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Why Apple Fans Lash Out

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THE CUPERTINO FURIES
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August 4 marked the beginning of my fourth year writing news for Minyanville. Memorable moments include making the first slide on the front page of Yahoo, getting a few shout-outs in The Week and Portfolio, and receiving a mention in some academic paper entitled "Cultural Studies and Environmentalism: The Confluence of Ecojustice, Place-Based (Science) Education, and Indigenous Knowledge Systems."

But above all, what I'll remember most in the last three years is just how furious I've made Apple fans with the slightest bit of criticism of the company or product.

There could be zero subjectivity. Just a simple story -- covered by many media outlets, mind you -- on how Apple logged iPhone location info. Or how some leading analysts weren't too happy with Mac OS X Lion. Or even how the CEO of an Apple competitor doubted the future of the iPad. Somehow, I became the villain for reporting the story. Somehow, I was to blame for what someone else said.

Granted, through the years there have been plenty of defenders of Google, Android, Windows, SiriusXM, and -- to a lesser extent -- BlackBerry who've called me an idiot or derided my articles as drivel. But nobody, nobody comes close to unleashing their vitriolic indignation like an Apple fan in the face of a marginally negative story.

Don't get me wrong: There are few things that delight me as much as a comment section filled with hateful, incoherent rants. It's just extremely difficult to pinpoint a logistical trigger.

But why is that? Why do some Apple fans take it so damn personally?

Well, Ars Technica recently reported on a study from the University of Illinois which covers the link between brand loyalty and self image. Published in the next issue of Journal of Consumer Psychology, the study found that those with high self-brand consciousness -- those who regularly followed coverage of a particular brand they liked -- suffered the heaviest blow to their self-esteem when they read an unfavorable account of their brand.

"Consumers are highly resistant to brand failure to the point that they’re willing to rewrite history," researcher Tiffany Barnett White said. "It not only explains why so many Toyota customers ignored the negative brand information in the aftermath of the highly publicized recalls, it also accounts for why they’re quick to defend the company and why they would want to re-write history in a more positive way."

Anyone in the States between 2001 and 2008 knows that all too well.

The study goes on to say, "Because the brand is seen as a part of the self by virtue of being intimately tied to the self, failure on the part of the brand is experienced as a personal failure." Adding, "Therefore, in an effort to maintain a positive self-view, high SBC individuals react defensively to brand failure by evaluating the brand favorably despite its poor performance."

This phenomenon appears to affect Apple fans to a greater extent because of how well the company markets its products as an extension of the consumers' selves. Along with designing fantastic products, Cupertino creates ad campaigns like no other. Every iPhone, iPad, MacBook, they're marketed as lifeblood, as soul mates, as offspring. To criticize the product, you criticize the owner.

Yes, they are pretty incredible devices. But they're not you. You didn't design them. You didn't birth them. Why waste so much energy getting upset over an article that doesn't involve you in any way?

So, take a deep breath and repeat after me: You are not defined by your phone, tablet, or laptop.

(See also: iPhone Users Have Slightly More Hipster Cred Than Android Users and iPhone 5 Gets a Release Date, Say Sources)

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