I got an Iphone to everyone. Then I looked in the mirror and I was surprised at what I saw.... I have sense repented and I am low key about my phone.

Apple is a cult, their customer service sucks balls, and after a hard look at all the other phones out there the only reason why I didn't get another phone is because Verizon (the only comparable network to ATT) did not have anything near it, well short of an HTC phone but I'm not dropping 600 bucks on a phone. I wanted the pre and was going to wait till it stopped being a sprint exclusive this winter but my wife's phone broke so we had to purchase asap.

Now if you need me I will be playing geodefense swarm..

Pharacon wrote:

Now if you need me I will be playing geodefense swarm..

You're such a tool.

I had one for a few days when they came out 2 years ago. And I showed it off left and right. What a trip.

Then I returned it.

I guess it was like free beer.

OH SEAN SANDS NO!

Nice article. This is actually a concept I think about on a regular basis. The idea of ownership as a form of tribal identity. It comes up a lot in every activity I find myself involved in.
I know when I'm out on a motorcycle I can strike up a conversation with any other rider and feel a sense of kinship and group identity. But even within that larger group I enjoy being part of the smaller clique of sport touring nuts. It's fun being part of that larger group and having the more individual identity of the smaller group.
I was actually just musing with a friend last night at the rock climbing gym, he had passed comment on all the extra gear I was carrying around that was specifically for outdoor climbing, and had no use indoors where we were. I half jokingly remarked "It's because I'm too lazy to take it off, and it tells all these pansy indoor only guys that I'm an outdoors climber who just happens to be indoors training. Envy me." I meant it as a joke, but after I said it I kind of realized how close to the mark it was.

I still refuse to drink your iPhone Kool aid though.

Elysium,

Great article. However, I couldn't find myself agreeing with you completely through. Most of the time I don't find myself wanting to "keep up with the Joneses." Maybe that means I'm not actually a technophile. My car, my phone, and my iPod were all given to me as gifts. Only my consoles and A/V systems are my own purchases.

I place a high value on the instantaneous obtainment of information. In this regard, the iPhone is superior to my decrepit Palm Treo 700p. But I still can't justify the purchase. I'm on a family plan that's dirt cheap and so the jump to paying $70 or even $50 more a month is unjustifiable in my eyes. Instead I will live with this POC.
Hell, I can't even open wikipedia without it displaying every single character on its own line. I've repeated that statement to people in the past. Perhaps that's my badge of honor. Bask in the glory of my wonderful pragmatism, foolish mortals!

I think ownership is as much a source of our desire as the function of objects themselves. I don’t even necessarily believe that it’s such a bad thing.

Now I'm feeling you. When I apply this to games, I am all over this statement. Or perhaps I should say this statement is all over me. When I look at my bookshelf stuffed end to end with the beautiful bounty of shrink-wrapped game after game after game, I sigh wistfully and take deep pleasure in the anticipatory notion of enjoying them on some sunny summer day.

Indeed. Me and my friends call it "e-penis".

And, lest you feel inclined to hop onto your high horse and ride around bespeaking the greatness of you for not being such an ego driven chamberpot of self-satisfaction,

There's an app for that.

I work for a wireless carrier, and over the last 5 years, my biggest regret has been this growing immunity to phone's wow-factor. When I first saw the iPhone on the keynote, I drooled, dreamed of the limitless procrastinating possibilities and what not.

When I finally got one on my hands, the sense of child-like wonder almost made an audible poof above my head when it disappeared.

It's an awesome device and when Steve Jobs bragged, back in 2007, that this device was at least 5 years ahead of its time, he was certainly on to something.

While the iPhone is **NOT** the greatest invention since sliced bread, it certainly feels like it at times.

Congrats on the new purchase, I for one look forward to 47 continuous minutes about iPhone gaming on Conference Call #154.

No, you're not the first person to think up taunting people in the past with the stuff of today.

Ghost Of Christmas Future Taunts Children With Visions Of PlayStation 5

You are dead on as usual sir! I am walking around right now with an iPhone, Blackberry, and a Zune. I bought the iPhone even though I have working blackberry with free service from my company just to have one.

