About a year ago, I purchased a $50 mechanical keyboard off Amazon.
I haven’t had any major problems with it, and yet—having since then dived deeper into the realm of mechanical keyboards—I’ve recently been feeling the excruciating urge to upgrade to a better one.
Wanting is a painful feeling. And maybe this sounds a bit masochistic, but I thought that there would be some value in observing myself in this curious state of being, especially because I know that this isn’t the last thing I’m ever going to want.
I should explain why I want a new keyboard in the first place. There are a couple of reasons: better feel, visual and auditory aesthetics, greater customization, increased ergonomics, and the fact that I use a keyboard basically everyday (so why not invest in a higher quality one).
Here’s a brief visual supplement:
These specific reasons for buying vary upon the product. In this case, it’s for a keyboard. But what I’m much more interested in thinking about are the universal arguments for the other side: why I shouldn’t buy (a new keyboard).
For starters: I don’t really need it. There’s nothing wrong with the keyboard that I currently own, and it’s not like buying a new one will suddenly increase my typing speed. I could save my money for something else.
There’s the argument that I’m just trying to fool myself into happiness. Part of the allure of wanting something is the projected excitement of finally obtaining the product. But of course, any new purchase will inevitably lose its original novelty over time as it slowly blends into our daily expectations. At the end of the day, I’m always going to find some way to take solace in whatever I have, new keyboard or not. So why buy another one?
Similarly, I’ve noticed that once I set my sights on this new keyboard, I suddenly began finding problems with my current keyboard that I never cared about before. As you may have noticed from my visual (not scuffed btw), I mostly pointed out the bad stuff with my current board while highlighting as many positives as I could find on the desired one.
Even as I was writing this post, I never thought to mention that the feel of my current keyboard, compared to my previous, cheap $15 membrane keyboard, was noticeably nicer. I didn’t mention how, when I first got it, I was endlessly obsessing over the RGB lighting features and typewriter sounding clacks. So it’s troubling to think that, if I do buy this new keyboard, I’ll probably end up seeing ghosts and complaining about issues that I don’t notice—or that I’m deliberately choosing to not notice—right now, as I’m considering this purchase. There’s definitely a lot of confirmation bias going on here.
The diderot effect, a social phenomenon which says that buying a new product often leads to further purchasing, is also worth considering. This is particularly relevant in regards to mechanical keyboards, because of the endless customization options available. I can easily imagine myself paying for higher quality boards or switches in the future, which is…not an encouraging thought.
Finally, there’s the sunk cost fallacy, which refers to our natural desire to get the most out of our sunken investments (like finishing a book we dislike because we’ve already made it through seven chapters) even if it’s actually better for us to cut our losses (closing the book, tossing it into a blazing bonfire, and never looking back).
In my case, I’ve spent an unnecessarily large amount of time reading Reddit threads and watching Youtube videos about mechanical keyboards, so my brain thinks that I might as well just fully commit to buying one. However, in the grander scheme of things, it would probably be better for me to stop obsessing over keyboards and do something else, like learn how to draw cartoon stick figures better, maybe.
Essentially, all of this boils down to a classic case of cognitive dissonance: my brain wholly believes that buying this keyboard will be The PurchaseTM that brings me everlasting joy, while simultaneously understanding on a very, very practical level that it absolutely won’t.
How will I resolve this dissonance? I’m not quite sure yet. My entire being is currently screaming at me to buy this new keyboard, only being held back by the slowly loosening reins of my mental awareness of the potential pitfalls. To be honest, the amount of self restraint that I’ve been able to display up to this point is actually quite impressive to me, considering how impulsive and undisciplined I usually can be. Perhaps some effects of delayed gratification are at play here, as well.
Either way, this situation has given me a lot to think about. I’m still inclined towards getting the new keyboard, and if I end up doing so, then who knows—maybe this will spell the end of my keyboard adventures. Or maybe I’m already preemptively self justifying my projected purchase.
I’d surmise that the latter would be more likely. But hey, there’s certainly one way to find out, right?