On consumerism and tech waste

Before getting my own iPad, I saw how my boyfriend’s brother in-law used his for everything. They played podcasts at work with it, podcasts in the car, for drawings on SketchBook, among other things. And his was an iPad 2, which meant it seems like the device was worth the investment because of its quality and until now he hasn’t updated to the newer iPad. He had a PowerBook for around seven years before he replaced it with his 17″ MacBook Pro and it felt such an amazing feat for me (when I was thinking my beat-up 15″ MBP was too old after four years).

I got an iPad on June this year, mostly because I really needed to get used to the tablet experience for a freelance job. I’ve been enjoying it and learning a lot. Rumor has it that there’s going to be updated/newer iPads this year or next year and I’m not entirely jumping the upgrade boat unless I really need it.

Honestly, I’ve considered selling my current iPhone 4S to upgrade to iPhone 5 (let’s face it, the changes they made to the phone — even just the huge difference in weight — I thought was a pretty good perk upgrade, aside from the fact that I can convince myself that I needed the new phone as part of my job). The truth is? I don’t need to, really. Not when my contract isn’t over for another year and my own phone, as heavy as it is, is perfectly fine. I can study all the mobile UI that I want with a phone one generation (which sounds far older than what it means) behind. I’m just being convinced that I needed the best and the newest when whatever I have right now works for me just fine.

I see a lot of people jumping this upgrade-regardless-of-need bandwagon though. People have already sold their 4S phones for an iPhone 5 and more will jump that boat — for a range of reasons, and I won’t judge them. I just realize that I don’t really want to be part of that bandwagon unless I have valid reasons aside from aesthetic wants. Our generation’s consumer attitude is fairly scary. Coming from a university with privileged students, I have seen a lot of them own tech things that they don’t really need (i.e. MacBook Pro’s that they would mostly write papers and fill spreadsheets vs. multimedia work that maximizes the higher-end specs). I myself have sold some old phones to be replaced with the new but I always, always wonder what happens to the hundred, thousand other old phones that have been sold in Greenhills or second-hand somewhere, and where the older devices go, and the devices older than that. What happens to all these tech — waste, as I would think of it — when a number of people I know (and more in the richer countries) discard (or resell) devices less than a year old for sparkly, new ones?

How many people think of how this wave of consumerism and our demand for cheaper, premium technology affects laborers in China? Or how it affects our way of living, and how we budget our own expenses? I don’t want to be the type of person who lives in excess just because I can. I think there is a humbling lesson to be learned if I can live with what I actually need and not just with what I think I need.

If anything, that means I can splurge more on my travels. :P


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