Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Modern Age Gifting

I have noted before how consumerism has turned material gifts into a completely wasteful affair whereby someone spends their hard earned money on buying me a gift whose manufacturing depleted precious earthly resources, involved several species going extinct, and forced human slaves to work under unearthly conditions. Only for me to go "WTF" and immediately pass the gift to the nearest [charity] bin.
Most other humans seem far more delighted than I am with the act of receiving material gifts, which does cause me to ponder where it is, exactly, that I stand from the crowd on this one. My latest gift seems to have provided some insight: Expertise is a key factor.

Allow me to explain with a short example. As people go, I am an expert in gadgets. I know my smartphones, to point at one specific niche in the galaxy of gadgets, and I have a firm opinion on each and every common model out there (to the point you can tell what phones I do not have an opinion on are worth). Now, for argument's sake, let us say you're terribly generous and decide to get me the smartphone many claim to be the best out there at the moment - it certainly won accolades for having the best camera for a smartphone: the Google Pixel.
If you gave me one of those, thinking you're oh so generous and expecting me to be eternally thankful, you would probably be totally surprised to find me annoyed/angry at this gift. And not because I think you shouldn't spend so much money on a gift (which I do, but that's not the point); instead, it's rather because I'm holding views that the bulk of society considers eccentric and most cannot even imagine concerning privacy. As far as these peculiar views concerned, I would not touch a Google device (or a Google service, for that matter) with a stick. Not even a very long stick.
In other words, I would never - ever - even consider using that precious gift of yours. And it is all down to the facts I know my gadgets and I know how and what Google does with information it collects from Android users.
To make a long story short: Buying me a smartphone is a dangerous idea because I am an expert in this area.

Sure, you can still give me a smartphone and win my eternal love if you happen to buy me the smartphone I actually want. But what are the chances of you actually hitting that G spot by accident? And what are your chances of doing that before I actually do so myself?
The sentence "don't even think about it" seems to have been contrived for this purpose.

When all is said and done, the above does not mean you can never buy me a present I like. It just means that you shouldn't buy me a present belonging to my area of expertise.
So no, don't buy me a smartphone. But you can certainly find tons of video games lurking at the fringes of my areas of interest; to name but one recent example, it is only through a friend noting how great the PC game Mini Metro is that I grew to anticipate its iOS arrival (and what a great iOS game it is!). Similarly, there are entire galaxies of excellent books out there I'd love to read if I only knew of their existence (but please, don't get me ebooks with DRM).
To conclude, in this age of relative affluence gifts are no longer measured by their monetary value. Your Google Pixel might cost a grand but, through sheer anger, holds negative value for me. The true gift, I therefore argue, is not in the fact that someone spent tons of money to get me something. Rather it is in the fact that someone opened my eyes to a corner of the universe I was entirely oblivious to up to that point.

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