A Generation of “Stuff”


Matt White

BY MATTHEW WHITE

Evesun Staff Writer

I was a humble child – not because my Dad wanted me to be and certainly not because I wanted to be – because I grew up in the eighties.
In the eighties, technology was indispensable and expensive. Not the Vain, “I must have the next generation of iPhone TODAY!” expensive; just in general due to their proximity to innovation, something we egregiously take for granted today.
There was no such thing as “disposable” in the household that I grew up in. My grandmother would use paper towels then drape them over the dish rack to dry them like some folks do with cotton terrycloth hand towels. Likewise, zip-lock bags were rinsed out and left to dry for re-use, and plastic silverware was washed and put back into the box for the next gathering; a custom which I never really understood – why not just use silverware?
The children of today – including my own gaggle – live in a disposable, plastic world. They’ve grown up knowing nothing different. To them, there is no real value in these gadgets much more than two weeks after they get it, even if after pining for weeks or months – only to be distracted by the next best thing that comes along. Now, it seems we adults are no different. We ogle over glossy black gadgets that allegedly make out lives simpler, if not better.
I assume that the clever ways of the marketing think tanks made it impossible for us to pin-point exactly then this trend started, a kind of absurd “Jedi mind trick” we “consumers” are all under the influence of, so that we’re unable to recall waaay back when things that  lasted more than a year was “a thing.”
I applaud folks who possess the powers of “tech abstention.” Those who have the ability to bypass the system of cyclical obsolescence. My buddy Shawn Magrath is one such super-human. He has managed to find a way to wade through the swampy jungles of the smart phone marketers, ad campaigns and enticing offers.
Shawn has a squeaky old flip-phone (gasp!) that he has been toting around for roughly the past five years, which is pretty amazing considering that it itself is made of cross-linked Chinese polymer and screws no doubt made from recycled sardine cans.
So, I envy Shawn; he’s younger than I and has never used a so-called “smart phone” – yet, Shawn has a masters degree in Educational Technology. He must know something the rest of us do not. Go figure.
Personally, I’m saddened that society has chosen the path of instant gratification and pacification over being able to cherish and hold onto things. We’ve become so addicted to life in the fast lane that we need everything instantly, even if it means we don’t physically own anything in the end.
An example of analog life trumping the digital daze  is obvious when my children marvel over our family photo albums. There was a time in my life when I would take a dozen rolls of film to the drug store for developing. And I was forced to wait. Looking back, the wait made the experience that much more pleasurable… even if the pictures were horribly composed; the experience was almost as rewarding simply because I had four or five decent prints (or 10 if I checked the “doubles” box) out of the 24 frames I shot. I could tack them to a wall or tape them to the inside of my locker: or manage to save a few and place them in a proper photo album in my mid-twenties from my kids to flip through ten years later.

Twenty years ago, when I was a barely a teenager, a quality camera was costly – something you cherished, almost having magical properties. Moreover, a phone was a phone. It was a box that was tethered to a wall that you had to stand next to in order to use it. Call waiting, party lines and answering “machines” we’re all innovations that we were so glad that we had, and thought would be around forever. Those days are long gone, and I know that I’m romanticizing clunky tech a bit, but didn’t we have more of a life back then?

Nowadays, I take a picture with my phone and send it to Facebook so that I can reference it in the future on an electrified screen on a whim. You call it convenient, I call it the cheap equivalent.
I’m no hero, I’ve been duped into the same manner of thinking, just as you have. My purchase of the ever-popular Keurig coffee machine about two years ago is evidence. I persuaded myself into it – 70 percent because the box said it was a time-saver, 30 percent because I thought it was a legitimately good idea. I mean, why brew a whole pot?… in this heat?
It took me a year to become completely disgusted with the idea of throwing a plastic k-cup (or two, in my case – I like strong coffee) in the trash for one single cup of coffee. Not to it mention it tastes like dirty water. Have you ever tried filling a thermos with coffee from a Keurig? – if there’s close second for Einstein’s definition of insanity, picture that and then cast your vote.

I went back to the trusty, seasoned Bunn, which makes 12 cups – or one thermos plus a cup for the road –  in three minutes without fail.
I used to believe that I wanted all the coolest and fanciest things as an adult because I didn’t have many of those things growing up – but the more I think about it, the less I agree with that sentiment.
Midway through my life, I’m beginning to understand that less is more and the most beautiful things are drenched in simplicity.
Now onto the real struggle – convincing my kids (who know no other way) to appreciate this discovery.
Wish me luck.