My trip to London last weekend was bound to be stressful, what with the funeral preparations and generations of Brits lining up to pay their final respects to the Queen. However, London wasn’t as somber as I predicted given that the lines outside the Apple Store were just as abundant. Filled with stressed, impatient tech fanatics waiting for the iPhone 14.
“Yes, I bought the iPhone 14 lol,” a fellow St Andrews student jokingly texted me, “what can I say, I love capitalism!”
Interestingly, despite purporting little to no new features, apart from the usual vague camera and screen improvements, the iPhone 14 is doing prosperously on the market; wait times for a new phone are 4-6 weeks. Moreover, Apple’s selling of both the iPhone 14 alongside the iPhone 14 pro, a device so large I’m not sure it even still counts as a phone, has only bolstered these rapid-fire purchases.
So, why, at a time of national tension, when inflation is permeating our supermarkets and the world is in general disarray after the Queen’s passing, are people still so desperate for the new iPhone? Despite the public 2020 lawsuit posed against Apple that accused them of purposely decaying the battery life of their older phones, an accusation they actually admitted to, consumers are still playing into Apple’s capitalistic hands, purchasing every new item they produce, despite the guarantee of their item’s eventual decay.
The chain of capitalism and brand-dependency fostered by Apple isn’t unique to them; companies ranging from shoe stores to watch and jewelry lines are also making bank out of returning customers, up to purchase a slightly different version of what they previously bought.
2021 research points to retail therapy as being very much a thing that exists; the dopamine hit we receive when purchasing a new item, no matter how useless or repetitive our purchase is, alleviates symptoms of low mood and depression, as stated by DNP psychiatric mental health nurse Beth Gabriel.
The DSM-5 even includes an entry on compulsive shopping, called oniomania and defined as an unmanageable urge to buy new items. The overwhelming sadness and lassitude that permeates the global sphere, a universal sense of depression, can be pointed to as a solid reason for the spike in consumer culture and the maintenance of the chain of capitalism upheld by companies like Apple.
Regardless, the iPhone 14, like many other expensive products, are flying off the shelves not just in London but across the globe with fervour. Even the Queen’s funeral wasn’t enough to detain the consumers for a second, despite the fact that buses, tubes, taxis as well as other necessary services like hospitals and pharmacies were closed during my weekend in London, out of respect for the queen. This is particularly surprising in light of the devaluation of the pound; the pound has plunged to the lowest value it has had since 1971, perhaps prompting an even more rowdy perusal of consumer culture.
In short… Consumer culture is ruining us and we are all, myself and the rest of the St Andrews community included, its pawns. Hopefully a future focus on benefiting global mental health, so we have other options than ‘retail therapy’ to turn to when we’re down, will put an end to this cruel consumer culture but, honestly, I doubt it.