Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ induces cringing grimaces as you’re forcibly reminded of hairstyles, relationships and wardrobe decisions of the past – whoever decided this feature clearly never opted for the side-fringe of the naughties. Unlike what Facebook assumes we want to see, most of us prefer to shed remnants of our past lives in search of new things to define the next era of our lives.
We have the same relationship on a compact level with items that exist in our lives on a more temporary basis, like the box our sandwich came in for lunch, the receipt from the petrol station and the bottle that held the wine had with dinner. But unlike past employment, people and fashion choices, these packaging pieces are specifically designed to last until the moment you allow them into your lives, never to be thought of again – unlike life-defining moments which will continue to haunt you in the sleepless moments of 3 am.
The things we chose to keep in our homes are now seen with a similar level of transience, although on a longer time frame than their packaging, particularly with the break-neck speed of technological development. The unrelenting cycle of upgrades for bigger, faster, higher definition, means that we readily enter into the unspoken agreement to spend upwards of a grand for any piece of tech that will be obsolete in a matter of years. The household technology of a smartphone, tablet, laptop, tv at the average price of £1k a year and their respective upgrades of 2, 3, 5 and six years each will set you back an eye-watering £12,000 each decade spent on technology per person – and that’s not for the higher spec models. Add on extra paraphernalia like smart watches, VR sets, games consoles, and you’re looking at a whole years salary of that ten years on technology alone. That’s not even factoring in market push factors where the newest model has a feature that allows you to justify a premature upgrade.
Even our attitude to cars has had the same mental shift. The most expensive products in our lives second only to buying a house, once had the same ‘for life’ rationality and would be upgraded by hand when things started to wane. However, with new financing options, you can now buy a car on lease for a couple of years to hand it back in exchange for the latest model in the future. With house prices putting the property ladder out of reach for many of the younger generations, it now makes more financial sense to spend little and often instalments for cars and technology rather than property.
The products in our world no longer cater to the permanence of things, and it is shifting our mentality to favour the disposability of materials, products, and technology. At least we don’t lay awake at night thinking what we should have said.