How to get over gadget paranoia?
November 15, 2005 12:13 PM   Subscribe

How can I become less paranoid/crazy about the condition of my expensive gadgets?

I'm the type of person that always rushes out to buy the latest and greatest gadget. Once I have it, I'm very paranoid about keeping it in perfect condition. Once I get it home I will inspect it for hours to find any of the typical defects. Dust under the screen, mushy buttons, plastic bubbles, even the slight mis alignment of the plastic of an iPod will drive me crazy. Once I find an imperfection it's all I can think about it, I can't even stand to use the product.

Once I find a defect or problem with it I freak out. I desperately think of ways I can get a new one. I buy a new one, put the old on the box and return that box, and I have also become a master of the warranty exchange deal. I finally get a new one only to find more problem with the new unit.

I haven't always been like this. I've been through this with countless iPods, the PSP, and lots of other gadgets. The most recent event is the new Video Capable iPod i bought last week. The first one had hair under the screen after a day. Now my second one has other problems.

The Point is I will never get a perfect one and I know it. It DRIVES ME CRAZY THOUGH. What is wrong with me, it still works and most of the problems are things your everyday person cannot even see. This is really starting to ruin my life.

Does anyone have any advice or maybe some tips for me becoming not so crazy over these kind of pointless things?
posted by icespide to Health & Fitness (32 answers total)
You should come to terms with the fact that these beautiful devices you love will eventually get nicks, dents, scratches, and then will stop working. Entropy happens.

They're just tools to let you accomplish certain things.

You should remind yourself of that fact regularly.

You should take appropriate steps to protect your toys (screen protectors, cases, etc.) but if you're so paranoid about damaging them that you're unable to use them, then what's the point of having them?
posted by bshort at 12:17 PM on November 15, 2005

This sounds kind of obsessive-compulsive. Are you like this in any other areas of your life, or just gadgets?

What is about it that makes you crazy? That these are expensive things and you feel the money is wasted if it's not perfect? Is it that you need them to be perfect because you can't not see the imperfections once they are there?

If the imperfection doesn't affect performance, for sure, than I think you have a definite problem. I like to keep my things nice as well, but not to this extreme.
posted by agregoli at 12:21 PM on November 15, 2005

As far as I know I'm only like this with gadgets.

Its all of those things you said that make me crazy, wasted money, I need them to be perfect, etc.

I know I have a problem, but what can I do.
posted by icespide at 12:23 PM on November 15, 2005

Some brief tips from my own experience:

1. Stop reading message boards/websites devoted to this stuff. Just stop. It'll suck all the fun out of these things for you.

2. Buy more cheaper gear, rather than fewer expensive cutting-edge stuff. I have a cheap mp3 player, dvd player, my consoles are behind a generation (well, they are now), I still have fun. And it's not such a big deal when things go on the fritz.

3. Start getting into gadgetry that actually does something. Ipods and PSPs are just for entertainment and have no utility, therefore you obsess over the form of the thing endlessly. Buy a camera, or a power drill.

4. Have more sex.
posted by selfnoise at 12:26 PM on November 15, 2005

I was at someone's house when they accepted delivery of their brand new motorcycle. First thing he did was reach down and grab a handful of gravel from the laneway and throw it at the gas tank.

"there, now I don't have to worry about that"

worked for him.
posted by skinnydipp at 12:26 PM on November 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

Seek help. OCD tends to start in one area of your life and expand. This is not necessarily OCD behaviour - it lacks much in the way of compulsion and ritualization. But if stuff like this is really, really bothering you, it's not a great sign. Talking it over with a person more qualified than random stranger on the internet and getting a professional opinion is probably worthwhile.

If nothing else, the realization that you just saw a shrink over your habit might jolt you a bit in the right direction.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2005

Similar question with some good answers.

