Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is the iPhone a Symbol of American Materialism?

Written by Nathan Hale, associate producer

First, I just want to get a couple things out of the way: 1) I believe in paying for quality goods. I like to spend my money of stuff that worth spending it on. 2) I am not an Apple hater. I have great deal of respect for the design ideals and innovation that comes from the company and its famous CEO. 3) I love cool gadgets. Seriously. That said, there are a number of things regarding the culture surrounding the iPhone--especially this latest version--that trouble me.

On a fundamental level, the sheer number of people who are willing to invest hours of their time camping out for a first-chance at grabbing an iPhone is nothing short of disturbing. I can understand waiting in long lines for rollercoasters (it's a relational, rare thrill-ride) and even some movies (again, there's a communal aspect that adds to our art culture). But a phone? A phone is just a tool. It may be well designed (I stop short of calling it art), and it may be a superior product compared other options on the market, but surely there better things to form large communities around.

When Apple was making niche products, this kind of behavior made more sense, but now Apple has been part of the mainstream years. Standing in long lines to get the latest iPhone seems to me to be less about being part of community and more about getting the latest-and-greatest gadget. The shiniest new toy. The next great thing to allow me be "social" 24/7. The thing that will impress all my friends. Sorry, but that's just shallow.

Virtually all those that stand in the lines to get the newest iPhone already have a perfectly capable older model. The upgrade is certainly significant, but it is worth the time and money? Does anyone (other than professionals) need to take HD video on their phone? What about the greater speed and high-resolution camera? Is it at all needed by most people making the upgrade?

I'm not saying the device isn't cool, or isn't worth buying. I'm not even saying you shouldn't buy the iPhone 4. If you want it and have the money, and consider it a good investment, then go for it! What I am saying is that we should all consider what's behind our buying decisions. I'm convinced that too many people (myself included) are buying the iPhone and other electronic devices out a desire to be defined by their things, rather than their actions and principles.

The emotional attachment people clearly feel, the compulsion they have to constantly have the most cutting-edge object, is more than just appreciating quality and wanting to buy a good product. I find the whole idea particularly troubling when I consider the question, what else could I do with 16 hours and 200 bucks?

Just a few things that come to mind:

· Add to my emergency fund

· Create a work of art

· Sponsor a child for 8 months

· Volunteer 2 hours a week for 2 months

That's just off the top of my head. I know there are more and probably even better options--but we have to be willing to view ourselves as people prior to finding our identities as consumers.

How do you view yourself?


  1. Poeple wait in line for the iPhone because apple is brilliant at marketing. They make you believe you need one. However, I think it is dumb that you are worrying about how other people spend their time and money. You should worry more about all the dumb non-news articles on your website such as the mysterious insect found by some guy which is obviously just a cricket. Yes it may not be so normal in this area but I have seen lots of them more south of Abilene. I mean really who cares. Also fix the typos on this site. I hate it.
    -sent from my iPad

  2. Can you believe Bob and victor came in first in the dog contest.