It’s Just Stuff

Dustin Curtis, while giving Vizio a hard time about their marketing, hits on a very important and relevant issue:

People stopped buying computers based on specifications and features years ago. All computers sold now are practically identical in functionality. Today, people are increasingly buying computers the same way they buy cars: to define themselves.

That’s an interesting and very touchy thought, and I mostly agree with Dustin. I realize this is a very deep and personal topic and I am not going to give it the justice it deserves in this one post, but it is a topic worthy of consideration. It is the topic of people trying to be defined by their stuff. It is the consumerist culture. It is something that Chris and I talked about on his latest episode of Creatiplicity, and it is something that came out strongly in Mat Honan’s vulnerable CES article.

You can tell a lot about a man by looking at the sort of car he drives, the grill in his back yard, the phone in his pocket, or the computer in his office. But there is no right or wrong answer here — bigger and more expensive stuff is not at all synonymous with good character and high moral values. In fact, sadly, often the opposite is true.

Instead, look at how he (or she) treats his family. What is his character like? Look at his relationships and his beliefs and how he spends his time. These things — the metaphysical, the intangible — they are the true extension of the soul.

I may drive a Jeep because I’m a Colorado boy at heart, and I may own a charcoal grill because I like things “pure”, and I may own Apple gadgets because I have an affinity for fine software. So yes, you can tell a lot about me by the things I own. But they are just that — things. They can be stolen, broken, taken, and lost. They should never become distractions to the things that matter most, nor should I ever allow them to define my character, my relationships, and my beliefs.