Yours Socially

In New York nobody does anything strange. Among the many things that do not count as strange is wearing Frye boots. Women wear them, so do men, and so do bikers.

When I bought my first pair, they felt not much like mine and a lot like an idea I’d stolen from my ex-girlfriend, which in fact is what they were. She wore boots before I ever did and would laugh at me if she saw me in them.

In Ithaca, where nobody wears Frye boots ever, where I wore them most days for a summer, they felt like mine for the first time. Not just my property, which they had been the whole time. By “mine” I mean a property of me, a useful way of distinguishing me from other people. Mine socially.

The first people to buy iPads got to own them two ways. As property, but also socially. Something is yours, socially, to the degree that it sets you apart from everyone else in your group. Being the only person in town with an iPad means coming up in other people’s conversations as The Guy With The iPad. It means getting stopped by strangers who want to play with it, learn about how it works, what it does.

Social ownership is sometimes a benefit. Part of what I love about my electric guitar is that no one else has one like it.

But I haven’t bought an iPad, even though I’d like to own one, because social ownership is sometimes a cost. I don’t want to be Guy With iPad to anyone.

Most people, I suspect, bought iPads despite having to own them socially, because they’re just that neat.

Other people bought iPads precisely to own them socially. In a year, these people will need to buy something else, because there will be nothing distinctive about owning an iPad. It will be at about this time that the new revision of iPad hits the market, and much money will change hands.

This will happen again the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and at some point some of the money will be mine.