Clearly there is some hyperbole in the title of this blog post, but as a society we should be more conscious of the real choices we are making in exchange for convenience.
Technology, services and products that save us time, provide broader access to solutions, satisfy our need for instant gratification, reduce effort or streamline processes can be very appealing. There is no question that in many instances these conveniences deliver short term benefits and momentarily boost happiness.
However we also need to be aware of the downsides associated with minimizing effort and difficulty. What appears to be a “no-brainer” convenience may result in more harm than good over the longer term for you (and society), impacting your finances, physical and mental health, relationships and sense of purpose.
A couple of quick examples:
Common Rationale: A car is the ultimate convenience letting me avoid the hassles of public transport or the effort of exercise. A car gives me the freedom to go anywhere, whenever I feel like it. It’s an expression of my personality and success
Some questions we should also be asking: Do I need a car in the first place and, if so, do I need multiple vehicles? Do I need a new car or will second hand car be just as good? How quickly will this “asset” depreciate in value? What’s the true cost of owning a car when adding in maintenance, taxes, running costs and insurance? How is where I live impacted by society’s ever growing need for more roads? Could I walk or ride instead? What is the environmental impact of car ownership? Why am I driving to the local gym and avoiding the exercise I’d planned to do anyway? Why am I sitting in my car to order and eat dinner? How much of my life is being wasted sitting in traffic and traveling to a work destination that requires me to commute?
(2) Smart phones
Common Rationale: I can keep in touch and see what’s going on with all my friends. I have access to the internet and my email. It gives me access to some amazing Apps, online maps, games and YouTube. The answer to every question imaginable is at my finger tips via Google. It’s a camera in my pocket. I can pay for items without needing cash. It’s not cheap keeping up to date but I use my phone 24/7 and can’t live without it.
Some questions we should also be asking: How much time do I waste on a daily basis checking my phone? What’s the social impact of social media on my personal interactions and self worth? Am I compromising my privacy by allowing Siri, Echo and Alexa to listen to us 24/7? Why do I resort to text messages rather than phoning or reaching out in person? Do I really need the latest version? What problem am I really solving by “upgrading”? Can I sit through dinner with my family without checking my phone? Do I really need to answer work emails at 10pm before going to bed? How much am I spending to stay up to date with the latest gadget?
(3) Online shopping
Common Rationale: Amazon Prime is the ultimate convenience allowing me to shop from my couch. I love not having to really wait for anything as purchases get to me within 2 days or sooner. Knowing what other people like me buy and recommend helps me make decisions and waste less time researching. I don’t need to even pull out my wallet as One Click payment makes life so easy.
Some questions we should also be asking: How much of our “needs” are influenced by advertising and desire to “keep up with the Joneses” (or the Kardashians?)? Am I spending more than I intended to because Amazon’s user experience design and processes encourage me to do so? If I do need something, do I really need it so quickly? Does it make sense for me to place 4 different orders in quick succession, just because I can and don’t pay for postage? Could I be supporting local businesses instead? What is the environmental impact of the packaging and expedited shipping?
Pause, think, consider deeply
These are just a few quick examples of three conveniences that many of us utilize daily without thinking. Undoubtedly they deliver tangible benefits but we also need to consider the potential impact on our finances, relationships, health and wellbeing.
I’m not advocating a rejection of conveniences and I do have a car, iPhone and use Amazon. Instead I’d simply encourage everyone to be more intentional about their actions, more aware of choices being made and to think about whether the easy path is always the best path. Our focus on outcomes and speed often mean we miss the benefits of the journey.
Do you agree? What conveniences do you love but recognize that they may not be entirely beneficial? Have you got any examples worth sharing?
As always, thanks for reading
Mr Simple Life