(Affiliate links included in this article)
Sometimes I sit around and just get upset about how literally everything is connected to the internet–you know, how everything tech is cherished and exalted as smart if it can access the web in a variety of ways that, though secondary to said tech’s primary ability of functionality, becomes the draw for consumers to purchase it. I’ve seen it all, friends. I’ve seen refrigerators with access to Facebook. I have agorgeous PlayStation 4 Slim I bought for my wife for her birthday last year, and an Apple TV we got with our internet package when we moved into our humble apartment. As the only two entertainment systems that are currently plugged into our television, I realized something the other day and exclaimed to my wife: “We need to sell our Apple TV.”
It started to weigh heavy on my soul that I had two juicy pieces of sexy tech that, you know, did the same exact thing. Gah. We really should have an Xbox One if we were really content to have two electronic bricks of 1080p hi-definition escapism, but the Apple TV is nothing but a sleek black brick reminding us how stupid we should feel for having it and two iPhones that all have the same. Exact. Applications. Did I mention that we also have all of the same entertainment apps on the PS4 as well? Why do we have so many freaking machines that do the same exact things? I’m a techie, a total nerd, right?? Or at least I thought I was. Maybe I’m not truly one because I’m complaining about being a consumer and consuming things. I reckon it’s the frugality in me being in the place I’m at in life now. Bills pile up and the reality becomes too real!
I second question myself often. One minute, I can talk about how modern technology is slowly piecing the world back together–from three-dimensional printers achieving impractical but sustainable methods of housing the homeless, to figuring out accelerating healing agents to combat global sicknesses better than we ever have in history–and the next minute, the man in the mirror is giving me a guilt-trip for owning a smartphone. It’s a strange relationship I have with technology, yes. There is, however, a decent amount of technology that actually makes me feel a little more comfortable about ownership and consumption. Self-expressive smartphone protectors and hyper-functional, industrial-level Otter Boxes, for instance, speak for themselves. I have zero qualms owning and purchasing these aides, and personally recommend them, because I’m the guy with the butter fingers who drops everything right into somebody’s toilet. No matter how out of range or improbably it would seem to accomplish such a daunting task. Pro-tip: Otters are a Godsend.
With or without phone cases, though, I am easily distracted. I could spend hours in Instagram without looking up anything dirty; I’m simply a visual learner. I could scroll down other people’s comments on Facebook about the latest superhero movie casting flop and not even contribute a comment myself because I’ll be so entertained for so long; I enjoy the insight of others. I’m a horrible multi-tasker–which may itself be myth (the action, that is). The Matrix wasn’t too far off from the truth–all we need is a little distraction from what’s real, and we won’t budge an inch or question our own environment. Sometimes I think we’re all so mindlessly “jacked in” that the only course to take now, natural or irregular, is progression. Look at household appliances: they’re now “smarttech” for no other reason than the fact that, well, they can be. You’d be hard-pressed to find a normal ol’ DVD player without the darn thing itself containing some sort of map-interface to pre-installed smart apps.
So here’s a question: if you have a PlayStation, a Xbox, a flat-screen, a blu-ray player, and an Apple TV, and they all run the same apps like Facebook, Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix….which are worth keeping and which are not? Here’s my advice you didn’t ask for:
1. Ask yourself why you have these things.
I get it, you love technology. So do I. And you might be the stereotypical geek headed into the fourth decade of his life with no woman or parental independence with which to validate your social manhood. Maybe you’re an introvert who would only rather ever talk to others over an Astro A50 Wireless set of gaming headphones and an insanely smooth internet connection. Perhaps you’re satisfied and feel justified having burned through seemingly never-ending school semesters so you can finally come home straight to burning your eyes with digital gaming pleasure without hearing your parents tell you to finish your homework first (and those same parents still currently live upstairs). Guess what? I’m not here to lessen you as a person; after all, you’ve probably never hurt a soul in your life, and the high school heroes who were drowning in social acceptance back in the day would probably kill nowadays to find the time to just sit around and game–and if you’re real smart, Twitch it up and make a buck doing it. No sir, I’m not here to question your manhood. I am here to challenge you, though. At the end of the day, just ask yourself why. Most of you will have a fantastic answer, and you’ll need one throughout the years to validate the physical isolation. Yet, maybe once your answer sinks in…you will find yourself less and less dependent on the promises of an escaped reality and not reach the point of discovering a gaming addiction (which, in contrast to most non-gaming parents’ beliefs, is an uncommon thing). From one gamer to another, I’d implore you to not find your purpose in playing games. Invent them, collect them, learn about them and from them. But even as your number one hobby…your eyes need a rest. Who knows, you might even go on a “digital detox” for a weekend and reflush.
The stupid thing about budgeting is that it’s stupid. Why is it stupid? Because it requires time and self-control. Two things I don’t have time for. So if sounds like by recommending budgeting I’m simply telling you to grow up a little bit, you might be right. Listen to me though, if for only a moment: the stereotypical gamer as mentioned above is the consumer market’s perfect target, because they know he’ll pay $60 for the digital download of the base video game, $60 for the (first) season pass, and another $40 on day-one DLC. Who pays $180 for a $40 video game? Mr. Kevin-Smith-from-Die-Hard-4 above, that’s who. And he makes every purchase without so much as leaving the comfort of his seat. GameStop might as well go bankrupt in this guy’s mind. So, what happens when you budget? You become freaking aware of what’s actually in your wallet. You’re conscious of your dollars, your financial input and output, and maybe freak out a little bit when you realized you spent $4,000 on Resident Evil 7. Here, you’ll want to take action to get rid of that sick feeling in your chest. It starts with working up some self-control about your spending behaviors. What items can you sell, whether you’re a collector or not? How can you get your money back after the purchase? There’s no refunds on digital downloads–buy the physical game instead, or use GameFly and save literally hundreds on games you’ve been looking forward to playing all year. But you have to put money aside for your tech hobbies. It’s not just video games, here. How many 4K Blurays do you purchase each month? On top of Amazon Prime Video? On top of Netflix? On top of Hulu? Look at your internet usage and see if your smartphone is really worth the dent it’s putting into your wallet. How about your internet service? Research abundant alternatives like Cricket, and, depending on your region, local deals based on your monthly income (i.e. here in Anchorage, Alaska, tech company GCI has a program called “lifeline” that, if you meet certain financial requirements, will reduce your monthly smartphone bill to, quite literally, a dollar. And that will make budgeting even more easier. Seriously, you’re only hurting yourself if you’re not looking into these things.
3) Become charitable.
This is likely the inevitable third step in the progression that starts with simply asking yourself why. Once budgeting kicks in and you get used to having extra money at the end of each month you can justifiably use as pocket money or put in back into savings accounts, you’ll get so used to having extra money that you will probably play around with more ways to make it–namely, giving away what you no longer need anymore. Sure, there are some jokers on Craigslist who will rip you off and ask you for off trades and impractically low reductions on your asking price. Put it out there, anyway. Who knows, you might just need to give it away anyway, free of charge. The point is, you’re reducing spending, clutter, and helping another guy or lady out by blessing them with what you’ve previously been blessed with. The cycle is addictive and before you know it, you’re have your eyes back. You’ll have your brain back. You won’t be “jacked in” 100% of the time. Best part about it? You’ll still be the same ol’ hyper-geek you always were. You just won’t have to suffer for it any longer.
Keep these things in mind. We don’t always have to be jacked in. Technology is literally the worse ever….if we allow it to be.