Why are we so in love with gadgets?
In Britain, we spend millions of pounds on gadgets every year. Our houses are filled with pieces of cool technology and the latest appliances, as well as fun little novelty toys like remote control helicopters, or miniature camper vans.
Whether it’s the latest VR headset on the market, or something that reminds us of our childhood, we’re obsessed with buying gadgets, but what makes us love them so much?
1. Gadgets remind us of our past
We all have that childhood memory of the best Christmas present ever – you had begged and begged for that Chopper since August and finally your parents gave in and bought it for you. It was a simpler time – you had no mortgage to think about, no in-laws to visit, no boss to keep off your back. It was just you, the Christmas holidays, and the open road.
2. Gadgets make us look busy and successful
Everyone wants to launch the most ridiculously advanced product possible; it’s why so many tech companies pour so much money into developing things that aren’t remotely ready to be launched to the public yet (see Amazon’s drone delivery service and try to imagine it working in reality).
The products that they do get round to launching, however, make us look good too. We look like we have money to spend, an eye for a great product, good taste, and a desire to do more, much faster. These are all attractive things, and play on our primal need to appear fast, strong and productive. Having a new laptop is kind of like bringing the biggest, toughest looking sabre-toothed tiger back to the village.
3. Gadgets allow us to do things that were previously off-limits or even impossible
Wired magazine’s 10 best gadgets of 2015 were a very mixed bag, including the most advanced drones money can buy and ultra-desirable 4k HD TVs. Both represent two key aspects of what makes a gadget successful – one allows people to simulate what only a helicopter TV crew could achieve previously, and the other is an improvement on a product we all use daily.
Technology is about exceeding expectations constantly, and it’s why VR is taking off in such a big way. Once the stuff of science fiction, it’s a real thing now. We surely can’t be that far off hologram phone calls?
4. Gadgets help us to fulfil a deep, psychological need to belong
One major reason why we all desire the latest gadgets, and why Apple’s many fanboys and fangirls queue for hours, is that we like to have the same things as the people we spend time with and admire.
It’s called social identity theory, and was first developed by social psychologists Henri Taijfel and John Turner in the 1970s. There’s a part of our brain that makes us want to distinguish between groups of people, as well as choose one to be a part of. For example, Android users and Apple users – Android users identify with other Android users and look down on Apple users, and vice versa.
5. Gadgets solve problems we didn’t realise we had
Some gadgets solve problems that we didn’t even realise were problems – mainly in the form of USB-attached desk ornaments and existing products in miniature form.
These ‘pointless’ gadgets aren’t actually that pointless. They take a problem we’d never considered before, and package the solution up in a way that makes us smile. It’s the main reason why Secret Santa continues to flourish in offices throughout Britain.