They really only want us to be happy

phone_purseA friend shared an article recently on the psychology of happiness; how experiences matter more to our long-term joy than material items.

Good thing this wasn’t one of those list articles. You know: 17 ways I’d know happiness if it hit me like a city bus. Or a quiz to determine how much of a hipster/vegan/gangsta/foodie, I am. I’d have forgotten it by now. And then we’d have no blog.

This article probably stood out because it was the first thing I read on my newly upgraded phone that is roughly the size of a clutch purse.

No, it wasn’t lost on me that I was reading an article about experiences mattering more than material items on the very gadget for which I’d probably be ignoring my family all weekend.

I’d upgraded to the big phone with the hope I could actually read the thing without glasses, and maybe type better with my big fat fingers. A trade up was also called for since all of the apps on which I’d become dependent were now turning their noses up at my current de facto clay tablet phone, with its puny memory and operating system of yesteryear.

As excited as I was with my new toy, I’m going to go against recommending the “fits and spurts” approach to technology updates I’ve adopted.

Case in point: my car. Just as exciting as my phone, once, with its back up camera and a GPS system that was out of date about seventeen seconds after I left the sales lot. Sure, there’s a fix. Whenever I want, a guy could insert a disk with current maps. For three hundred bucks. Because who doesn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for their car to bark orders like a backseat driver?

So I’ve coped with my out of date maps. Recently I’ve had to forgo using the GPS at all, after programming it at some point for a destination I apparently never reached, before changing my mind, shutting the car off, and forgetting about it. Now whenever I turn on the map, my car wants to direct me to wherever that was, and reconfigures the route and barks new orders every time I turn a direction other that what it tells me. Eventually I’m going to have to either:

  • Find the manual and figure out how to tell the GPS system I no longer want to go wherever it was we were going when I set the thing in the first place, or
  • Take an afternoon to go to wherever it was in order for my car to feel like it’s completed its GPS mission so it can leave me the hell alone.
  • Refrain from turning the map function on at all.

If you’re going to upgrade your technology in a more regular fashion, you also apparently need to avoid staggering the upgrades, or else you’ll discover your shiny new phone that’s as big as a pocketbook won’t play nice with your blog, which has parked its out-of-date butt on an older version of WordPress than apparently anyone has ever heard of (but which is the most recent version your out-of-date computer can handle).

Then there’s that app you wanted to install on your son’s phone to keep track of his driving and social media habits, that won’t actually work unless you buy him a new phone too, because he’s carting around a thing dated somewhere between my GPS system and my obsolete computer.

So, while I like what the guy said about experiences being worth more than material things in terms of happiness, I don’t actually buy it.

What he actually said was we get used to our material things, then we tire of them and they cease to bring us happiness anymore … the enemy of happiness being adaptation and all. Therefore we would be better advised to spending our money on experiences.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,”
– Dr. Thomas Gilovich, Cornell University psychology professor who probably doesn’t have a cool phone.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the sentiment and the excuse it gives for my worn living room furniture and Reagan administration-era kitchen appliances, and general reluctance to shop for anything new ever. I love that it bolsters my firm belief that every spare penny should be spent on plays, exhibits, food, company, travel, concerts, good beer, and comfortable shoes. I’m all about experience over stuff.

(The shoes are material, sure, but try to enjoy all those experiences on ouchy feet, and you’ll see why they get a pass).

But the technology wizards are wise to our psychology. Look at how out-of-date my phone is going to be by the time I learn how to use it, or replace all the other gadgetry I have to order for it to work properly.

Adaptation is not in my near future.

Go ahead and try to plant yourself firmly in 2010, shake your fist at the world and resolve to stick with your outdated phone until it goes back to the earth. Pretty soon you’ll be stuck with a doorstop loaded with apps that don’t work anymore.

And when you do eventually upgrade, because the allure of having a screen you can actually read is too much to withstand, you’ll only be disappointed when you can’t spy on your kid or access your blog stats. It’s a fact.

If one of the enemies of happiness is adaptation, nobody needs to worry. I got years of work ahead of me trying to get my shiny new gadget to cave to all my demands.

I’m all kinds of damn happy.


Your votes make me even happier than a new phone. Click below at least once a day (even if it’s the same post as yesterday).

Thank you.



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  1. It cracks me up how we all started with these huge sized phones and then they shrunk to almost nothing and then the phones started getting bigger and bigger. I\’m convinced that soon we\’ll all be walking around with tablets to our ears. Of course, who actually uses the PHONE functionality on their phone anymore? (I do)

    1. I do TOO. Use the phone thing, I mean. There are teenagers I need to be in touch with regularly who I don\’t think even know the thing includes a phone. They won\’t answer if you call. You must text, message, snapchat or some such nonsense. Gah!

  2. I haven\’t gone the big phone route, but my not even two year old smartphone is rapidly sliding into obsolescence. Pissing me off, I have to admit. Remember when the house came with a phone wired into the wall and you couldn\’t replace it if you wanted to? I miss that. Kind of.

    1. With a long, long chord that was always tangled. As a parent I actually think about how much easier it would be to monitor various goings on around here with that kind of set up, so, yes I do miss it.