Opinion: The Virtues Of Not Being An Online Douchebag

Opinion: The Virtues Of Not Being An Online Douchebag

Look at this video. Just look at it. Don’t scoff while you watch it. Take a deep breath in, eyes closed, and then let that breath go. Then watch this with that open mind you got there. That’s it.

This is Apple’s design statement that it put out when iOS 7 was released. At a cursory glance, it’s twee and pretentious, and sounds just like more egotistical wank spewed forth from Jony Ive.

Did you read that last sentence? Ugh. How awful. That’s something people might write in comments, on message boards and even say out loud to each other all the time. It’s venomous, spiteful and judgmental. Gross.

Can you imagine if someone you’d never met heard you talking like that? What an awful person you’d come across as. What if we all just stopped being arseholes?

Sure, for those of you reading this with that chip on your shoulder and a healthy ‘f**k you’ complex, you’re probably thinking that this comes across as, at best, a well-constructed answer in the Miss America contest, but it’s really just a thinkpiece to get your mind going. That’s all. A deep breath for your soul: what if we all laid off being douchebags to each other about the technology we use.

When we review technology, it comes down to whether it’s good or whether it sucks. We get into the nitty gritty details and nitpick about everything, and we turf products out that aren’t great. Sometimes they’re poorly conceived, too ambitious or just executed badly. It sucks when that happens, because nobody sets out to design a bad product. However, in a world of instant gratification and an empowered consumer, throwing bad features back into the face of a manufacturer, vendor or even the guy or girl who sold it to you has become the status quo.

When did that happen?

When did we become so self-obsessed that we started devaluing the currency of a smile and a good chat to solve a problem? I don’t really want to know the date that happened, actually. That might make this more of a melancholy exercise than it needs to be.

Here’s an example.

I have a guy I deal with at Google all the time. Nice dude, young, talented. Let me tell you, even if you have achieved some cool stuff in your life, nothing makes you feel more like an underachiever than talking to someone who works for Google. It’s a fair bet they’ve probably done more cool stuff just to get the job they have than most people will in a lifetime. This guy I deal with is one of them. He developed some great stuff and decided he wanted to use his talents to further an organisation founded on not being douchebags.

Now a lot of people would take the clout that doing cool stuff and having a great job gives you and swing it around in people’s faces, but not this guy. He folds up his ego, and stuffs it in a back pocket for him to enjoy for himself, and then greets the world like everyone else should: smiling, and eager to find the next adventure.

We come to him with problems like what we thought of the recent Chromebooks (not well-featured enough to be for everyone and kind of slow), and he just smiled, brushed it off and said that he liked it, and so will a lot of people who aren’t me, before thanking me for my opinion. It felt like bizarro world.

In the real world, if you tell someone that the smartphone they’re using is inferior to the one you have chosen, a full-blown geek fight will kick off about platform superiority and who has the most apps. At the end of the day, you both look like idiots. That’s because criticising the phone or tablet choice someone makes is like criticising their personality. They carefully matched their gold iPhone to their look, or they think the red Lumia 920 is very ‘them’. It’s like choosing a new pair of shoes or even a whole outfit for a party. By criticising their gadgets, you’ve just told them that it makes them look bad as a person, so of course they’re going to flame you back. It’s deeply personal.

Here’s an idea, though. Bear with me.

What if we all stopped hating on technology for no reason? What if, instead of saying this social network blows, or that type of phone platform is for losers, we just accepted that someone chose their gadget for a reason, just like you chose yours for a different reason.

Even if you do outright hate it, start focussing on the little details. Right now I’m marvelling at Facebook’s event integration while experimenting with awesome new photo options on Google+. They both rock and people flame them all the time. Google Now redefines the way people use Android, in the same way that iOS 7’s beautiful design opened my eyes to a world without skeuomorphism: they’re both incredible.

I ask again: what if we stopped hating on technology? Specifically the choices each of us makes about the tech we like to use? I’m not saying we go around putting flowers into soldier’s rifles or anything, just that we’re not such arseholes all our lives.

Unball your rage fist. Notice the little things. Take pride in what you like, and screw the haters.

Don’t you feel better now?

Shouting Man image via Shutterstock