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Why You Keep Buying More Discs, According to Science

Four ways collecting discs just means you’re healthy.

Photo: Disc Store

Whether you own five discs or 500, you had a reason for getting every single one. A great deal, a souvenir, a must-have, a gift — there are tons of justifications for adding one more to your collection. That’s why when someone asks why you need so many discs, you might not have a simple answer for them. After all, you don’t need them. You just want them. Is that so bad?

Granted, your significant other might think so. Your bank account might agree. You might also have those non-golfing friends who just don’t get why you’d want a bunch of colorful plastic circles. But largely, psychologists take the view that collecting is a healthy and positive habit. With that in mind, here are some intellectual arguments to have at the ready the next time you get eye-rolled for bringing another disc home.

It’s in your DNA

You’ve probably heard of Carl Jung, the Swiss scientist who founded analytical psychology, whose work provides the foundation for how many psychologists think even today. He was curious enough about collecting that he developed a theory around it which can be boiled down to this: our ancestors did it, so we do, too.

Jung figured that since humans were part of a roughly two million-year lineage of hunting and gathering species who ensured survival by collecting and hoarding food and necessities, it was a pretty good bet that modern people would also carry the genetic coding responsible for those behaviors.

Of course, creating a display of shiny plastic sports equipment is a shade or two away from stockpiling sticks and berries, but there’s an undeniable logic to Jung’s thinking. For instance, our ancestors also survived by living in tightly-knit communities. While many of us today live in single-family homes and believe largely in individualism, we retain a fascination with people and crave a sense of belonging (evidenced by how much time we spend on social media). We just express it differently.

In other words, it might not be worth fighting the desire to head down to the local shop for the third time this week. Frankly, it’s what evolution intended for you.

You want to be a part of something bigger

Very few of us are truly comfortable without some kind of tribe. It might be religion, politics, a career, or just a tradition we’re part of, but we need something to help provide us with a sense that we contribute to a bigger picture; that we somehow transcend time and space.

That’s the power of a disc. As long as it sits on a shelf, it’s just a disc. But once it comes home with you, and most definitely once it comes to the course with you, it’s more than that. It’s another strand weaving you into the history of a sport, a diverse community of people, and even — dare I say it? — a value system.

Sure, maybe you don’t need more discs to enjoy that connection, but there’s certainly nothing unhealthy about finding meaning and purpose through a pastime. Nor is there anything unhealthy about wanting to collect physical artifacts that serve as symbols of that meaning.

It empowers you

Nobody likes the feeling of helplessness, but the fact is that there are a lot more things in the world that we can’t change than things we can. As a result, we process and manifest our desire for control in different ways. One way that a collector does this is through deciding the importance of a particular set of items, then acquiring those items, storing or arranging them in a particular way, and generally acting as their guardian, choosing who gets to see, touch, and use them.

“Out there” in the world is unpredictability. Where discs are displayed on a wall or carefully stored in a bag, though, there is order and consistency — a sense of which we all need in order to function in our daily lives.

Collecting also empowers you through knowledge. To a neighbor, all your discs might look like copies of one another. But to you, each one is a source of expertise and experience. Speed, glide, turn, fade, flight paths: every piece of every disc’s personality is a data point that elevates your mastery of a niche. Does it matter if that niche is a hobby, rather than something you’re likely to pay the bills with? I guess that just depends on who you ask.

You’re just doing your part

Some psychologists take an opposite view of collecting. Rather than something we’ve done for millions of years, maybe it’s something we’ve been trained to do in only the last few centuries. Collecting, in their opinion, might just be an eccentric form of consumerism.

Before you balk at the idea of being just another consumer under the spell of advertising, consider this: consumerism is one half of capitalism, which, for all its faults, has also given us longer lives, more food, medicine that works, and lower infant mortality rates. Are capitalism and consumerism pure, good, and beautiful? Nah…but they’re not totally bad, either.

In other words, every time you buy a disc, you’re adding value to the global economy — the same economy that’s developing vaccines, working to ensure humanity’s future, and, ahem, building more disc golf courses.

Not good enough?

If you don’t buy into evolutionary psychology, aren’t interested in the tribal aspect of disc golf, don’t feel like you get a sense of power from collecting, and can’t get behind consumerism as a beneficial thing, I totally understand. We’re all unique to some degree, and the variety of reasons people have for collecting is exactly why psychologists don’t have a unified theory on the phenomenon.

But if and when you have to ‘fess up to having ordered another disc, I hope you’ll at least take the time to publish your own reason on the internet about how you justify it.

After all, it won’t hurt the rest of us to have a backup argument.

  1. Ryan Turpin
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    Ryan is a journalist and sports enthusiast living in Helsinki. Contact him on LinkedIn.

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