Experiences vs. Things?

Photo by Kukuh Himawan Samudro on Unsplash

I frequently see people who say that they value experiences over things. I’ve never really understood what they mean. I worry that I am just being defensive because I like things. The statement feels condescending, like I’m some sort of cretin for liking my things. It would be understandable if I got defensive. But I don’t think I am. I think the experiencephiles are misguided.

First of all, it’s a false dichotomy. There’s no reason why a person can’t value both things and experiences. As I mentioned, I like my things, but at the same time, I like going for walks and spending time with my kid and going to shows. I’m living proof that a person can value both.

It gets worse though. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that every thing carries experiences with it. I get a book for the experience of reading it. I get a record for the experience of listening to it. I get a toy for the experience of playing with it. Even the pure collectors are accumulating experience with each thing they get. It might be the experience of the thrill of finding a rare piece or the experience of interacting with other collectors, but there’s always an experience there.

So, it seems that the people who avoid things because they prefer experiences are actually denying themselves experiences. That seems weird. I suppose, even though it’s not what they’re saying, these people might prefer a different kind of experience. They don’t like the experiences associated with things. That also seems odd, and why would they brag about that?

I don’t believe that’s the case, though. I think the people who say that they value experiences over things are really trying to signal something. They seem to be advertising that they aren’t materialistic. That’s fine, I guess. But it’s a weird thing to get snobby about given that typical non-thing experiences tends to cost a lot of money. Vacationing is one of the most common. I’d be happy to experience a vacation, but personally I don’t have thousands of extra dollars. Going on lots of vacations feels as materialistic (in the way the word is normally used) as collecting art or something. I’ll take my $10 book and enjoy that experience instead.

I guess maybe I am being a bit defensive. I just don’t like people suggesting that there’s something wrong with me because I like my books and records and phone and basses. If you like traveling and fine dining and mountain climbing, that’s fine. Have a blast. Just remember that you’re missing out on a lot of really great experiences. And don’t be snobby. Just let me enjoy my own thing-based experiences.

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