Is Josh a Digital Monk?

In this post from earlier this week about thirteen years of TPM reader emails, I offhandedly mentioned that I’d been using the same desktop computer (same model at work and at home) since 2006. And since then more than a few of you have written in to ask how that could possibly be – a guy who makes a reasonably good living, works on a computer basically everyday and lives and breathes in the world of technology goes almost eight years using the same computer?

Well, narrowly speaking, yeah. I did. And if it hadn’t been that Apple finally stopped supporting these 1st generation Intel-based Mac Pros with their second to most recent edition of the OSX operation system, I’d probably still be using them. But I need to take this moment to say that this creates a pretty false impression of me. At least in one respect.

One key is that these were really high-powered machines back in 2006. So they were still pretty powerful even today.

But outside of desktops, when it comes to mobile, I’m an arch-, almost shameless device consumerist. I’ve owned multiple iPhones and either three or four iPads, basically each major iteration of the product.

I justify this to myself by noting that I’m principally a publisher and I need to be up to date with the most cutting edge devices because something like a third of TPM readership is now mobile. Which is true. But really it’s just an obsession with novelty and aesthetics and technology and that abstract thing, consumerism. The desire is so great that it even leads to transgressions in my marriage, by which I mean that since we’re both on the same account with ATT iPhones, I use my own biannual upgrades and grab hers too. All to keep myself at the tip of the consumer mobile device spear at relatively low cost, wreckage in my wake be damned.

Oh yeah, another thing, I get myself really big monitors, another indulgence.

But I wonder if this is so unique. The desktop is sort of an established thing. They get faster, yes. The drives get bigger. There are some new features and the screens get sharper. But basically, if your work computer runs your basic applications reasonably fast, is there any need for something new?

Mobile on the other hand really does keep changing. And in addition to changing, device culture – for lack of a better word – really is changing our whole culture and I suspect even us in ways that are not obvious or widely appreciated. Someone told me a while back about a whole literature that had grown up about how the whole concept of masculinity and the consumer culture that was built up around it had been profoundly affected by the device culture. Basically, for men who live in the culture of urban America, big cars and loud motorcycles are losing relevance (something that seems to be borne out by sales data) compared to technological devices.

That may be just as much pop culture nonsense as the next theory. But there’s no question that ubiquitous connectedness to information and other people, single device centrism (how so many basic functions can now be tied up in a single device) and the new gestural language of tablets and smart phones really is changing how we experience a lot of the world.

So, that’s the story. I’m actually a slave to technological novelty, my one major vice. But as I think about it, it’s the constant change, that transformative character of the device world, that keeps me locked into Apple’s planned obsolescence consumer gulag.

Is it the same for you?