When a new product comes out, we often think that our lives are incomplete without. We become entranced with new products, and then we start to think “how could I function without this smartphone?” “how could I travel without my GPS?” or “I just wouldn’t have felt myself if I wore that dingy old thing one more time. I’m glad I bought this new one.”
Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff, suggests that we are all (by "all," I mean North Americans) victims of a phenomenon called “perceived obsolescence.” Perceived obsolescence is when we think we need something to be in sync with the crowd, but it is really just falling for the latest trend. Perceived obsolescence is the addition of that new, shiny, chrome button on your blouse when last season’s in-style metal for buttons was gold, and we “gotta have it”. It is the difference in shoe length for men - yes, the longer and pointier shoe - because we all know that makes their feet look bigger, and men just want their feet to look bigger! But are their feet really bigger? I think we all know the answer to that.
Many of us believe we will be better humans for succumbing to the pressures of magazine ads and human-mannequins that flaunt the latest fashions. It is subconsciously drilled into our brains that those who do succumb to this pressure become “more than human” because their newest technology allows them to do things no other human could. As a culture, it is pretty common to shudder with disgust at the prospect of “old” in preference for “new.” But this mentality does not benefit us as consumers, it drains our pockets! Perceived obsolescence is really a mentality that renders us all slaves to the market, instead of becoming free agents of our own lives.
Really, I know it seems simple, but again, I reiterate: don’t buy something you just don’t need. I mean, do you really need it? or do you just think you do?