Needs Versus Wants

Necessity? Phone by Mark E Tisdale
Necessity? Phone by Mark E Tisdale

It’s been two months since I had a full-fledged iPhone at my disposal. And not only has it been a cheaper two months, it’s been an oddly liberating experience. I’ve read about various people taking digital sabbaticals over the past year and honestly wasn’t moved to try it for myself. You see, I do like gadgets. I love that my entire music collection fits in the palm of my hand and can go anywhere with me. I love that entertainment I actually enjoy is as close as my nearest laptop or PC. I barely watch regular TV anymore. Who wants to be locked into a time slot? And, I love that I can send emails and messages through a variety of mediums to friends around the world. The point is that I’m unlikely to turn Amish any time soon.

I became one with having email in my pocket at my old job when we got issued blackberries. The novelty was nice and to an extent it was freeing because I could run an errand and not have to play catch-up later. It was when the iPhone 3G came out that I directed that concept to my personal life as well. And it is neat to be able to email a friend wherever you may be, look up the answer to some obscure piece of trivia that crosses your path in day to day life, but I’m not sure that’s nearly as liberating as some commercials would lead us to think.

For me it wasn’t about trying to re-gain some sense of freedom, it boiled down to economics. I simply didn’t need to pay $80 a month for cell phone and data. When I examined it, it didn’t make sense to me. Was I getting anywhere near $1,000 worth of entertainment a year? Does anyone need to know I’m sitting at the theatre about to watch a movie? Or will the world stop revolving if I don’t answer a message until I’m home? In my current situation working for myself, the answer is no. I don’t think anyone is less likely to buy a print or license one of my images for some purpose if I answer their message a little later. If that time mattered, perhaps they were too much on the fence to begin with! And certainly my friends and family will understand a delay, one hopes!

The first few weeks was literal withdrawal. I was never a four-square type person. I never posted my every movement, but I did often post if i was about to watch a movie, just before I put the phone on silence. And the first time I sat down to watch a film I think I had the digital version of a junkie withdrawal. I watched several phones around me glowing, taunting me. Their owners were updating their friends. Sigh! And then I noticed one in the theatre that never shut off the entire movie. From the coming attractions to the credits, this guy had his phone out, typing away, reading messages. And I couldn’t help wondering why on earth he bothered coming at all!

I was never remotely at that level, but my slight twinges of regret quickly faded and now, I know it can wait – whatever I have to say or share can wait until I’m at home or somewhere with free WiFi at least! And I was sharing that outlook with a friend the other day and they informed me that they needed their phone, they needed that data plan, etc. Well, I won’t tell anyone how to live their life, what works for me might seem a major imposition to another, but I do think we could collectively do a better job of defining our wants verus our needs. I need air, food, water, shelter, etc. There are things I simply won’t survive without.

And there’s a nebulous dividing line where things become wants. I do want to have a cell phone (pay as you go now) so that if I’m on the side of the road, I can call for help (yesterday as a matter of fact!). It certainly makes life much easier, but it’s still not a necessity. And some folks may legitimately “need” a plan like I abandoned to earn their living, entirely understandable. But some folks want to have the latest gadget in their pocket so they can send messages to friends 24/7. They want to post that they are the mayor of the local fastfood restaurant.And, I’m good with that, just don’t tell me it’s a need.

So, have you regressed technologically in any area? Is there something similar that you thought was a need that you later identified as a want and abandoned? Have you ever taken a digital sabbatical? I don’t think I will, but I couldn’t have foreseen abandoning my iPhone a year ago either! Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or in the forum!

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