I would have owned an iPhone a long time ago, except that I hate AT&T so much that it makes my neck hurt. Also, they don't believe the area in which I live in is worth deploying 3G (even though Verizon and Sprint do) so I really don't want to try and surf the web on a phone and go back to the equivalent of 'dial up'.

When the Pre was announced, I was interested. When it came out, I went to the store to play with it and see what it was like. I ran its browser through the normal stress test of certain sites that I always use when a phone says 'full HTML browser', including sites that I've built myself for work.

I took the Pre home with me that day. I really liked it. And it was fast.

The status thing doesn't do it for me. It never has, for some reason. If the product works for me, then I'm interested. I've never understood brand loyalty, especially the rabid fanboy kinds you find in gaming consoles.

Maybe I'm weird, but I'm usually embarrassed to use my iPhone in public, unless I know I'm around technophiles.
I always feel like I'm showing off when I pull it out.

At least iPhones don't come with those stupid little holsters. BlackBerry businessmen look ridiculous.

But atom, he's already addressed you here: aren't you at least a little proud of your status as someone who (in theory) isn't concerned at all about status?

Clemenstation wrote:
BlackBerry businessmen look ridiculous.

Nothing looks as ridiculous (or sad) as people wearing Bluetooth headsets while eating lunch. They get bonus points if they're eating lunch with their families and still have the earpiece on.

Rat Boy wrote:
May you burn in hell for that title, Sands.
Amen. I'm going to have that f*cking song stuck in my head for weeks now. A pox on you!

You show me your IPhone I show you my 6 years old Nokia with a plan that costs about 90€ a year. I like new technology, I read the tech blogs, I'm curious about all scientific and technological advances, I just don't buy it until the prices are reasonable.

You show me your IPhone I show you my 6 years old Nokia with a plan that costs about 90€ a year. I like new technology, I read the tech blogs, I'm curious about all scientific and technological advances, I just don't buy it until the prices are reasonable.

That's not the point.

The point is that you take power in that kind of statement. Didn't it, just there, give you a little endorphin buzz to be able to show me how thrifty and even-headed you are? Didn't you feel just a little bit superior to me for being a whimsical fool with a hole in his pocket?

It's exactly the same. The point is not the iPhone, it's that power we seek to take based on identities.

You know what'll get any song out of your head?
Bananaphone
I promise.

duckilama wrote:
You know what'll get any song out of your head?
Bananaphone
I promise.

I didn't click on the link, and still the song haunts me. Time to listen to some Jonathan Coulton on repeat until that evilness leaves my brain.

kaostheory wrote:
duckilama wrote:
You know what'll get any song out of your head?
Bananaphone
I promise.

I didn't click on the link, and still the song haunts me. Time to listen to some Jonathan Coulton on repeat until that evilness leaves my brain.

ring, ring, ring...

Ok what really amused me the most when I first purchased my iphones for myself and my wife? In the box was two stickers of white apple logos. I placed them on my face and menaced my wife while crying out join the cult or die!!!!

Did anyone do the unthinkable and place these stickers on their car?

Elysium wrote:
It's exactly the same. The point is not the iPhone, it's that power we seek to take based on identities.
Oh yeah? We'll I'm the one guy that doesn't do that!

Novocain wrote:
I always feel like I'm showing off when I pull it out.

Yeah, me too.

Elysium wrote:
You show me your IPhone I show you my 6 years old Nokia with a plan that costs about 90€ a year. I like new technology, I read the tech blogs, I'm curious about all scientific and technological advances, I just don't buy it until the prices are reasonable.

That's not the point.

The point is that you take power in that kind of statement. Didn't it, just there, give you a little endorphin buzz to be able to show me how thrifty and even-headed you are? Didn't you feel just a little bit superior to me for being a whimsical fool with a hole in his pocket?

It's exactly the same. The point is not the iPhone, it's that power we seek to take based on identities.

I don't need to make statements or purchases in order to feel superior.

I'm innately gifted with a sense of superiority. Any statements I make to others are merely attempts to share my glory with the masses.

I always have to be careful to refer to it just as "my phone" not my "iphone."

Like..I want to say, I'll call you on my iphone, or let me look that up on my iphone. I hope I catch myself most of the time, cuz that just sounds jackassy.

http://www.explosm.net/comics/1797

That about sums this up...

Pages