Understanding People’s Emotional Reactions to Apple

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If you are an Apple fan, I’m sure you are aware of the emotional reactions that the company brings out in people, both good and bad, positive and negative. Apple’s most ardent supporters are often referred to as the ‘faithful’ and even labeled as a cult because of the strong devotion that some of them have to the company. On the flip side, you have the “haters” who tend to go to great lengths to deride Apple and anything they see as being associated with the company, and insult anyone they see as a follower. If you are an Apple fan like me, you have likely been called an “iSheep,’ a mindless follower, or far worse before.

While I am obviously a big fan of Apple products, I don’t think I will ever fully understand the emotional element that goes along with them. I use Apple’s mobile devices because they make sense for me and the way that I work, and I prefer iOS because of its relative simplicity and tight integration with the hardware. I also really appreciate the emphasis on good product design and quality construction and materials. However, my relationship doesn’t go too much deeper than this. While I love most of Apple’s products, I don’t really see the point or need in loving Apple, itself. They love their customers, in general, and they REALLY love our money. However, this may come as a shock to some of you- they do not love you or I as individuals. No company does. This is a business relationship, and I’m good with that.

I know that I am likely an outlier among Apple bloggers. Many of the people who pour their time and energy into following the company, its products, and the wide-reaching ecosystem that surrounds it do so because of a deeper love and appreciation than what I have. That’s ok, too. I may not share the same level of devotion, but I don’t begrudge anyone their’s. I would like to understand it a little better, though.

As for the Apple hate, especially the really angry, insulting, derisive kind, I’ll never understand that, and I don’t put up with it anymore, either. I love a good civil discussion with someone who I may not necessarily agree with, but if you comment here at this site intentionally trolling or spreading hate just because of the phone or tablet I or others use, you are going straight to Spam with a smile. If it’s on Flipboard, you are getting downvoted. If it’s on Facebook or Twitter, you’re getting blocked or reported. Anyone who can keep it civil, whether they agree or disagree with me or others, is absolutely and always welcome. Anyone who cannot can leave here and take it somewhere else where such things are tolerated.

Where does this level of emotion in either direction come from? Is it Apple’s history? Their legacy that stretches back to the beginnings of the personal computing industry? Is it the company’s PR and flair for media showmanship? Could it be the confidence/arrogance that often shows itself at Apple events? Is this devotion and hatred still tied to one man? Is Steve Jobs still at the center of these positive and negative emotional connections to the company? I have a feeling that all of the above play roles, to varying degrees.

This time of year really brings out both sides of the emotions that surround Apple. The announcement event for a new iPhone, the flagship product in Apple’s hardware lineup, and the release of the latest version of iOS just gets everyone who has a connection to the company going. I have a few examples from the last few days to illustrate my point.

If you take a spin around the Apple blogosphere and through the tech press right now, the reviews of iOS 11 are pouring in, and they are almost universally positive. Also, if you take a look at reports of the iPhone X from reporters and bloggers who were at Apple’s announcement event, they are also trending positive. It isn’t just the Apple bloggers, either. Several of the more general tech sites had good to great things to say about the design and construction of the iPhone X.

However, there are a few notable exceptions to all of the positive reviews that stood out in stark contrast. It isn’t just that these individuals have a much more negative opinion of iOS 11 or the iPhone X than the majority of reviewers. It is the level of emotion tied to their reactions that I find interesting. The first is Jesus Diaz of Fast Company Design’s review of iOS 11 entitled iOS 11 Sucks. Now, I won’t say that the author doesn’t make any valid points. There are some loose ends in iOS 11 looking at consistency from app to app, and in different areas of the system. However, it is the wild and sweeping conclusions that the author draws, and the insults that he lobs that undermine the credibility of his points. Here is one gem:

“I’m using iOS 11 right now, and it makes me want to stab my eyes with a steel wire brush until I get face jam. I’m not talking about how Apple has adopted Apple Music’s jumbo-sized interface for the rest of its apps. No–that just makes me want to pop out my eyes with a rusty spoon. I’m talking about the lack of attention to detail that permeates every single corner of this operating system—a manifestation of all that is wrong both at Apple and with the people who keep lining up to pay $1,000 a pop for Cupertino’s Samsung S8 knock-off.”

