Arguments About Politics Are Like Arguments About Phones

We’ve all been inundated with political back and forth over the past few weeks. Curse you, social networks! And you too, Internet! And yet, what’s really frustrating isn’t the political back and forth, but the content that is being volleyed back and forth. More specifically, the lack of content. Watch 9 seconds of any recent episode of the Daily Show and you’ll see that networks, pundits, experts, you-name-its are all happily willing to spend their days blowing an out-of-context sentence completely out of proportion and make said sentence seem like the biggest offense to politics since Watergate.

As I sat at dinner one night, trying to zone out a completely nonsensical argument between a Romney-fanatic and an Obama-fanatic about which candidate was stupidest (actual word used in the argument), it came to me: this is the same type of  nonsensical arguing that goes on between iOS-fanatics and Android-fanatics. In fact, the tech community even names its scandals after political scandals.

But, this is good news! It means that there’s a way to relate politics (zZzZz…) to technology (!!!). Don’t believe me? Here’s a breakdown of the similarities the two share:

One Sided Opinions: Check.

One sided opinions are rampant in both debates. You’re either for iOS or against iOS (see what I did there?). People are quick to share their opinions and loath to listen to others. I’ve heard people go on for hours about all the awesome things you can do on Android that you simply can’t do on iOS. Or about the all the great things Obama will be able to finally accomplish if he’s re-elected.

The problem with one sided monologues (which is how they tend to come across, especially thanks to Twitter and Facebook, et. al) is that they are anything but comprehensive. Sure, you can talk all you want about Romney’s plan for letting in high-skill immigrants, but that’s only 1% of what he will do while he’s president.

Note, these are especially useless because they don’t help anyone: it doesn’t help the firm believers because they don’t need any more convincing in the first place, it doesn’t help the firm opposers because it just pisses them off, and it doesn’t help anyone in the middle because it’s too one sided to provide any actionable information.

One Size Fits All: Yup

It took me less than 3 seconds to find this:

Here’s a good check to see if you’re well informed and thinking rationally: If you are able to determine when someone else (e.g. a friend or family member) should vote for the other candidate or opt for the other operating system based on their needs, you pass! If you think that one choice is unequivocally better than another, be it Android or Romney, iOS or Obama, Windows Phone 8 or whatever the heck the name is of the Libertarian candidate1, then you fail. Miserably.

Blowing Things Out of Proportion: You Betcha

At some level this is understandable. How do news networks or tech blogs fill all that white space and generate revenue? By making everything they talk about seem incredibly important. There’s an important distinction to be made here though: it’s one thing if news networks or blogs do this, but it is an entirely more egregious offense for consumers to partake in this sort of nonsense. Just because something is presented to you via a media channel does not mean you have to accept its importance at face value. Reviews and opinions may be helpful, but keep in mind that they aren’t always  infallible.

You may be thinking, “Okay, so what?” Well here’s where the kicker comes in: Politics actually matter. Sure, you use your phone every day and what mobile OS you opt for can (arguably) have a significant impact on your quality of life. But, it won’t make it into the history books. It won’t affect the next generation’s quality of life. Or our competitiveness as a country. Or our immigration policy. Politics, on the other hand, do. Keep that in mind as election day approaches.

So how did I decide on iOS vs. Android, Obama vs. Romney? Simple, I made my decision like any good (mechanical) engineer would: I collected facts, weighted the issues most important in my eyes, tallied the results, did a gut/reality check, and marked my ballot/bought my phone. Done. No petty arguments, no bugging everyone with my obviously superior decision, and no pressuring other people to follow my lead.

By the way, if you’re wondering who I am, the answer is: nobody, really. I’m mostly an outsider to the programming-centric startup environment that TechCrunch focuses on, although I do have a pretty sweet job (I may or may not work on designing and building the most lethal aircraft  currently flying). If my lack of a Klout score discredits my opinion, just know that I didn’t like you either.

1Side note: the comparison of Windows Phone 8 to the Libertarian candidate is pretty apt. Nobody is willing to vote for them because (as of this writing), neither stands a chance to do more than crawl home with a laughable 3rd place share. That’s not to say that no one likes them or that it’s good for the general public that they don’t stand a chance, but just calling it how it is (for now, at least).