The Apple Watch v. The Pocket Watch: A Cultural Divide

This article, by nilay patel at the Verge is great and you should really give it a read. It talks about two competing ideals. The “convergence” of all things into a single device (your smartphone) and the “divergence” of all things into more nuanced and authentic approaches that have been handed down from past generations (vinyl records, journaling, film cameras). It’s really a culture piece that focuses on the clash between our desire for unity and diversity. Either that or I’m reading too much into it. Regardless, I hope you enjoy my post inspired by it.

My 1 and 1/2 year old daughter cracks me up. She goes to her toy box and begins pulling out every single toy and casts it aside. Often, she then proceeds to climb into the box herself and scream for help out of the box. It’s a strange sequence of events to witness and I ask myself, “how can she just cast off everything that is meant to entertain her? How silly of her to not be satisfied.” She does the same thing with her food. Most of it goes to the dog, and then she asks for more. I can’t help but ask myself, “where did she learn all of this?” Let me tell you, the answer that I have found is that it’s simply human nature and she probably learned it from me.

I probably crack God up. I go to my phone or my computer and I search for something to satisfy me, I scroll through hoping to find the next neat innovation in tech or that one thing I can’t live without. Then I save up money and I go and buy it only to find that it causes me discard other things, and that in a short time it to will be discarded in favor of something better. How can I just cast away everything that is meant to entertain me? How silly of me to not be satisfied. I am the king of “buyer’s remorse.” I will second guess any purchase or grand decision I make, either seconds or months after making it.

I say all of this because my daughter is fickle, I am fickle, and our culture is fickle. We are torn between unity and diversity. We are striving towards a single purpose and a means to it, while hoping that our mustache and suspenders help us stand out from everyone else. It seems to be simplicity v. authenticity, minimalism v. creativity, moving forward v. looking back, and the techie v. the hipster.

We don’t know what we want. We just know we want it to be better than what we have. Is better more sleek and refined or more rustic and battered? Is your dream house a “smart home” in NYC or a log cabin in Tennessee? Do you prefer an Apple watch or a pocket watch? A Keurig or a French press? Evernote or a Moleskine? An EV (electric vehicle) or a muscle car?

Chances are if your anything like me, the two are not mutually exclusive, and believe me, that is not lost on the companies that vie for your money. It’s why Apple has leather bands for the Apple Watch. It’s why Evernote and Moleskine teamed up to create a journal. It’s why Starbucks sells K-cups, drip coffee, and French press. Politicians know it too, It’s why you have the slogans “Make the 21st Century a New American Century” and “Make America Great Again.” We long for what is new and simple as well as for what is time-tested and complex.

So what have I said? Well, not much. You see in this case I simply provided a list of things and opened your mind to the reality you live in and choose to participate in. The motives for this mindset are very spiritual and postmodern and perhaps someday we can hash those out. But for today I’ve got to go buy something and then immediately regret it.

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