Those aren’t exactly the words of a man operating with any objectivity. He ends will the following, making sure to tell us all how he really feels about us “lemmings.”

The observable fact is that Apple has spiraled further away from its obsessive attention every year. But who cares? Nobody is counting. People will keep lining up to grab their premium hardware at a premium price without demanding that their software has a premium quality to match. Most people don’t care, and Apple itself doesn’t seem to care anymore. As long as the lemmings keep showing up at the “town square” and emptying their pockets, that is.

The things is, I actually design systems and graphic interfaces, and make engineered blueprints as part of my job, and like many designers, I am on the Type A side when it comes to my own work. However, I hadn’t noticed a single one of the inconsistencies that Mr Diaz brings up before reading this article. And, whatever his opinion of Apple’s new app design language that can be seen throughout Apple Music, Apple News, and now the re-designed App Store, I actually like it. But what do I know? I’m just another Apple lemming.

The next example doesn’t contain a visceral an emotional reaction, but emotion certainly seems to cloud the conclusions, in my opinion. This is Paul Therrott’s review of iOS 11, entitled iOS 11 Arrives Today…And it is a Mess. To his credit, Mr Therrott doesn’t engage in any sweeping exaggerations and doesn’t lob insults toward Apple users. This man is a pro, and I am not trying to disparage him by including his work here. All that said, Mr Therrott is also one of the foremost experts on Microsoft and Windows and I can’t help but notice some straw men being set up and knocked over here, either. And I’m not the only one. If you read the Comments section below the article, there are several of his readers who take him to task for what seems to be a review geared toward a subjective viewpoint based around the use of a more traditional computing experience, rather than an impartial review.

Again, there are some valid points made here regarding the discoverability of some of the iPad’s multitasking features, and how iOS 11 works differently on different devices. Apple is allowing some changes unique to particular devices to grow somewhat organically, and that does breed inconsistency. However, while Mr Therrott does admit that these are his subjective opinions, there is still a bit of passive aggressiveness showing in how he minimizes those of us who use the iPad Pro for productivity tasks.

But as noted, I’ve really struggled to make that work with iPad Pro and iOS 11. I’ve tried again and again to adapt the way I work so that this combination makes sense. And it simply does not. Not for me.

So I’m sure there are people out there who absolutely love the iPad Pro. People who will embrace iOS 11 and its crazy multitasking features. People who actually do get real work done every day on such a machine. But those people are few and far between: Apple’s iPad Pro and iOS 11 just do not provide an optimal environment for work. Not for most people.

For all this, iOS 11 still includes several new and improved features that will improve the experience across iPhone, iPad, and iPad Pro. So I’ll begin diving into those features this week, and highlight the parts of iOS 11 that aren’t bat-shit crazy.

I and a lot of my readers here have a very different opinion on this subject. Whenever I have asked for feedback from iPad users who use either an iPad Pro, or an older iPad as their primary computing device, I’ve gotten many responses detailing several different use cases. I also have my own. I have mentioned on several occasions that I am a Windows user when it comes to desktop computing. I use a Windows laptop at work, and I highly doubt that will ever change. However, my iPad Pro pulls valuable double duty as a secondary device at work, and then becomes my primary computing device at home.

I jumped right in with the new multitasking features in iOS 11, and I find them to be fairly intuitive and easy to use. I found the adjustment to be easy, and I have no trouble using the Pro with a Bluetooth keyboard as my primary writing setup. I have also gotten a lot of similar feedback from fellow iPad Pro users who downloaded the iOS 11 beta versions early on after the release of the new iPads. Combine us with the negative feedback in Mr Therrott’s own comments section, and I think there is evidence of subjective opinion paraded as fact here. Subjective opinion is easily swayed by emotional ties and reactions. I don’t think saying that Mr Therrott is tied to Windows and seems to have an agenda in mind, even if unconsciously, in this review is stretching the truth. Any human being, even a great tech reporter, can fall prey to a lack of objectivity due to an emotional response.

