commentary Since Instagram became available for Android users yesterday, a lobby of "but that was OUR app!" tweets are starkly highlighting the rift between iPhoners and Androiders.
Vocal iOS fans are unhappy that Instagram is no longer exclusive to them. Suddenly, their club is letting Android users in! How could it be?
The allure of exclusivity is understandable. As a Droid Incredible owner who sat on the sidelines as the Instagram app became increasingly popular, I felt a pang of jealousy and longing whenever I looked at my iPhone-owning friends' beautifully saturated pictures. I can only imagine that they felt a similar little pang of satisfaction knowing their pictures were "special" in that they weren't replicable by everyone.
In some ways, this reminds me of my junior year of high school, when I'd fallen in with a group of cool alternative kids. It was so exciting! Their tastes were so...cultivated! They introduced me to this awesome new band that sang this sad, beautiful song, "Yellow." Oh, how we loved it. We sat on the subway, each listening to it on our separate Walkmans (this was right before the iPod came out), and it was our music. It got us.
Then suddenly, Coldplay took off and my friends were disgusted that "Yellow" was being piped through the speakers at Barnes & Noble! Ew! Now EVERYONE could listen to it? At that point, it was taboo for me to like it.
But for the most part, that's just cultural elitism; it's annoying and off-putting, but not especially harmful.
However, the Instagram-on-Android outrage has taken on an insidious undertone. This tweet, sent in reaction to the uproar, captures it well.
Read through a few of the "Eww, Android users in my Instagram feed!" tweets, and there's no denying the response is classist. The use of the term "Section 8" is undeniably so. That the underlying assumption there is wrong doesn't seem to matter.
Choosing which smartphone to buy is a profoundly "first-world" problem. Anyone with a smartphone is paying a huge monthly data rate; to accuse Android users as a whole of government-assistance-level poverty is ridiculous, and potentially hurtful. Even more so because there may in fact be a real -- albeit slight -- difference in the average incomes of Android and iPhones users.
Consider this Hunch survey that Buzzfeed points out, which suggests that though Android users are in no socioeconomic way "poor," they may be less likely than iPhone users to be "rich," if we define rich as making more than $200,000 a year.
Really, people? An app is bringing out the disdain of the "haves" to the "maybe-have-a-little-lesses"?
References to people not being allowed into country clubs hits home with me as an American Jew. And though the iOS/Android rift is obviously nowhere near as destructive or serious as that exclusion, the similarities bear noticing. These iOS users are upset that Android users are suddenly joining them inside the cool, wonderful walls of Instagram, presumably not because they think the iPhone is better than Android phones, but because they think iPhone owners are somehow superior to Android owners.
And that's the most remarkable takeaway of this phenomenon, I think: that which smartphone we own has begun to inform our identities. In our gadget-filled lives, our phones have become another way for us to organize ourselves into separate groups, to label each other as "other" and "apart." Our tech has come to define us.
Is it naive of me to point out that all we smartphone-toters are basically the same? We use our phones to text, get on the Web, check Facebook, take pictures, find our way to new locations, get out of awkward situations. Maybe it is naive to point it out, but I'm going to anyway.
Let's just all get along, guys, and share pictures of beautiful sunsets.