We live in a very connected world: most people own some device or another that keeps them linked to a social network of people around them. The technology that we use to keep us connected is being developed and updated at such speed that it’s hard for us to keep up. The real question at hand is, do we really need to keep up with the latest gadgets?
French philosopher Denis Diderot nearly lived his entire life in poverty until Catherine the Great, the emperor of Russia, purchased his entire library. After he received a large sum of money for his library, he purchased a scarlet robe, and then proceeded to make other purchases that were by no means necessities, but luxuries he couldn’t afford previously. Making such impulsive and reactive purchases is referred to as the ‘Diderot Effect.’ The Diderot Effect embodies, in essence, the process of how obtaining one new possession can lead you into a spiral of consumption.
In a society centered around consumerism–where having the newest and shiniest toys is a means of social capital–we are all, at times, victims of the Diderot Effect; however, do we have to be? This raises the question to as to whether or not having the latest technology is a necessity or a luxury. Says UTSC student Julien Gonsalves, “In today’s day and age, I think it’s a necessity; it helps with networking and keeping in touch with other people like close friends or family. Another student, Carmina Santos explains, “(It’s a) luxury because of planned obsolescence; I think older devices are still just as good.”
We have to wonder if age has anything to do with this reliance on technology, as many would claim that millennials have a penchant for being more technologically connected. Digital analyst Brian Solis claims that age is not a determining factor when it comes to the degree to which one relies on technology; furthermore, he posits the existence of a cohort within society that does not have age as it’s common attribute: Generation C.
Generation C–C standing for ‘connected’– contains people of all ages, who integrate technology into their daily lives. The growth of Generation C is a good indicator of people’s transition towards believing technology to be a necessity. We need the latest technology to keep up with ever-advancing software and to maintain an interaction with others. Generation C is the technologically driven consumer, who feels a need to always be connected. On what kind of lengths one would go to to obtain latest technology, Gonsalves states, “I wouldn’t wait in line or spend an obscene amount of money. I prefer to wait for sales and try to find a middle ground between the latest and the most economical choice.”, while Santos says, “I wouldn’t stand in line; I might possibly spend more money than I have to if it’s something I really want.”
Smart phones, computers, and tablets are beginning to be seen less as fancy toys and more as a central part of our day-to-day activities. Michael Rowe, senior lecturer at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, acknowledges how much of a driving force technology is in today’s knowledge society. In a university setting, computers are everywhere; most North American homes have access to the Internet. A study conducted in Turkey showed that 42 per cent of young people suffer from nomophobia, the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. If we feel a need to be connected at all times, it makes us much more likely to invest in the latest device that allows us that instant connection. This combination of planned obsolescence and rapid technological development force us to invest in the latest hardware. On whether or not they bought technology to fit in, Gonsalves shares, “I used to when I was younger. I bought a PlayStation 3 to fit in with my friends, but now, not so much” and Santos says “No, I don’t care enough to bother with that.”
Technology was once seen as a luxury, but it is rapidly becoming a necessity. Even video game consoles, which were once seen as the ultimate technological luxury, are now a way for people to make a living through different online media platforms such as YouTube. We live in a very connected world, and because of this, we have to pay a price to keep up with the advancements.