This is the Modem World: Why we fight

Joshua Fruhlinger
J. Fruhlinger|09.19.12

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This is the Modem World: Why we fight

Each week Joshua Fruhlinger contributes This is the Modem World, a column dedicated to exploring the culture of consumer technology.

I think I figured out why we love to argue about technology. It came to me via the wisdom of my mom, not surprisingly.

It started last Sunday, when I was at her house to mooch some lunch while helping her get photos off of her digital camera and onto a sharing site so she could, ahem, share them. She was complaining that younger generations won't have photo albums, those lovely, physical relics of days gone by that mother and son can pore over and share memories.

"But, we'll have Facebook Timelines," I replied, sheepishly.

She glared.

I glared back.

There was no middle ground. I could have pushed the issue, telling her that it's time to get with the times, that if she wants to be able to share her photos, she should just create albums on Facebook (or even Flickr), tag them, share them with friends, even have them printed and framed. But instead I chose not to. After all, her way was just as good: bring a roll of film to the store, have pictures developed and share them at will. Sure, it's costly to get duplicates made, but the tradeoff is that you have a physical object that can literally be shared, passed from hand to hand, in a warm personal moment.

We've lost that act. We've also lost the act of sitting at the turntable, listening to records after school. At the same time, though, we gained Spotify and playlist sharing.

Which is better? Depends on the person. And that, my friends, is precisely why we continue to argue about technology, get branded as a "fanboy" and wage wars of words about the ways that we all use our stuff.

In fact, some of us even brand ourselves "PC Guy" or "Mac Guy" as if it says something about our personalities. Heck, Apple shaped an entire advertising campaign around the Mac vs. PC personality stereotypes. We don't see eye to eye. For some of us, Android works better than iOS. For many, Facebook is a waste of time while others find it a pleasant addition to their social lives. I know several people who are completely addicted to Twitter, tweeting their every move while others find it a narcissistic nightmare of humanity gone bad -- you can guess which side I'm on.

And yet we feel the need to judge, to toss grenades at one another for our tech choices.

"I just don't understand how you can possibly think that the Commodore 64 is a better machine than the Apple IIe," I told my best friend in eighth grade.

"You just don't get it, do you? The 64 just works." he replied.

No, I didn't "get it". The Commodore 64 was a closed system without expansion ports and a crummy poke-based version of BASIC that was outdated and stilted. It was, in the words of my 13-year-old self, "lame."

This is going to blow your mind: Turns out we are all different. Who'da guessed? Some people feel more comfortable with Nikons while others swear by Canons. Meanwhile, I love my trusty Panasonic GF1 because it makes me look like a much better photographer than I actually am.

I like rock and roll, my fiancée likes pop. That's never going to end well. People are waging wars at this very moment over religious differences.

But our technology arguments diverge from disagreements about music and religion in that we have numbers and statistics to fuel things along, allowing the arguments to plod forward seemingly forever. It's like sports and cars, where we can argue batting average and horsepower until we're blue in the face. But at the end of the day, you're not going to get me in a BMW and you're never going to find me rooting for the Red Sox.

Perhaps as technology develops, diverges and becomes more ubiquitous, we'll be taking sides the same way we do sports teams: for personal reasons backed by hard facts and a spiffy T-shirt.

Joshua Fruhlinger is the former Editorial Director for Engadget and current contributor to both Engadget and the Wall Street Journal. You can find him on Twitter at @fruhlinger.

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