You may choose not to read this post and that’s OK

A war has raged for years. For most people it has been on the precipice of awareness, thrust into the spotlight only when they log onto the interwebs. I refer to Mactard vs Droidtard battles. It’s difficult to say who started it but a rudimentary timeline would be

  • Apple release path-breaking products
  • Haters hate
  • Some folks are interested and buy them
  • Word of mouth spreads about Apple’s uber-cool, hipster reputation and soon millions more are making a beeline for their products
  • Haters look for alternatives because a. they don’t want to follow the crowd b. they would like to buy an Apple product but their well-publicized ideological fanaticism has made that untenable c. they can’t afford Apple products so they need to emphasize its negatives to highlight the absence of any value for money
  • The cheaper, more accessible Android OS is released and haters really turn up the anti-Apple volume.
  • Haters now begin to quote sales stats wildly especially as Android with almost 100+ distinct handsets carrying it, starts to eat into Apple’s formidable cellphone share (which is driven by less than 10 handsets). That a significantly large group of people labels another large group of people as a “herd” is an irony which completely escapes them.

So perhaps it’s not too difficult to pinpoint who started it. Apple did! By creating world-class products which were adapted by competitors into functionally embellished offerings, subsequently thrown back at Apple’s face as “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT!”

Droidtards also point out the undesirable autocratic nature of the late Steve Jobs through unflattering comparisons to genocidal dictators.

But this post isn’t really about Apple and Android. I’m just using it to highlight a central theme which is conspicuous by its absence in all these arguments. Freedom of choice.

Here’s my problem

We defend freedom of choice but we criticize those who exercise it because those choices may not be concurrent with ours. (This does not include criticism of the product or service itself. That is simply an opinion and an integral part of our buying behavior. What I mean is criticism of the form “Anyone who buys an iPad is a douche because they could’ve bought an Android tablet for half the cost with twice the functionality.”)

It’s valid to criticize someone else’s choices if they infringe on our rights, safety or endanger others. But I fail to see how this applies to choosing a personal electronics product, buying a book or selecting an institute of learning.

(Yes, I’m coming to it.) Chetan Bhagat, IIPM.

We just love to hate them (I’m including myself among the haters). I relish the occasional Chetan Bhagat ribbing as much as the other person but these days I’m trying to apply the “choice” filter to my snark or critiques. If it’s about his books, it’s fair game. If it’s about people buying his books despite the presence of better offerings, it’s not. For the most part, he services a hitherto unmet need, that of accessible English fiction and he profits from it. If you don’t like his books, you have a choice not to buy or read them.

Similarly, it’s absolutely fair to critique IIPM and the questionable claims in its advertisements but picking on those who choose it isn’t right. Although there is no such thing as a rational buyer, information on all choices is readily available (especially on the internet) so it’s a fair assumption that someone who chose IIPM over another institute would’ve done so due to practical or sentimental reasons. In any case, how does their choice of IIPM *over* another institute affect us?

Returning to the great Mactard war, how does it matter if there are seemingly better choices available out there? Unlike genocidal dictators, Steve Jobs hasn’t coerced anyone to buy his products. People choose Apple products for their dependability, sexiness, intuitiveness and coolness. Others choose Android for its versatility, functionality and affordability. Some choose a Chetan Bhagat book over a Salman Rushdie because it’s easier to follow and entertains them. Some choose IIPM for their education because they believe an MBA degree is essential to moving up in the world and they found IIPM a viable choice on many criteria.

So who’s smarter or dumber if their choices are personal and do not affect anyone else? There’s no need to answer this question because the answer doesn’t matter.

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32 responses to “You may choose not to read this post and that’s OK”

  1. rootofall3vil says :

    Haters look for alternatives because a. they don’t want to follow the crowd b. they would like to buy an Apple product but their well-publicized ideological fanaticism has made that untenable c. they can’t afford Apple products so they need to emphasize its negatives to highlight the absence of any value for money

    I would add a group of people(albeit minority):
    d. People who tried or tested apple’s products and did not like them, or were not interested in having a “hip” or “cool” product. Insinuation that everyone wants to use an apple product but they can’t because of a/b/c above is rather premature.

    An Android or a blackberry is not always cheaper than Iphone. I know I paid more for my blackberrys than the Iphones when I brought ’em.

    At least half of the “debates” between Android and iOS users are because any criticism of an Apple product(Which is allowed, as you say, above) is met with an Apple fan jumping over you and accusing you of one or all (a/b/c) of the above. Is it just android users that provoke, criticise or “hate”? really?