I have never had this problem. For me an object's value is derived from how useful it is and how often I can use it (without worrying,) not the condition it's in.
posted by fire&wings at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2005

Where should I seek help? How should I start? I'm not quite sure how to go about that. You see I'm only 19 and have been living on my own for less then 2 years. I'm still new to this life thing.
posted by icespide at 12:36 PM on November 15, 2005

This happens to me sometimes. It's obsessive compulsive behavior, and we all have it a little. As long as it's just a little, we can tackle it ourselves.

Ever watch a movie with an OCD character (e.g., Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets)? Notice how they always end up curing themselves with The Girl? It's cliche, but has some truth. You need something, or someone, to ground you.

Call your family. Go out to dinner. Volunteer somewhere. Do something of personal importance to you and that has nothing to do with your obsession with gadgets. Whatever you do, leave the Unperfect Item behind, but out in the open, where you'll see it when you come back. Come back, observe the item. Reflect on How. Little. It. Means.

posted by deadfather at 12:37 PM on November 15, 2005

Could it have something to do with the fact that you're frittering away your money on garbage when you could be using/saving it for something useful? So you assign higher value to crap than you would normally?
posted by jon_kill at 12:40 PM on November 15, 2005

I go through a process somewhat similar to this with gadgets, but there's a final step that helps. There's the intial "must keep it perfect" honeymoon phase that lasts until the first ding or scratch. At that point I'm sad, but soldier on because I know the next step is coming up: the "beat to hell, but still functional" phase. This is when the device looks well-used, but not broken. This is actually my favorite. It looks like it's actually an object with some utility, rather than a museum piece. I can marvel at the device's durability while still enjoying all of its functionality.
posted by zsazsa at 12:40 PM on November 15, 2005

Look in the phonebook for therapists. I know from my own experience, I like to keep my new widgets as pretty as I can for as long as I can but I don't obsess over scratches and wear and tear. It means I'm actually getting my money's worth from the device.

Or maybe you should buy two of everything and keep one in pristine condition and use the other one?

But I still work hard to keep my shiny toys out of my toddler's reach because his touch is not the gentle kind and he's hell on screens and camera lens'.
posted by fenriq at 12:40 PM on November 15, 2005

Well, life is imperfect.

Ask yourself, "What does it matter if this iPod has a ding in it?" Does it really affect your quality of life in any way if your cell phone has a scratch?

Also, I would advise getting your "beauty" quotient another way. I think you devise some pleasure out of how smooth and unblemished these neato gadgets look like when they are brand new.

Maybe you can instead focus on something else in your house, at least? Get some plants, a fountain, etc. Cheap things that can provide some of that perpetual prettiness that we all need around.

For the record, I have OCD, and I think your problem only sounds like a tendency, not a full-blown issue. The advice about keeping busy with other things is good.
posted by agregoli at 12:43 PM on November 15, 2005

i enjoy beautiful, well-made objects, and can get a lot of pleasure from just sitting and looking at something (i've spent way too much time recently looking at a pair of trainers which are very neatly engineered), but i think the following helps me avoid your obsession (although perhaps not - maybe an obsession is an obsession for reasons way outside logic and attitude):

- i always feel somewhat ashamed that i haven't made it myself. there seems to be something rather empty (morally) in taking pride in something you own that you haven't made.

- there's also a certain pleasure in owning something that's "used". a worn piece of equipment can have its own beauty and history; the scars show that it's used, is important. this argument looks back to the first point: many things are tools, meant to be used, and a used tool is a sign that someone is making something.

maybe this is just a less pithy version of jon_kill's "don't be so pathetic"? i'm saying there are other values, besides surface beauty. being aware of those - even if they are just as arbitrary - gives you more options.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:44 PM on November 15, 2005

incidentally, in more general terms, don't get too down on yourself because of this. a lot of us here have made a living by adapting this kind of obsession to useful ends. consider how far you could get in quality control, for example.... ;o)

(more seriously, some jobs really do require an obssession over detail, and a tendency like this can be advantage).
posted by andrew cooke at 12:47 PM on November 15, 2005

Try making something. Anything. By any means available. This will show you how difficult (that is to say, impossible) it is to make anything that is perfect.
posted by Dick Paris at 12:52 PM on November 15, 2005

Find something creative to do with all that obsessive energy. FWIW well done for recognizing that you have a problem, you're on your way to getting over this already.
posted by teleskiving at 12:54 PM on November 15, 2005

Constantly tell yourself that money and possessions aren't as important as the time you're wasting obsessing about them.

