How the Hell Does Apple/Android Fanboyism Lead to Violence?

By Tom Pritchard on at

Over the weekend we saw some very interesting news: two fanboys were hospitalised after getting into a heated debate over the respective merits of Android and Apple phones. I can understand a heated debate over phone systems, but why on Earth is this kind of argument leading to mutual assault? Why can't we all just get along?

Anyone who knows me will probably think that I'm being an enormous hypocrite right now, because I've been known to get into heated debates about the merits of one system over another. Many of my friends have been at the receiving end of a rant about why certain products are a complete waste of time and money, but I tend to try and win the resulting arguments with sarcasm and logic. Not a broken beer bottle in someone's gut.

So how have we got here? It probably doesn't help that a lot of tech sites (including us) egg the fanboys on to an extent, both intentionally and accidentally. I know that I've thrown out a few digs at BlackBerry and Windows Phone users over the years, and while I try to keep my opinions about Apple to myself I do accidentally end up letting out my inner Darrell from time to time. If the media is encouraging fanboyism, even subconsciously, then it stands to reason that people are going to keep at it.

This sort of tribalistic behaviour isn't just restricted to the arguments over phone manufacturers. It pops up all over the place. The concept of the 'PC Master Race' spawned from the intense rivalry between PC and console gamers, and the constant bickering over which is the better way to play games (FYI they're both acceptable).

But whether it's phones, games, or whatever, this sort of stuff is not important. I'm the only person in my family who doesn't use Apple products, but that fact doesn't affect my life in any way. The only time it ever becomes an issue is when one person tries to act with a smug sense of superiority.

Sadly there's something about human beings where we deliberately look for ways to drive a wedge between each other. It's happened throughout history, and it's not exclusive to technology. How many of you have some sort of rivalry with the next town over? Or felt you should have some wavering resentment over a different part of the country, but you're not exactly sure why? People like to compete with each other, showing that they're better than someone else. That's partly an evolutionary thing, trying to prove yourself in an attempt to attract a mate, but it's also a defensive thing. We all have that need to protect what we have from the people who might take it away, and if someone has the potential to take away our ability to enjoy something then we're going to resist it when they try.

But human beings have advanced so far that we have a lot more that we need to 'protect'. Humans are very social creatures, and there is a strong link between the social status and money. But it's not just about how much money you have, what you spend your money on also affects how other people see you. Imagine if you just dropped £500 on something, and then someone immediately criticises it because it's not what they would have chosen. You're not going to be happy about that, and you are going to retaliate in similar fashion. You're protecting your own pride and social standing.

It's easy to consider technological fanboyism to be restricted to the stereotypical nerds who might shy away from physical conflict, but that's not really the case. Tech in some form or another is used by pretty much everyone on a daily basis; it is so ingrained in our lives that it's one of those things everyone has their own thoughts and opinions on it. In the same way that people like to discuss politics or sport, people are going to discuss the merits of technology and compare the different options that are available. This is a good thing and a bad thing in many respects, because it also means that tech is something that more confrontational individuals have on their mind. If you're looking to start a fight, a disagreement over mobile operating systems is a good a reason as any to kick off.

General fanboying is understandable, because it's natural to be defensive about something you like and enjoy and that you don't really want to hear other people criticising it. But let's keep it as a constant back and forth of defence and criticism. You may not like it when someone mocks you for using Windows Phone, but it's certainly not important enough to beat the crap out of someone.