Generation Y and conscientious consumerism

Summary:The Generation Y are often dealing with the "want" to buy something, rather than the "need" to buy something; technologically speaking. Is modern sociology behind the iGeneration consumerism? Guest post

Zack Whittaker is out saving the world again. For the time being, old friend of the blog, Elliot Harrison, who also writes for Neowin.net, is filling in and sharing his personal experiences with spending on technology.

Being a student, it can sometimes be hard to manage, or at least get your hands on money. This statement doesn’t completely negate anyone else from the content of this article however, I am writing it based on my subjective experience.

Summer would have been a difficult time for the average student; there are many festivals to pay for and mass quantities of alcohol to purchase. With that, summer based activities away from the classroom all involve the spending of money. The unnecessary pieces of equipment purchased throughout the year suddenly become useful not for their purpose, but how much they can be sold for.

I had a few expenses to allow for when moving house a few weeks ago, so it was time to trade in my iPhone Touch. I remember feeling a deep sense of fright as I packed all of the necessary pieces back into the box, put it into my bag and sell it in town.

On the way I popped in to see Zack where he told me I would only get about £80 ($144) for the full package. He was right. For a £240 ($400) piece of equipment, purchased only a month or so prior to its selling, the technology had depreciated by £160 ($266). Despite never being taken out of its protective pouch which I bought with it, it fetched only a small amount.

I can understand why this is. But despite my moaning, the price it sold for is not actually my issue due to the fact that the money I got from selling the iPhone was sufficient for my needs. What surprised me a great deal more was the fact that I was literally petrified by the thought of being without the item. The potential ramifications from being without my iPhone for the time felt quite unsettling.

The fact that I even felt unsettled was something which unsettled me more, and actually when I walked out of the shop I sold it in - I felt a slight relief with it not being in my possession any longer. I then considered why I purchased the iPhone in the first place; a nice pair of earphones twinned my BlackBerry would have done exactly the same job. A complete waste of £160 I am sure you will agree.

Indeed, perhaps all of this trepidation is due to my own skewed mindset with regards to the way I consider technology. As a result I have become over-dependent upon it in some manner. In short, I would describe my ‘condition’ as a false sense of ‘want’ rather than a correct sense of ‘need’.

Let me put this into perspective. There has been a dizzying number of occasions where I have walked into a local computer store to buy something singular, to serve the purpose I intended it for, and ended up with a smoking credit card and half a forest in eco-carrier bags.

For arguments sake, say the item is a camera. Sales people are only doing their job, but when I bought my Sony A200 DSLR for my last birthday, I only wanted the camera and the memory card. The case I would have gotten elsewhere. Being in the shop, the phrase the sales person quoted often was, “you will need...”. In the end I left the shop with my camera, a memory card, a bag, a tripod and a lens cleaning kit. All this for a mere £500 or so just to get the gentleman to leave me alone.

Somehow it felt more convenient to get the whole package right there and then, rather than shop around and source the pieces myself.

I have never used the cleaning kit, and the tripod has only been fitted once. The bag was also more expensive than I had ever imagined and wasn’t even the one I wanted.

I believe this issue is true to many of the Generation Y. This fact begs the question:

Is it indeed simply a materialism which makes us buy exactly what we ‘want’ rather than what we ‘need’, or is there something socially wider occurring which has some influence in our decision making processes?

I believe I have the answer, but it is not as simple as pinning it down to one singular culprit.

Not only are we, the iGeneration, to blame for our own weakness and need for convenience (there’s nothing like succumbing to something we want) but the way products are marketed; along with simple social codes are also to blame.

The trick is learning to be a conscientious consumer. I’m not talking about suddenly becoming stern faced and wearing lots of knitwear, while sourcing expert information from a public think-tank.

Instead, the best advice I can give is to seek advice. If you want to buy a new laptop for university think to yourself firstly what you will be doing with it. If the sole aim is word processing, nostalgically storing pictures and surfing the web, you won’t need a massively powerful machine. And yes, anything more than £1,500 for this purpose is massively expensive.

Moreover don’t be lazy. If you can source all of your purchases cheaper from separate places then do it. You’re saving money - if only cents at a time, then surely it’s worth it.

Money in the pocket for that unforgettable night out with friends is much more worth while than wasted money on an iPhone. Don’t make the same mistakes I have, because let’s face it, when you look back on you life you certainly won’t remember the iPhone. But there is a chance you might remember that one night out and smile.

What do you think?

Topics: iPhone, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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