On Nov. 3, the new iPhone X was released into the wild. Chaos and commotion ensued. Whether it was the iPhone “10” or “ex” did not matter to the hundreds of people standing in line outside the Apple store at the Stanford Shopping Center at four in the morning.
I wasn’t one of those people. I thought I had outsmarted all of them, sliding into the preorder, making the first impulse buy of my lifetime. I was excited and invigorated, looking forward to waltzing into the Apple store in the afternoon, past all of the agitated, cold people in line.
At the store, ready to pick up my new phone, I heard these dreaded words uttered: “It seems there’s a problem with your order.” The phone had been shipped to my “home” address, somewhere on campus. Slightly devastated, I returned to my dorm and decided to wait until the UPS delivery made it to my residence.
Hours later, still no luck. The tracking information, which I refreshed constantly, still displayed “out for delivery” … until it didn’t. Suddenly, it presented “attempted delivery – business closed.” Not a single person had tried to deliver anything to my residence, so, naturally, fury ensued. Help numbers were called, hold music blasting horribly as I argued with the automated voice machine to speak to a real human being.
I would have to get to the UPS center off campus between 8 and 9 p.m. that evening to pick up my package, or wait until Monday. By this time I’d committed too much – I had to have it now. So I made it out to the warehouse, 30 minutes off campus. I waited in line to get my order, and when I made it to the front, the man muttered, “Hmm. It doesn’t look like we have your package here.”
Just as I was about to crumble into a pile of defeat, another employee swung round the corner with a small cardboard box. “Ah, here it is!” I clutched the parcel close and didn’t let it go for the rest of the night.
I now realize how irrational the whole thing was. Only after I’ve taken a step back do I see that my anger, frustration and obsession was all for a phone – a square of technology that I am privileged to be able to own. An expensive luxury that will replace another expensive luxury that functions well enough.
In the moment, it felt catastrophic. The world was ending and everything was going wrong. If only I had taken a moment to realize what exactly I was so upset about, the whole thing would’ve seemed silly. Now I laugh about it. I snicker as I tell people the way I acted over this iPhone – my need to get it that day, the first day it came out.
There are so many moments throughout our day when considering our frame of reference could change our perspective. Those small daily annoyances – Starbucks taking too long, an unnecessarily difficult reading quiz, missing lunch even though I make my own schedule – are embarrassing in the big picture.
“First-world problems” isn’t just a catchy phrase that gets passed around privileged groups of people to joke about their struggles. There are many more people in the world who don’t have the same opportunities, who have to fight for food, water and shelter. These are basic needs of survival, and comfort is a completely different level.
I am annoyed when I catch myself complaining about things so miniscule, or about things I consider unfair. I try my best to reset my frame of reference, but we can only do so much. Little annoyances still agitate us, as this is the life we’re used to, and it’s the world we exist in every day. It is natural to adjust to new situations as they change.
We have an obligation. If we find ourselves in a place of luxury, of extra opportunity or resource, it’s our duty to take advantage – not to better our own lives (we have it plenty good enough), but to improve the world. Instead of complaining about having to pick up the new iPhone on the first day, be grateful that you have a phone at all. Use that new phone to donate a few bucks to a charity. Call a friend and ask them about their day. There are so many little things we can do on a daily basis to improve the lives of others, many of which can be executed from our phones. If you’re feeling courageous, shoot for something bigger. We’re all capable of extraordinary things.
The opportunities are endless. So although we may never be able to completely stop nitpicking the little imperfections in our lives, we can realize how much we really do have, and do better for everyone.
Contact Maika Isogawa at misogawa ‘at’ stanford.edu.