My last example is a little different than the first two, because I was actually able to interact with the gentleman in question and get some context and insight into what he was saying. He is Owen JJ Stone, who goes by the nickname Ohdoctah online. He is a frequent guest on the TWiT network, and the comments in question came from the network’s flagship podcast, This Week in Tech. I am a longtime subscriber of this show, and while network founder and show host Leo Laporte can work a nerve like nobody’s business at times, he is one off the best in the podcasting business, and this show always has great guests discussing the biggest news in tech. If you’ve never listened before, you should definitely try This Week in Tech, MacBreak Weekly, iOS Today, and Tech News Today.

If you aren’t familiar with Ohdoctah, let me tell you, he can be an absolute riot. The man is seriously funny, and he can go on some epic rants on the show. His rants toward the beginning of this week’s episode focused on several aspects of Apple, but most specifically on the iPhone X. Again, I would recommend listening to the group’s discussion of the device to get a feel for what I’m talking about. It was a discussion that was charged up with emotion all around. What always strikes me about that is that you never get that same reaction in a discussion about Samsung Galaxy devices, or the Google Pixel. Apple gets treated differently than any other company in the tech world, for good and for bad, and it is because of the emotions that are inexorably tied to them.

Those of you who follow the site on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog may have noticed before that I will call out emotionally charged articles or viewpoints that I consider to be heavily biased on the account on occasion. I’ve lobbed a couple at others in the past, and I mentioned @OhDoctah on TWIT and Paul Therrott’s iOS 11 review earlier this week. Regarding @Ohdoctah, I tweeted “The Apple crying and handwringing on @TWiT hit a new low this week thanks to @Ohdoctah. If you don’t like the X, just don’t buy it. Yeah, I probably should have dialed back the snark there.

Well, @Ohdoctah actually responded to my tweet, and we ended up going back and forth over the course of a couple of days, in what was ultimately a civil and very interesting discussion. The main reason that I bring this up is something he said toward the end that added context that I wasn’t understanding on first listen to the show- “Like I said, I bash Apple because I love them LOL.”

That is such a different reaction than the first two examples that I listed, but it makes so much sense in hindsight. Who can drive us the craziest? The ones we love the most, right? That love of Apple I was talking about earlier doesn’t just show up in positive fawning all over the company (even when they don’t deserve it). It can also show up as rants like the one Ohdoctah had on TWiT this week. Considering that I wrote an article called I Really Hate Apple Keyboards a few months ago, I can’t say that I am above the fray here, myself. Even though my emotional connection to Apple may not run as deep, I’ve still done the exact same thing a time or two.

I learned something about this emotional connection to Apple tweeting back and forth to Ohdoctah, so I really appreciate him taking the time. This connection to Apple is real for a lot of people and it shows up in ways you might not expect. For someone like me who doesn’t completely understand it personally, its good to get some context from someone who does.

Whether you are an Apple fan or an Apple hater, you have probably had some kind of emotional reaction to the company at some point. For someone like myself, this may only happen on occasion. For others, it is something they feel all the time. There are all kinds of reasons and personal stories that probably go along with these connections, as well. Because of this, Apple will always be different from other tech companies. They will be lauded by some and derided by others, and it is rare to have a discussion about them and their products that is completely devoid of passion.

From now until things start to settle down after the release of the iPhone X, these emotions tied up in Apple will be all over reviews, rants, podcasts, tweets, and posts of all kinds. There will be some for whom Apple can do no wrong. There will be others who will troll mercilessly just for the lulz. However, there are many of us in between those two points who may not be as different as we initially appear. Maybe take a little more time than I did and be a little more diplomatic than I was in that tweet to @Odoctah. If you take the time to talk and learn the context of an emotional reaction to or over Apple, then you might find that you have more in common with the other person than you would have ever thought.

What kind of emotional attachment do you have to Apple? Is it good, bad, or ugly, or are you like me and don’t really understand it? Have you trolled or been trolled by someone because of Apple? Let me know what you think in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.

James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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One thought on “Understanding People’s Emotional Reactions to Apple”

  1. Apple stock seems to get treated the same way by those who purchase stocks. The stock almost always goes down right after the fall announcements as it is doing this year.

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