The darkside of convenience

Rebecca Barkdoll, Opinion Editor

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How many of us are drawn in by the advertisements and signs proclaiming something’s convenience? We stream shows and movies because it’s more convenient than having shelves full of DVDs to sift through. We buy fast food because it’s fast and cheap. We have thousands of apps claiming to make our days easier and our lives more fun.

But as much as convenience sounds great, it’s not that clear cut. Like most things, great benefits don’t come without some downsides too.

One major downside that is most likely to be mentioned when discussing convenience is the cost. Some things, like fast food, are cheap in terms of cost, but not all that great besides saving time and money. For example, it would be hard to get a balanced diet from eating only at a place like Burger King or McDonald’s. Or if you bought things only secondhand, it might be harder to tell how long it will last.

On the other hand, some things that are proclaimed convenient are actually pretty expensive. For example, the smartphones that can do the most and have the largest storage space are usually the most expensive. You might get a little convenience in terms of time and space, but not in terms of money. Especially if it’s designed to go out of date every couple of years.

Cars are also more convenient than walking everywhere or even taking public transportation, but they require places to park and lots of money to maintain. This limits car owners to those with more money to spend and more space available to them.

Another downside is that sometimes we can then take things for granted. Going back to the car example, if someone were accustomed to driving themselves everywhere and had been for years, it may be difficult to switch things around once they joined a carpool group.

Or, as another example, if someone was used to using a program to do their taxes, but for some reason couldn’t access one this time around, they could end up in a really stressful situation, one that could also cost them more than they had accounted for and might not be able to pull off with their current budget. That’s not a great place to be.

Of course, the point of convenience is to make our lives easier and less stressful, giving us more time for other pursuits. It’s especially helpful for those who don’t have the time and energy most of us would take for granted.

For example, someone who is disabled or has a bad illness would find certain conveniences like food that’s quick to make. Or, maybe someone has to work three jobs just to get by and needs to be able to just pick up their groceries really quickly. Or, maybe a busy parent who works from home needs to take an important phone call, and so has their children stream shows and movies to keep them entertained.

But those are all easy examples, ones that are useful to many people. The problem is, so many of the convenient things offered to us are only the ones that are convenient for making a profit. Where are the car seats for parents with only one working arm? Where are the easy meals that aren’t mostly bread and meat? Where is the easy access to all places, not just the ones that can make money from those who have mobility issues?

Convenience, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. However, it doesn’t hurt to consider who should benefit from it the most and who actually does. Those two answers might not be the same.