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Jealousy is a strong emotion-one that doesn’t always get talked about. It’s also a powerful weapon in the tech-marketing arsenal: There’s even a new laptop named “Envy.”

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” Theodore Roosevelt once said. While it’s tempting to get the latest or greatest, you can choose to opt out.

Origins of Envy

According to Sarah Hill and David Buss, evolutionary psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin in the U.S., humans feel jealousy because our ancestors needed mates with desirable attributes to ensure their continuation.

It’s not just evolution; it’s the people we see using high-end tech devices, who glamourize the new and exciting features with every glossy upgrade. In a 2007 study at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, 77 percent of a group of 1,152 university students said they’d try something that was endorsed by a celebrity.

Gadgets are marketed through commercials, endorsements, product placements in TV and movies, and even on bus shelters. It can start to feel like a new gizmo will upgrade your life.

Power Down

Recognizing tech envy, and taking a day or two to consider a potential purchase, will help you make conscientious choices about what you buy. Before making a decision, ask yourself what’s really essential. Examine your true needs and preferences before buying, especially if the item is expensive. Phil D., a second-year student at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, says, “When I bought a tablet, I thought it would be easier to carry and could substitute [for] a laptop. But it couldn’t do everything, and I ended up buying a laptop as well.”

Here are some benefits of avoiding the urge to upgrade:

  1. Save cash. You might not need something new. Janice P., a first-year student at the College of the North Atlantic in St. John’s, Newfoundland, has an older phone, but says, “My phone can do what it’s supposed to do: talk and text!”
  2. Protect the environment. Consider what happens to your old devices. According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association’s 2012 National Cell Phone Recycling Study, only 12 percent of Canadians recycle their old phones.
  3. Be savvy. Companies often make only minor changes between “generations.”
  4. Be efficient. Focus on one or two items that serve more than one purpose. For example, buy one smartphone instead of a camera, phone, MP3 player, calendar, and e-reader.

Learn to feel content without every new device. As they say, material objects are not the key to happiness.

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