    Most of apple users remind me of one of my childhood friends, who shall be known as “Tinu” henceforth.

    On his 10th Birthday, Tinu’s dad bought him a brand new cricket bat from one of his frequent trips to (then) Bombay. Tinu would proudly stroll into our empty plot turned cricket ground with his new bat, while rest of us had a few locally made cricket bats would watch with Envy. However, not really blessed with flair for batting in Gali Cricket, Tinu could not put his new bat to much use and used to get out very early, much to his chargin. One of these days a dispute erupted and Tinu was banished from the game. Now being a neighbour and good friend, I went over to Tinu, trying to broker a truce between him and rest of the boys. Tinu’s reply: “You are all jealous of me, because none of you can afford a bat like this and that is why they have banned me.” Took a while to get little Tinu back in the fold.

    After all these years, I feel that a tiny bit of Tinu lives in many apple users.

    • daddysan says :

      Agreed, not all hate comes from Android users. It’s reached a point where Appletards have started responding with equally unnecessary and unprovoked jibes. Including me. I must admit, Droid vs Apple throws up some great potential for jokes :)

  2. ravindra rajput says :

    Well written .. agree with you on many points..
    Most of us who read a book or buy a product is entirely of the reasons mentioned by you..
    Personally I have been a big fan of CB , not because he deserves to be bestseller author, but because everytime I read his book I get motivated that I can write better than him ( pun intended)

  3. rads (@rads) says :

    At the end of the day, can we just say, we are a large bunch of different people with varied tastes and each of us will do what ticks our fancy. Agreeing to disagree amicably is the elegant way to be.

    We are responsible for our choices.
    Good post. :)

  4. Gaurav V says :

    I assume most people read books because they like to read. Who reads Rushdie or vikram seth for grammar? Nobody is stupid for enjoying a CB book. He is as stupid as you are for turning up for the latest bazmee or David dhawan movie. There is no monopoly in the market of refined taste.

  5. Yogesh says :

    Fair point on people dissing something for the love of it. Quite true of Chetan Bhagat & IIPM. But on calling someone stupid based on their choices, i disagree with you.
    To me, that depends on the reason for their choice.

    If my friend tells me that he reads CB for fun, i do not have any issues. But if my friend tells me that he reads CB because he wants to improve his English grammar, then i would think he is being uninformed or stupid. He is equally free to think that i am uninformed or stupid for not reading CB to improve my grammar !

    If someone writes an Biology entrance hoping to qualify for a B.Sc(Math) program, wouldn’t we call it stupid ? Or may be uninformed ?

    The subject of entrance is his choice but if he wanted to join for Mathematics and choose Biology, he does invite some ridicule.

    The above example is an extreme one but yes…

    Same is true with any institute. If i did join an institute solely because they have 100% placement (when that is not the case), there are two reasons : Either i was uninformed on the falsity of their claims or i was just being stupid. The choice does not make one stupid but the reason for it does.

    The irritating part is people stereotyping someone as a stupid permanently because he made a stupid choice sometime in his life. Implicit in people dissing CB readers and IIPM is this assumption that this one-time “stupid choice”(?) implies that they are stupid otherwise too. That somehow reading Tolstoy makes someone superior to a CB reader.
    Again, it goes back to your earlier post of stereotyping.

    Disclaimer : I have nothing for/against IIPM as i know very little of them. As for CB, i’ve read only 5.someone and didn’t like it. Unlike many who diss him, i appreciate his casual writing style. Just that his content doesn’t interest me.

  6. preetam says :

    Well written. Couldn’t agree more.

  7. temper temptress says :

    Live and let live. I’ve always admired your way of putting things across in a succinct & thought-provoking manner. This post isn’t an exception to that reputation. Am glad, like always, that i chose to read this.

  8. Gaurav says :

    If your point, to quote what you said on twitter, is that saying “iPad users are douches” is pointless, I agree. But that’s a strawman you are building up. Because hardly anyone makes that statement and that statement alone. People criticizing others on their choices usually also include info on why that choice is wrong.

    Secondly, enthusiastic endorsers of wrong choices also parrot propaganda which should be rebutted. If someone just enrolls in IIPM, why would anyone bash them? But if they also continue to parrot claims on IIPM having top level placements, then their being a consumer making a choice cannot and should not immunize them from criticism.

