Discover more from Walk On
How to get happy with an older iPhone
This is my iPhone. It's an iPhone SE 2020. It's two years old, has a scratch on the bottom left, and you can get it for just over 200 euros in refurbished stores.
Not so long ago, this iPhone was a top model, Apple's flagship iPhone that turned heads; it was the "most advanced iPhone ever made", as Apple likes to frame it.
(To be a bit more precise, iPhone 6 was actually the head-turner a few years before, the iPhone SE 2020 is based on this model.)
I could be very lucky to own such an iPhone. What difference does it make that the iPhone SE 2020 model is a few years old? It hasn't gotten any worse. Or has it? Certainly not in absolute terms. But relatively. There are better iPhone models out now, newer ones. With larger displays, better cameras, faster processors. But is the price worth the difference? Should you spend more than 1000 euros more for such a brand-new phone compared to my just two years old one? Not to mention the ecological aspect.
There is only one serious answer: No. And yet so many people buy the newest, expensive models. And to be honest, I also think about buying a newer one from time to time.
Why is this? Why can't we be satisfied with something good? Why does it have to be the better, even if the better isn't that much better, but is significantly more expensive?
The answer may be: Because we are social beings. Because we compare ourselves.
The thing is, we compare by what we see now and not by time, by what was and what has changed.
What do I mean by that?
There is so much progress we can be thankful for. Flushing toilets, transportation opportunities, medical progress. But we compare our lives with the lives of others nowadays.
I suppose that's typically human. We are social beings. We live in groups. We compare ourselves to people within this group.
That has its downsides. Especially in a world where we can compare ourselves to anyone and everyone around the world. And since we tend to compare up and not down, there are always a bunch of people who live a better life (and have better iPhones).
There is the so-called Easterlin Paradox that explains this human behaviour.
Richard Easterlin was the first economist to study happiness data. The paradox he expressed first (in 1974) states that at a point in time happiness varies directly with income both among and within nations, but over time happiness does not trend upward even though income continues to grow. It is the contradiction between the point-of-time and time series findings that is the root of the paradox.
In other words: People who are among the less wealthy in society are less happy. But the same absolute wealth at an earlier point in time (when society as a whole was less wealthy) would have made them happier.
Why is this so? As indicated above, comparison is tightly focused on what we have right before us. We are usually not comparing ourselves to people in, for example, 1822, when things were a lot worse.
So, the comparison with the (often not so) good old days can help us to be more satisfied. On the other hand, isn't it also a good thing that we always strive for the better? After all, that's what created prosperity in the first place, right?
So the solution might be to strive for the better without always comparing ourselves. But can we?