I have a confession to make: I love my car.
It’s not a particularly snazzy or pretty car, mind you. It’s a Honda Fit—a vehicle slightly bigger than a skateboard that requires me to switch out the gerbils every other month or so. But since I’m not particularly snazzy or pretty myself, we seem pretty compatible. I spend more time with my car than 95% of my Facebook friends, and just seeing my Fit light up when I approach (and press the key fob) makes me kinda happy. “Isn’t that sweet,” I think to myself. “It’s waiting for me.”
Not that it had a choice. Honda Fits do not have the capacity to clankily whisper under their breath, “I’m outta here” and drive themselves to the nearest all-night antifreeze joint. I understand this. But still, my car and I have been through a lot—rough roads, snowstorms and even one reasonably frightening accident—and there’s a sliver of my mind that thinks of my Fit as part of my family. Even typing this sentence, I wonder if I should really give it a name. Maybe Fillmore.
I’m not alone. Many of us develop attachment to things around us that can’t ever love us (or even like us) back. And some people, according to research out of Arizona State University, actually seem to fall in love with their stuff.
Researchers found that these folks can lavish time and attention on their gadgets and material possessions. Gun owners, they say, spend six times more money on their guns than they did buying gifts for the actual people in their lives. Computer owners spend about twice as much. A car owner the researcher talked with described seeing his car in terms of “love at first sight.” Another knew when and where the car was manufactured—its birthday and place of birth, in other words—and had memorized its vehicle identification number.
“We went into this just looking at automobiles, but found it was a generalizable phenomenon,” researcher John Lastovicka told Time. “We were surprised to find people lavishing love on bicycles, computers and guns. Also this wasn’t love for a brand—this was simply a love for the specific possession owned by the consumer.”
Now, lots of holes can be poked in this study, of course. Those of us who use computers (read: “all of us,” given the fact you’re reading this post) have a love-hate relationship with them, and we lavish our machines with gifts just so they won’t forward our passwords to Wikileaks.
But it is interesting. I think, perhaps, this is an inherent danger of living in such a materially blessed—and obsessed—society. We’re social creatures who value those whom we spend time with. And as we spend more and more time with our computers and cell phones and guns and cars, we grow close to them.
It’s a weird, discomforting and—for most of us (I hope) not an altogether crippling phenomenon. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is a slightly embarrassing truth. I may love my car, but I do not take it out for anniversary dinners.
That said, next time I wash Fillmore, I may plug in an extra dollar to get the undercarriage wash and special soap. You know, as a special treat.