    It’s the same story with Mactards. Mactards are not benign peaceful angels who just buy Apple products and live life peacefully. They get cocky and push Apple’s propaganda on others. I remember how, when I had a question about getting rid of a virus on my PC, a couple of Mactards smugly chimed in with “get a mac already!” That is what leads to retaliation. In other words, your contention that Fandroids “started it” is wrong. It’s Mactards who generally go around parroting Apple propaganda and then act all hurt when someone else pushes back.

    Here’s a simple counter-point. Let’s look at the other giant in the smartphone space – Blackberry. Do you see Fandroids bashing Blackberry users with the same frequency that they bash Mactards? Nope! Because Blackberry users don’t flounce around acting like their fart smells like roses. Mactards do. Hence the backlash.

    Since you brought in IIPM as a parallel – how many people go around bashing customers of Amity University or other such diploma mills? No one! Because Amity-tards don’t go around claiming that they are superior than IIMs. So people live Amity customers with their choices alone. IIPMtards are the ones making stupid claims. Rebutting their claims is integral to getting facts out there. Their having made a “choice” does not immunize them from being called on their bulshit.

    • Patrix says :

      I knew it. I would’ve to take responsibility when a certain person goes on a shooting rampage at a Apple Store. “No, Fareed, I had no idea my little joke would end up having such serious repercussions.”

    • daddysan says :

      Gaurav, there’s the problem of who started it. If you criticize someone, expect them to respond. Then we’re in a territory where facts have to win out. If Mactards floss in your face, it’s fair to call them out on it.

      I’m not building a strawman. It happens. Perhaps you choose to insulate yourself from critiques that add no value but it doesn’t mean they don’t occur either as snide remarks, jokes or baiting. You’re guilty of unnecessary baiting with alarming regularity, instigating responses and then passing them off as fanboy defense.

      • Gaurav says :

        Yes, but you see those remarks, jokes or baits in isolation, kinda like how right wingers in America view the hostage taking in Iran in 1979 as if that’s where history starts, instead of considering CIA’s plot against Mossadegh in the 50s.

        The simple point is, Mactards are the smug ones who have always started it. So they get blowback. Simple. If Fandroids were keen on going around bashing everyone for their choices, then we’d have seen Android-Blackberry battles. But we don’t. We do, however, see Apple-Blackberry battles. Because Apple folks started it.

        The thing is, Mactards seem to have a problem when someone pushes back. Reminds me of Aussie cricketers getting upset at sledging from Indians because, for a change, Indians are actually giving it back!

  9. Akshara says :

    Excellent point. I guess the fact is we find it easier to judge than choose

  10. Jo Chopra says :

    But I’m going to answer it anyway.

    Personal choices, added up, do affect others, even when they don’t seem to. Our whole consumer culture is built on helping people to believe that when things are more expensive, they are better. And they make the buyer better too. This has disastrous implications in public health (ORS is the most effective cure for diarrhea, for instance, but most parents want expensive antibiotics instead), in agriculture (imported seeds are better than the ones the farmer collected from last year’s crop) and in a host of other fields.

    The personal is political! It’s always been true.

    • daddysan says :

      Hi Jo,

      Except in the case of complicated products like securities and bonds, people are rational enough to weigh the psychological advantage of choosing an expensive product against its functional benefits vis a vis a cheaper offering. So I don’t think it’s a herd mentality which encourages folks to choose expensive products. There are probably many other factors like trust, efficacy, accessibility, reputation that come into play.

      I’m not qualified to comment on antibiotics vs ORS but what I glean from your point is that doctors have a vested interest in prescribing antibiotics over ORS? That, unfortunately is the case because some fields are highly dependent on opinion leaders, but this doesn’t apply to everything.

  11. Poonam Sharma says :

    Well said. I am not above enjoying jokes on anybody as CB – but I seriously do look down upon people who have made it their USP to piggyback on CB jokes. Some of them have written similarly bad books. Ditto for IIPM. AC might be a douche bag – but most students who study there certainly do not deserve the uncalled for wrath/ridicule.

    • daddysan says :

      Yep. A little bit of humor is fine, but sometimes it goes way overboard. I’ve been guilty of that too. A bashing session begins and then it just devolves into (very funny) nastiness.

  12. Purnima Rao says :

    Ohmygod. Thank you. Seriously. Whew.

  13. Mac'ist (@WritingTom) says :

    iPhone vs Android wars are almost always blind.
    As the smart-phones became poplar among mainstream audience, the quality of debate went to bins.

    • daddysan says :

      Quite true. It’s all meaningless rhetoric these days. To be honest I find myself making some ghastly droidtard jokes mostly out of a sense of outrage at their constant haranguing of Mactards. (Disclosure: I own and LOVE my iPhone)

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