Face the reality that things are fleeting, no matter how much you want them not to be. Therapy is just going to show you that anyways.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 12:56 PM on November 15, 2005

Where should I seek help?

Are you a student? Because your campus almost certainly has a student counselling center that will either help you or direct you to somewhere that can.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:58 PM on November 15, 2005

I am a student, but its a very small private college and I'm not sure about the counseling center situation.
posted by icespide at 1:23 PM on November 15, 2005

Another thing - is this a recent problem, or has it been going on for awhile? I know that I tend to get obsessive over things that don't really matter during times of stress. Are you more stressed now than usual?
posted by agregoli at 1:25 PM on November 15, 2005

Well its only started since the psp which was after I had moved to Atlanta to start college. Its a private college and costs alot of money. I am also pretty much living on loans. Maybe the debt is stressing me out?
posted by icespide at 1:27 PM on November 15, 2005

Dude, if you're living on loans then you definitely shouldn't be buying expensive shiny gadgets.
posted by bshort at 1:30 PM on November 15, 2005

Buy used. Seriously. Works for me with cars.
posted by sohcahtoa at 1:30 PM on November 15, 2005

Well I've been working for the past 6 months so I'm not spending loan money on the gadgets.
posted by icespide at 1:34 PM on November 15, 2005

Hmmm. Someone seems to have deleted my advice.
posted by jon_kill at 1:40 PM on November 15, 2005

You might want to read the AskMe rules again to find out why.
posted by agregoli at 1:41 PM on November 15, 2005

I'm the same way about cars. I'd have a nice, fast car that I took good care of, but when I looked at it, I'd only see a collection of scratches and faded paint and slight mechanical quirks. I found that if I drive a shitty, beat-up car, it no longer matters. So I bought an 11 year old car for $1400 and I'm relatively happy.
posted by knave at 1:47 PM on November 15, 2005

#1: Any abnormalities are "battle scars". This makes it sound exotic and cool.

#2: Once a device is sufficiently mucked up, you can buy a new one without feeling guilty. Anything you can do to hasten this proces is welcome.
posted by trevyn at 3:39 PM on November 15, 2005

No student in debt should be an early-adopter of any electronics.

You are paying a premium for all the R&D and marketing needed to bring these things to market. Any and all flaws will always show up in the shiny new things you have just purchased.

You are also a retailer's nightmare. Your behaviour is likely selecting you to receive the worst service in the places you patronize.

I've had customers like you, and I avoid them like the plague. Chances are that the best and most experienced staff RUN when they see you coming. Your dishonesty in repackaging and returning "defective" products which suffer from normal wear and tear is not going un-noticed , in spite of your supposed caginess. It's the oldest trick in the book, and likely has earned the scorn of almost all the retailer's employees. Ask yourself if this dishonesty is worth it.

The advice to buy used is very sound, let someone else pay for the shorter and shorter product cycles that our throw-away society is creating.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:39 PM on November 15, 2005 [2 favorites]

Buy cheaper stuff. I swear to God, that's the best solution by far. It sounds like it would solve more than one problem for you (guilt, anxiety, consumerism). I'd say that you should change the way you relate to your possessions, but that would be too presumptuous of me. Good luck.
posted by Hildago at 9:00 PM on November 15, 2005

Maybe just don't buy these types of things that you stress over? They are nice to have but not necessities in life.

I also like the buy used suggestions.

This may be tangentially related but do you have an creative outlets? I play guitar and write songs and build guitar amps and am slowly restoring a 72 Buick Skylark. I'd be an unhappy guy if I wasn't, in some form, creating.
posted by 6550 at 9:30 PM on November 15, 2005

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