Neophilia is a term I first heard used with reference to me years ago. I already knew I had it. I just hadn’t been officially diagnosed with it yet.
I suppose it was one of those things everyone knew to be true but never felt the need to address out loud.
She’s a neophiliac, you know? Or if she's not fully a neophiliac she has definite tendencies for neophilia. To me, the thing sounded almost like a chronic condition which, I have to admit, I found rather amusing.
So, what’s a neophiliac? According to Wikipedia, a neophiliac or neophile is an individual who is unusually accepting of new things and excited by novelty.
Accepting of new technology? Check.
Excited by technology? Mais oui. Check, please!
So the diagnosis was one I accepted fully.
A close friend noted the other day that he has yet to remember seeing me use old things. He suggested that we go vintage clothes shopping and before finishing the sentence he says, "Oh, yeah, I know. You don't do old or vintage."
I can’t use old things. I don’t get a kick out of going to vintage stores (I have tried. I did the legwork et al.), I don’t like used stuff, I literally feel like I’m breaking into hives the moment I try someone else’s clothes, for instance. I’m not a germophobe, though. It’s the fundamental craving for neophilia that creates this kind of discomfort with old things.
I’ll illustrate the point by bringing up a concrete example: the iPhone and my continuing love affair with it.
I wonder how it happened that a little gadget became more appealing to me than the most exciting and interesting person you’ve ever met who constantly carries on about some very exciting topic: how wonderful they think you are and blah, blah, blah. And yet, you have the need to check the New York Times App and see what new articles have been posted in the past few hours you haven’t checked or if iTunes has resolved that problem you had with your recent Entourage purchase.
Because, of course, you cannot check at a different time.
You’re out with the people you like very well. You’re having an enjoyable time, the topic of discussion are attention-grabbing and you're especially proud of the ensemble you put together, and, yet, in the middle of the night you have this strong need to reach down your purse/messenger bag and take out your iPhone. Meanwhile the other people are in the process of narrating. You find yourself following along even interjecting the usual ‘wow,’ ‘huh,’ ‘gripping’ and yet you do what you otherwise do not tolerate. And social multitasking vexes me. I generally find it a bad idea and I expressly comment against it. The double standard here is so strong that to address it I’d have to write another post and I’m not feeling particularly self-correcting at the moment so I’ll let it go for now.
I’ve managed to manage basically most of anything else but my craving for neophilia. If it’s a new notion, it’s aesthetically pleasing, and companies I respect created it, I feel I have to, at least, try it. I tried to explain just this to my party on a recent trip to Chicago that I had to stop at the Apple store just for a little bit. Translation: a two-hour stop. I think the answer was something like, "You know, some go to the Gap, others watch the Wendy Williams Show. My guilty pleasure is allowing my eyes to graze at the Apple store. Let it go. It's my thing."
I’ve tried not bringing the iPhone along and the experience wasn’t a pleasant one. I kept wondering if I was missing out on something. I was told I looked like I was hopped up on caffeine at 1:00 in the morning. So, not good. Naturally, I didn’t miss out on much. How much novelty can occur on a weekend night between 9:00pm-2:30am, after all? It turns out, not much at all. I excuse myself, go to another space, send a text to my other party saying, “Yeah. I have nothing of substance to say other than, I think I’m Tiger Woods-ing. Relax. The other party(ies) is the iPhone.”
I rarely go anywhere without my iPhone. I don’t do so because I have to know who’s calling, texting, or emaling. I do so because I’ve gotten accustomed to the feeling of comfort I get knowing that I won’t get lost somewhere in Southern California, Eastern Canada, or Central Ohio. The point is, I also bring the iPhone to social gatherings.
I've given this a whole lot of thought and the best thing I could say about such 'chronic conditions' as neophilia is to embrace them, work with them, and find productive ways to incorporate them in quotidianity. It turns out, neophilia is quite a little helper, actually.
So, today, my tip of the hat goes to my favorite chronic condition, neophilia.