A Secularist Amid Technology’s Religious Zealots

I’m not religious about the my consumer electronics or technologies. I am not anybody’s “fanboy.” Generally speaking, I buy and use technology-based products because they meet a functional purpose, not because I am emotionally attached to a brand or to a device. I think having such an emotional attachment is, well, perverse.

So I can’t understand the vehemence with which users of various gaming consoles or mobile phones rail at each other. It’s as it they think something tremendously important as at stake, when really they’re arguing about nothing of lasting significance. Does it really matter, other than to the stakeholders in the companies that provide the products, whether any given consumer favors the Sony PS3 over the Xbox 360? Does it matter, in the big picture, whether you believe Motorola’s Droid is better than Apple’s iPhone?

I don’t get it. And yet others get incredibly emotional over this stuff. I don’t know what’s in it for them, but they seem to feel that they have a personal stake in the outcome.

Somehow, in some way, they emotionally identify with a brand or a device. Are they dupes, deceived by corporate marketers, or are legitimate needs being met? I don’t have the answer, but I’m always skeptical of the advertising culture, especially in an era where our unchecked consumerist cravings have helped to deposit us into a deep, dark economic abyss.

It is with bemusement, then, that I watch the iPhone-versus-Android battle play out. I don’t have a horse in the race, and I’m not sure anybody will collect the purse at the end of it other than Apple or Google (plus the latter’s handset licensees).

Still, people who have nothing tangible to gain — other than a sense of being “right” about choosing an allegedly superior device for their personal conspicuous consumption — seem exercised about it al the same. Through it all, I feel like an anthropologist studying an exotic post-historic civilization.

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