Tribal malfunction (rooting for tech companies is silly)

culture / tech
Apple Google foam fingers


Humans are instinctively tribal. Our fierce, hard-wired clan loyalty has its advantages; in the prehistoric age of hunter-gatherers, tribal commitment could make the difference between surviving together or dying alone.

That same tribal instinct drives our social behavior today, too. We’re driven by irrational devotion to sports franchises, political parties, and, yes, multinational technology companies.

In the last case, we’re bound to our “team” not by geography, ideology, or genetics, but by past purchases. Once we decide to invest thousands of dollars in one platform over another, we feel tremendous pressure to see that decision justified, to see “our side” come out on top. Hence, we see Apple hordes descending upon tech sites that don’t give Cupertino the credit it deserves.

Such brand affinity is a malfunction of our tribal programming, and it works against our own best interests. Google and Amazon will never return my allegiance, and their success is largely irrelevant to my own happiness. So why should I bother defending them, or deriding their competitors?

If anything, we should root against any one company—even our “favorite”—from dominating the market. Apple customers should celebrate the successes of Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon at least as enthusiastically as Apple’s own victories. We need viable ecosystems and trend-setting products outside of iOS; competition is good for the industry, good for consumers, and good for Apple.

So, when Google debuts a phone like the Pixel 2, the logical response from Apple fans should be “That camera is incredible!”, not “Neener, neener! Apple was right about the headphone jack!” When Apple announces another record-shattering quarter of profits, Android afficianados should cheer, instead of prattling on about “sheeple” buying whatever Jony says is good.

Let’s leave the tech cheerleading to those on these companies’ payrolls. Let’s step back from the arena and let the tech giants duke it out themselves. And let’s look forward to the innovation ahead, no matter whether it comes from Mountain View, Cupertino, Seattle, or Redmond. ■


  1. Foam finger artwork courtesy of Vecteezy.