You probably love your phone, tablet, and other miscellaneous touchscreens — that’s why you bought them. But now that we anticipate, live, eat and sleep with our gadgets, they’re being deified. Don’t let your fandom turn you fanatical. Relax.
Just think about it — whenever you make an informed decision to go Windows Phone or Android, you’re not just choosing a device, you’re choosing an ideology. Each of the big three is acutely distinct from the other — Android for the control freak, iOS for the aesthete, Windows Phone for the avant garde functionalist. And with each of these comes with an accompanying ecosystem — Apple’s Mac interconnectivity, Windows Phone’s Office and Zune integration and Android’s ride on the Google-synced mothership.
But for many, phones and tablets aren’t just things, so much, they’re value choices. Not moral ones, of course, but values nonetheless. And they’re values you’re likely to adhere to for many years — I’ve had an iPhone of some version for the past several years of my life, spanning major life events.
So you’re attached to your things. That’s fine. And hey, it’s a lot of fun to talk to like-minded gadget owners and discuss neat features and new apps. You feel like something of a community! But when you run up against a member of another tribe — users who aren’t anointed — it can be easy to come across like an enormous jerk.
iPhones? Hah, enjoy living in Steve Jobs’s slave camp. Android? Cool, it’s like using Linux and your screen is the size of a grapefruit? Windows Phone? It must be hard to choose from those twelve options in your app store. Etc. Arguments over mobile objects can quickly turn phallic; measuring and pissing contests abound. But you’re doing more than just insulting a piece of plastic in my pocket — you’re saying the thing I’ve, in some sense, chosen to associate with my life, sucks. You’re saying those values suck. You’re saying I suck for choosing that way.
Of course my iPhone isn’t equivalent to someone else’s crucifix, but it’s the closest 21st century equivalent. Extremely Smart Dead Literary White Guy Henry Adams called it a century ago, when he said the dynamo had replaced the Virgin Mary. Don’t push your iPhone Buddha against someone else’s Android Allah. If you want to talk personal tech — and maybe even advocate your own — you can shoot the shit without proselytising.
Don’t set out to convert. It works about as well with phones as it does with religion. That is to say, poorly (see: all of world history).
Don’t be on the offensive. Any sentence that remotely resembles, “Ugh, you’re using _________?” or “Are you really still on ___________?” or “When are you going to switch?” is verboten. Instead, of inquisition, try inquiry. Questions like “So, what do you like about your Android tablet?” will start an actual conversation, not an assault. Ask what got your friend interested in WinPhone — but don’t treat it like it’s a heroin addiction. Show interest, even if you have to feign it. If they’re reasonable, they’ll do the same in turn.
Tech talk has to be reciprocal. It’s a give and take — if you guys talk about the supreme suckiness of Android fragmentation, admit your own platform’s shortcomings. Believe me, it has one. Every single one. It’ll be a long time before my iOS stuff runs over 4G. We may devote hours staring at these things, but they aren’t perfect. And if you’re going to enter any kind of critique of another’s stuff, be willing to accept the same of your own. Maybe your friend will come to realise you’re using a superior gadget — or maybe you’ll realise the same thing.
But above all, be understanding. Be forgiving. Be helpful if your friend needs help, but know the difference between advice and acceptance. You might be able to show someone a better way, but you can’t force their hand without causing frustration, bad blood, and fanboy frenzy. Go forth in peace.
Oh, actually, if your friend is still using an original RAZR, slap it out of their hand and throw it down a storm drain.
User Manual is Gizmodo’s guide to etiquette. It appears as if by magic every Saturday.