You Can't Have Your IPhone and Eat It, Too

Our bare necessities now include Apples you can't eat.
Pick one.

America, our priorities are all wrong.

According to a recent CNBC survey, about half of Americans have cut spending on items including food, travel and health care to buy technology. Our bare necessities now include Apples you can't eat.

According to CNBC's All-America Economic Surve­­­­y, the top way people say they save for tech is by reducing spending on restaurants and movies. Twenty percent say they cut back on clothing, 11 percent say they buy less food and 10 percent say they spend less on health care. Asked to prioritize expenses, 39 percent said they would make sure to send the mobile phone check, compared with 20 percent who would pay for television services and just 46 percent who would pay the credit card bills.

We're out of fashion, hungry, sick and in debt, but at least we have our smartphones.

Of course, the survey, of 805 adults from Sept. 25 to Sept. 28, records what people say; it doesn't reflect actual consumer spending data. And we are notoriously bad at describing our own behavior. Yet accurate or not, the responses reflect the insatiable desire for tech products (the newer the better) -- especially those promising constant connectivity.

According to the Pew Research Center, as of January 2014, about 90 percent of American adults had a mobile phone; 58 percent had a smartphone; 32 percent owned an e-reader, and 42 percent owned a tablet computer. In the consumer tech space, consumer demand is framed as human "need."

Let's just be clear: We need to eat; we don't need a watch with an app that tells us how many calories we've consumed.

Obsessions have consequences. Technology addiction has been linked to poor sleep, stress and other health problems. (So don't abandon that health care plan for an iPhone 6 just yet.) It also seems to make some people jerks.

For some time now, many Americans have accepted that experiences, not things, are the secret to happiness. Are tech products the exception? Or do we really have such profound experiences through our two-dimensional screens that our gadgets become agents of transcendence?

Maybe for some, but not me. I'll gladly suffer through a case of technology FOMO in exchange for a delicious meal out.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

    To contact the author on this story:
    Kirsten Salyer

    To contact the editor on this story:
    Frank Wilkinson at

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