Fanboys

Fanboys

Lessley Anderson at The Verge has written one of the best pieces I’ve read in years on what happens when love of a particular piece of technology or a tech company goes over the top. It’s incredible and if you spend any time online in forums or comment sections on technology-related sites, you’ve experienced this firsthand and possibly (like me) have gotten sucked into it.

Politics, religion, sports, bands — these are the tents under which we typically congregate. Allah, Judas Priest, the Cubs, sure. But smartphones? It seems sort of hard to believe that a graham cracker-sized computer that’s supposed to be a tool, a means to an end, could somehow deliver the same level of ecstatic experience. That it could be powerful enough to feel like a movement.

This has been going on for years: The Well, AOL, Salon, and pretty much any online space that attracted lots of passionate participants discussing pretty much anything, not just smartphones but anything that folks get passionate about (which seems to be pretty much anything).

Many fanboys would never call themselves such and are incredibly defensive about it, they feel they have an objective view and that they’re just right and the folks they’re arguing with are wrong. It’s not just Apple against Samsung or Android or Microsoft against the world, it’s Canon against Nikon, Fuji against Sony, etc. It’s all sorts of subtler tribe groupings and it’s both a huge mess and an interesting collection of subcultures all made possible by the internet which has allowed fanboys to find fellow fanboys or enemy fanboys, form tribes and wage war.

Passion is a great thing, until it mixes with other things like anger and insecurity and has an environment to get amplified and supported in, like comment threads that allow anonymous posting. Because heated fanboy arguments generate page views many sites seem to encourage them by planting seeds with provocative posts and articles.

Mix fanboyism in with the social internet’s tools to track “popularity” and you have a recipe for some serious personal problems. Imagine you become a fanboy spokesperson and get voted up a lot on the social internet. This kind of attention will no doubt shape the kinds of comments and/or posts you’ll make and it spirals up as the social stoking amplifies what you think are the things that are making you popular.

This is one of the (many) reasons we heat with wood: I get to spend time doing “analog stuff” giving me a rest from my online life and I get to beat the crap out of an oak round with a maul every now and then.

Works for me.

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