Changing my Relationship with Online Media and Consumer Products
My goal for the next 7 days is to change my relationship with online media and consumer products.
More concretely, I will avoid consuming any online media which contains product advertising. This will be achieved in two parts: by installing “uBlock Origin” in all my browsers, which takes care of programmatically-inserted advertising; and two, stopping following any YouTube channels or podcasts which include embedded ads in their content.
I'm not considering here the system frame, where there is merit for how ads have enabled high-quality content to be available for mostly-free on the web by enabling creators to sustainably put time into it. I'm simply considering my own individual frame and setting up an experiment for myself to see if I can simply ignore all the ads-included content and simply lead life without caring for it.
With the above in mind, my goal for the next 7 days include not watching and not being presented any ads and towards that goal I will systematically cut down any product, media or surface that attempts to deliver me ads.
Now for the second part, consumer products.
My assessment is that, more often than not, I start my reasoning from having decided “the product I want to buy and have” and then I come up with the “imaginary reasons I really need this product and how my life is improved by it”. I want to reverse that arrow.
Consumer products are tools for enabling us what we want to do and how we want to live. For example, if I don't want to spend my time washing clothes by hand, there's a wide selection of washing machines; if I want to start a woodworking hobby, there's some woodworking tools I will need to acquire to get started; and so on.
Notice this reasoning starts from the individual's own desires and wants, to only then select the product that might best help the oneself to achieve that goal. I want to be very explicit and intentional with that arrow following that direction for the next 7 days.
Now, for the decision process when I do decide to acquire a consumer product. There is always a price/quality trade off. You can choose to buy a very cheap product from a unknown brand, which has been designed to have the cheapest components possible and to be very cheap to manufacture; or a more expensive product from a reputable brand, built with high-quality components, but which carries a “brand-name premium”.
There's advantages and disadvantages for both choices. My reasoning is, if I can get away with the cheaper product, I will get the cheaper product. Common situations where a cheaper product might be enough are:
- If I have never purchased anything from that product category, I'm unsure it will be useful to me, so I want to “cut my losses” in cases I don't end up using it.
- Products I use very infrequently, so that it is more economical to simply replace the product when it is damaged or unusable.
- Products for which failure is inconsequential, as they are not required to perform important tasks and thus it is acceptable to wait for them to be replaced.
But there are also situations where the more expensive, higher-quality, brand product will be the best option:
- Durable goods, such as kitchen and laundry appliances, in which case high-quality products save on power, prevent headaches and save time for other activities.
- Products which are used on a daily basis or very frequent manner, in which case the frustration and worse experience of a lower-quality product is not worth going through.
- When I have already purchased the cheaper version and gotten bitten by it's lack of quality or reliability.
- For important or critical tasks, such as tools required to perform work or enjoying some activity, when I have verified the product will be both useful and used.