Space Ramblings

The iPhone Status Symbol

It isn’t news to anyone that consumerism drives people to equate happiness with objects, particularly short term and short life gadgets. iPhone owners brag how much they can get done with an iPhone, but if efficiency was the object, they wouldn’t be standing on line for hours to buy one or swallowing Apple’s activation boondoggles or buying a phone that will take out a sizable chunk of their salary for some time to come and that with Apple’s track record, will have a short lifetime anyway. None of this is efficient and none of this screams, “I’m a getting things done kind of guy or gal.”

Of course the iPhone really isn’t about getting things done. It’s an expensive public status symbol, a way of elevating yourself above the hoi poloi who walk about with their Motorolas and Samsungs. the iPhone is the new Blackberry and the old Twitter, a great way to waste time while showing off a technocratic status that is trendy without being nerdy. Apple’s great achievement under Steve Jobs was to make early adopting hip and trendy and of course even more expensive than ever. While plenty of gadgets and software has gotten people to wait online in the rain, they were usually geeks or teenagers. By contrast the iPhone, like most Apple products, fuse the needy trendiness of the graphic designer with the concept of a nightclub for owners of a trendy product, giving us the Apple store.

But what’s the use of anything trendy that doesn’t come with an extended waiting time? Being trendy means being exclusive and it means someone has to be kept out. And that’s how you get the artificial shortages, the lines, the hassles, the screwups and even the calculated rudeness. After all Apple isn’t really selling you a product, they’re selling you the “Apple Experience”, the experience of a consumeristic elitism. For a generation that sneers at luxury SUV’s and 6000 dollar suits, the iPhone fuses the same social exclusivity and hassles of the luxury item with a calculated hip appeal meant to defuse the antagonism toward consumeristic fetishistic narcissism.

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