Did you know that the light bulb was originally built to last much longer than it does? Apparently, the technology and lifespan was created to be more than 1000 hours pushed into the marketplace as the standard. The Phoebus Cartel put pressure on manufacturers to keep the longevity of the light bulb limited. They basically became rich by strong arming the industry into not allowing innovation and competition to thrive. The idea was to intentionally make a poorly designed product to stop working as a way to sell more units.
A term was coined for the concept of creating a product to become inoperable after a specific time period: “planned obsolescence.” The idea took hold and the 1950’s spawned a new generation of goods under a time constraint. The demand for an item is inherent when the product will stop working and new one is needed. Hence, this provided marketers with an essential way to spur on sales with the illusion of a better product always right around the corner.
Everyday we are bombarded with notions to replace the poorly created goods we already have for other poorly created merchandise, without a second thought. There is always a newer product that will help take away the inconvenience of the one we already have that doesn’t appear to function properly. Is it any wonder that we have no idea how to have lasting relationships?
I’m not saying that marketing or even planned obsolescence is to blame for our inability to connect on a deeper level. However, the world we live in does influence us and if we continue to substitute one bad item for another, well you can see how a slippery slope can be created within your psychology.
If a person has a personality quirk, makes a mistake, gets sick, older, or even just says something we don’t like, it is pretty deeply ingrained in American culture to simply find another person. We even have relationship concepts for this like “starter marriage. ” But the problem I have with this replaceable notion of relationships is the same that I have with planned obsolescence: where is the personal responsibility of the individual to make sure they are really getting something better?
It is one thing if you end a relationship (for just about any reason) and learn from it, grow, and integrate changes which allow you to pursue someone of higher calibre. It is another thing (read: unhealthy) to ditch one relationship only to find yourself in the exact same dynamic you were in the last time it didn’t work. This is essentially planned obsolescence in relationships.
Individuals are not taking the time to put in quality emotional work into understanding themselves, research their own patterns, and then seek a relationship that reflects a higher level of integration. Instead, they just swap one bad relationship for another and then complain about it. This is a lament we hear daily if it is not about a piece of technology equipment it could easily be about someone’s romantic partner.
Want to avoid planned obsolescence within your relationship? Here is what you do, it is simple really, it just requires a bit of self honesty and effort. You decide that what you expect from yourself and a relationship is of more worth and higher quality than before. You make a conscious choice to examine who you are and what you want, then you look at ways to better strengthen yourself and interactions, and then you actually get to know someone and see over time if they meet your standards. Finally you decide to more fully invest within the relationship.
It is a process and not necessarily an easy one at that. It is easy to fall for the shiny marketing of a quick new alternative relationship. However, I assure you that waiting for quality understanding within yourself and taking the time to learn more about the other person will allow for a much higher level of satisfaction and longer relationship lifespan.
And just for information sake, planned obsolescence still exists today often seen in examples likes printers, ipod batteries, and yes… still for light bulbs.