The fanboy wars are over: everyone lost

Android vs. iOS. Apple vs. Microsoft. Linux vs. everyone. These are the battles fought in blog posts, comments, and forums across the Internet. Pundits (both amateur and professional) stake their ground and declare that whatever company or product they’ve picked is better than the competition.

Everyone who picked the competition is not only wrong about the product in question, they are also wrong about everything else in life, and they should feel bad, and ultimately be devoured by an army of squirrels.

It becomes the pundit’s self-appointed job to convince the competing crowd why they are wrong and to proselytize the righteousness of the product choice they’ve made. But that’s not what’s really happening. No one is being convinced. Instead we’ve just got a bunch of noise in an echo chamber.

Fanboys are everywhere

Fanboy-ism exists in all realms of life, from sports to politics. An example: most people don’t watch CNN or Fox News for a new viewpoint or to learn something new. They watch for affirmation of the things they already think and believe. They want to feel secure in the conclusions they’ve arrived at so they surround themselves with viewpoints that echo those thoughts. They want to belong to a like-minded group.

Fanboy tech blogging serves the same function for a new generation. Android users read Android blog posts to affirm their purchasing decisions. iOS users do the same. And when their paths cross they start sparring because they believe that in order for their decision to be the correct one, they need to disprove the legitimacy of someone else’s preference.

Fanboy Battle
Android fanboys respond to criticism that the Galaxy Note is “stupidly big”.

And that’s what all this stuff comes down to – preference, which inherently can’t be argued. No one can be right or wrong in liking mac n’ cheese or disliking seafood. Even while you may be able to argue things like “too much mac n’ cheese will make you fat”, you couldn’t convince another person that it tastes bad.

It’s time to grow up

I like iOS and seafood. I hate Java (the programming language, not the Indonesian island) and most sports. But here’s the thing – I don’t care if you like something different. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m not out to convince you that my decision is the right decision and that you are wrong.

I didn’t always think this way, I used to care a lot. In fact, I really hope all the IRC logs and newsgroup posts that document how big of a jerk I can be have been wiped out by an EMP blast. I’d be embarrassed to see them.

Attacking other people for their preference is childish. It screams of insecurity. Whenever I see it I think “Is this person really so small and uncertain they need to bring others down to feel better?” Because that’s what’s happening. It’s certainly way I used to feel. The fanboys on both sides are really just trying to make themselves feel better and less alone.

So here’s an idea for us tech nerds: Let’s all spend less time arguing about which platform or smart-device-widget-dongle is more holy and more time talking about the cool things those devices let us do and the things they enable us to create. Those are harder conversations because they require us to actually do something with our beloved devices, but they are definitely more interesting conversations.

Image credit: zhengxu

  • Anonymous

    Better to have silly online arguments about operating systems and devices than to kill each other over holy books. Most fanboy arguments are just embarrassing for everyone involved, but sometimes they can be interesting. Whether our digital future should be one of open source and open platforms or not, whether certain companies will/should/can control the fate of the Internet, etc.

    • http://www.chrisdodds.net/ Chris Dodds

      That seems an odd dichotomy. I’m not sure the choice is “argue about tech stuff” or “kill people”. Other than that, I agree. Policy discussions are interesting, because they’re about how we implement technology – what we do with it.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, that came out weird. But you did make reference to the ‘holy war’ metaphor that is often applied to these fanboy arguments, and I just meant that, as a species, it’s probably an improvement over the original kinds of holy wars. Personally I’d like to be able to discuss both the meaning of the universe and gadget preferences in an open-minded manner without people getting upset and negative about it. I’d say childish, but children bring elements of wonder and exploration to the way they see the world that the worst of fanboys often lack.