Nintendo, PS3, Apple, Xbox 360, Blu-ray … Is Fanboyism the new Nationalism?
Is consumer product "fanboyism" taking over? Or is fanboyism just a vocal minority of trolls causing trouble online?
There are communities across the web where forums, message boards and blogs touch on certain hot-button issues. These discussions often illicit such focused and fervent reaction you'd think you were reading about religion or politics. But the topics of discussion turn out to be merely devices intended for entertainment.
The web already attracts plenty of trolls. But pair the troll with fan and you get a particularly obnoxious charter; the fanboy-troll.
The fanboy–troll arrives on a community website (such as this very blog) and will only skim the first few words of any given blog post. If they recognize one of the words is the name of a product or service that competes with their "favorite," they go to work debasing the other product. The fanboy–troll will use the website's community apparatus to spill vomit and vitriol onto its keyboard before clicking "post." These responses are typified by third-grade English skills and often appear in all caps.
The only interesting thing about the phenomenon is how common it's become; and I think I understand why. I think it's the new Nationalism.
Everybody has a need to belong; especially younger males around 10 to 35 years of age. They sometimes feel a need to belong to something perceived as greater than themselves in hopes that the associations they choose will impart a modicum of this greatness upon themselves. This need for belonging is capitalized on in marketing used by Apple in the Mac vs. PC commercials. Here they play on what is perhaps the quintessential tech rivalry, Apple vs. Microsoft.
Digital Rights Barbed Wire
Today the stakes are higher than they were when the PC vs Apple rivalry was born. It's not just a matter of deciding to use a Mac for graphics or PC for number crunching. Today the choice you make in using a consumer electronics brand sets off a chain reaction of consumer decisions made thereafter. Because of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and proprietary formats, buying something as simple as an MP3 player feels more like being fitted for a digital straight jacket.
And the fanboy-trolls are there to cinch the straps.
It's not just DRM. File formats and proprietary hardware plays as big a part in abducting each consumer to a single master. In digital media you can't just have one song or video in one format and be able to play it back in any device. It takes a careful threading of brands, formats and DRM to get the desired results.
Three Companies – Three Proprietary Digital Formats
Apple – AAC
Microsoft – WMA
Sony – ATRAC
Digital Stockholm Syndrome
You don't just buy a product anymore – product marketers would have you believe that when you make a purchase, you're indoctrinated into a way of life. When it comes to consumer electronics, this idea is exercised in a very literal sense.
More and more people download music online. In fact, Apple's iTunes is now the number three retailer of music in the
But fanboy-trolls don't even seem to notice they're captive.
Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological response where a hostage begins to have feelings of loyalty to the abductor. It doesn't matter how maltreated the abducted is. Nowhere is the digital form of the Stockholm syndrome more obvious than the optical disc format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray.
The HD DVD vs. Blu-ray disc format war is a ridiculous example of long-term financial interests--and therefore customers--being sacrificed at the altar of an industry's greed. Anyone buying a Blu-ray or HD DVD player today does so at the risk of their chosen format being abandoned tomorrow. Yet the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray controversy is a poisonous landmine online. Each side has its fanatics who want to argue the superiority of its chosen technology. It's even worse in the console gaming community. One thing's for sure: the fanboy-troll has many places to exercise his alliances, and to always belong.