Our relationship with technology has become unexpectedly skewed. I was just reading through Sid O’Neill’s recent article, Losing Apple, and found myself nodding along on several points, particularly here:
How did it come to this? Time was I loved poetry, literature, art, music, cheap wine and the smell of an old book. Now my spare moments are spent rubbing glass: from the latest $AAPL share price, to the wildest speculative mockup, to the newest analysis. Levels upon levels of inconsequential meandering in flat prose that I’ve rolled and wrapped myself in like a musty felt blanket till I almost forgot the taste of fresh air.
I have watched the WWDC, and I was excited when all the new fancy was revealed, but a couple of days later I found myself wondering what exactly I was so excited about. I tried to recall a specific feature that I was looking forward to and momentarily came up blank. The new language sounds great, but I don’t have time to learn a programming language right now, or to develop a new app. I’m genuinely excited about the new look and feel of Yosemite, but I’ll most likely be waiting till the Fall to install on my daily driver at work.
I’m excited for the people I know at Apple who have done such great work and have been a part of something so big. I’m also happy that the developers of many of my favorite third-party apps are excited about iOS 8 and Yosemite, because it means that the apps I use every day will continue to get better. Thinking back on watching the CraigNote, I was excited because it felt great to see our team winning, it felt great to be a part of something, even if I was just a small, insignificant part. Being part of the Apple community for the past ten years, it’s exciting to see what we believe in succeed.
But, what else? Why do we become so enthralled by these machines?
I believe that whenever we choose to align ourselves with a particular product, brand, or organization, we do so because what we perceive as their values or the values they claim line up with our own. In the case of “Apple and related technologies”, those values are simplicity, beauty, and technical excellence. What burns some of us out, like what I believe may be happening to O’Neill, is that we focus far too much on how those values are expressed in the products, and far too little on the actual usefulness we get from Apple’s investment. In other words, it’s what they do that defines them.
What we love about Apple products frees us to get real work done. That’s one of the most interesting differences between Apple and Android advertising. Android ads, particularly the older Droid ads focused on what the phone was. Apple’s ads focus on what the device allows you to do. Play baseball, fix a windmill, conduct an orchestra, travel the world with a disability. Live. Live your life without worrying if your chosen tools are going to work or not. The promise that Apple makes, and the deal we make with Apple when we buy from them, is that we give them our money, and they give us devices that work.
We need Daring Fireball, Shawn Blanc, MacStories, MacSparky, Stratechery, and of course Dr. Drang. These writers inform and inspire us, they show us how we can do more with our machines, and they explore the details we appreciate. What we don’t need is an echo chamber constantly reverberating the same small set of words. If you have something to say, then say it, if you find joy and belonging in the community, then participate. But don’t let the obsessions of others get in the way of what your life is meant to be. Find your own passion, and pursue it relentlessly. Pick tools that you can rely on, and that reflect your values, and then get out there and do something great.