Tech Envy

I’ve been dealing with the problem of Tech Envy for a while now. Last night, I discussed the issue with Becky, and came up with some interesting observations and some new ways of handling the situation.

Envy is a “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage”. There are many people I come in contact with on a day to day basis who enjoy technological advantages that I don’t, whether they are people I see face to face, or people who I interact with online. They’ve got the gadgets that I don’t, and I am painfully (and sometimes resentfully) aware of their advantage.

I’ve always been interested in gadgets and technology. I don’t really know why, since neither of my parents are technologically inclined, and we never really had the money to purchase the latest and greatest inventions. In any case, I’ve had the desire to possess gadgety things for a long time. After a few years at college, I got my first credit card, and embarked on an era of nearly unrestrained gadget purchasing. I bought pretty much whatever I wanted, and managed to rack up a considerable debt. This period certainly did nothing to help my gadget obsession, and most likely only ingrained it deeper into my head. Thankfully, Becky has helped me turn my spending habits around, eliminate the debt, and set up a budget, and for that I’m forever grateful.

However, that hasn’t solved the envy problem. We’re on a tight budget now, and it doesn’t permit many technology purchases. So I have to try to be content with what I have, and not dwell so much on the things I don’t have. Contentment is, of course, one of the most common issues that any human being has to deal with. I do pretty well for the most part. Sometimes, I take comfort in the fact that rather than going out and buying the latest technology, I use my wits to try and make the technology I do have last longer. Other times, I speculate that many of these people who are buying all of the cool stuff are just buying it on credit. Having been in that situation, it’s not one that I envy. If I don’t have the cash to pay for something before my credit card balance is due, then I don’t buy it. It’s that simple. Racking up debt, particularly when you have no plan for how to repay it, is foolhardy, and the gadgets you get in return are certainly not worth it. Even still, the reality is that many of these people who are buying gadgets simply do have plenty of cash to burn. I know that I have everything that I need, and I constantly think about those things and am exceedingly thankful for them. But it doesn’t eliminate the envy.

So I try to manage my envy as best I can, and I’m trying to come up with some new ideas for reducing it even further. One thing I’ve done, since the talk I had with Becky last night, is unsubscribed myself from a bunch of gadget-related blogs on my Bloglines account. These blogs were little more than conduits for envy straight to my desktop. Every day they would release a stream of information on exciting, new technology products that I wanted, but could not have. So the simple fix is to remove them.

As a further step, I am going to make it a point not to surf gadget-related sites unless I have a specific reason to do so. I have always taken pride in my ability to stay up to date on the latest technology news, and there’s no problem with that – I just have to avoid the sites that tend to post more news about new, expensive products. I’ll certainly keep up to date with topics that don’t cost me anything, such as developments in the world of open source software and development, blogging software, etc. Just not the gadgety blogs like Engadget. If people want advice on what gadgets to buy, I will have to be content to make recommendations based on any technology I already own, and let let them know that they are better off checking out one of many fine technology websites or search engines.

Another step I’m going to take is to avoid just browsing through technology stores if I don’t have a specific purchase to make; for example, the Apple Store, Best Buy, CompUSA, etc. There’s no reason to go in there and bombard myself with even more stuff that I don’t need and can’t afford.

With all this being said, I certainly am not going to swear off technology purchases altogether. In fact, I’ve recently been researching the purchase of a camcorder. But rather than making an impulsive, unplanned, unbudgeted purchase, this is a carefully controlled affair. We do not have the money to simply make a purchase like this at the drop of a hat. I’ve discussed the purchase extensively with Becky, laid out a long-term budget plan in order to pay for the purchase, and conducted extensive research into the camcorder market to decide which model to buy. For this process, I am indebted to sites such as CNet Reviews and CamcorderInfo: targeted, specific sites that I’m surfing for the specific reason that I want to make an informed purchase. We are definitely planning on making the purchase before the baby is born, and hopefully with enough time to learn how to use the camcorder and make sure everything is working properly.

I’m starting to feel better already. I feel more relaxed knowing that I don’t have to spend my time reading about and keeping up with technology that I really don’t need, and can’t afford anyway. With any luck, I’ll be able to keep the big green envy monster in check, and devote more of my time to the things that really matter.

4 thoughts on “Tech Envy

  1. Will

    Good luck to you. A while back I took the RSS feeds to my Mac-related blogs and Engadget off of my Bookmarks bar. It lasted… maybe two weeks. I have no doubt you’ll fare better than I did, though.

    Reply
  2. Angela

    Good for you, Peter! This is a tough step, but it really does work. When I was trying to break my shopping habit, I did exactly the same things, so I can tell you from experience that you will be successful. It’s going to be hard at first, but it helps to have someone you care about and goals that you’re working toward. In the beginning, when I found myself desperately wanting something, I used to call Jeremy at work or even stop by so that he could remind me of our goals. He’d also get that “I have faith in you” look on his face, which helped a lot. =)

    There are still places I won’t go unless I have money in my hand and a clear purpose, but for the most part I can window-shop for hours without any problems now. In fact, it’s kind of a hobby for us. You won’t have to give up looking at your gadgets forever, just long enough to break your addiction.

    And soon, you’ll have a tiny little reminder of why you’re not on the cutting edge. I bet gadgets will be the last thing on your mind.

    Hang in there!

    Reply
  3. Peter Post author

    I appreciate everyone’s support. I can understand why you might call it an addiction; many of the steps I’m taking are similar to those you might take if you were addicted to something. However, I really wouldn’t characterize what I’m dealing with now as an addiction to buying gadgets. Any problem I did have with buying stuff I didn’t need (and I wouldn’t have called it an addiction) ended several years ago. I can browse electronics stores or websites as much as I want, and I would never buy something unless I was actually there for a specific purchase.

    The issue now is just dealing with the emotion of envy that arises when I read about people who have the kind of stuff I would like to have, or when I see cool gadgets in a store. I’m not dealing with a compulsion to buy things. If I can remove as much of that unnecessary envy-producing simuli from my life as possible, it will reduce one unhealthy emotion and make more room for healthy emotions like happiness and contentment.

    Reply

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