Thursday, July 14, 2011

**Early Adopters**

Quick. Read this article. You could be the first among your group of friends to realize how big of a schmuck you are. Well, not YOU personally...but all those other poor souls waiting on line to be the first to get their hands on something brand new! You're just here to mock the rest of them, aren't you?

Early Adopters, as they're commonly known, are the scourge of society. Not to say that they're horrible people, I'm sure most of them mean little harm. It's just that they should be neutered...immediately. They represent Conspicuous Consumption in all it's depraved glory, epitomizing the phenomenon wherein style beats the ever-living shit out of substance. Because for most of them, the actual technology they're getting their hands on comes in distant second to the primal, smug satisfaction of knowing that they got their greasy paws on it before anyone else. And how wonderful that is for all of them. Unfortunately, though, most new tech toys come fully-equipped with shitloads of flaws and limitations which aren't smoothed out until subsequent models are released (well, not always). Early Adopters are essentially volunteering themselves to be technocratic guinea pigs in exchange for showing the rest of the world how truly hip they are. Very hip.

Psychologically speaking, being among the first to adopt something new gives us a false sense of innovation, it's as if we were the ones partially responsible for creating the groundbreaking gadget at hand. We can all feel like mini-Steve Jobs'. But guess what: Steve Jobs is not an Early Adopter, he's an Early Developer...and that's infinitely more badass (and lucrative). It also allows far less time and energy to be spent on wardrobe preferences than most hipsters would be willing to abide.

But beyond just the latest technological craze, the 'I Wanna Be First' mentality manifests itself in many walks of life, notably music (you guys download the new Bon Iver album yet? Oh, I've had the pre-release for weeks, so it's kinda played out now), and of course celebrity death posts (Did you get to update your FB status to 'RIP MJ' before any of your friends did?).

It's interesting that the moment the masses climb on board with a new fad is precisely when most of the early-adopting hipsters want out, dismissing what they once enjoyed as now being hopelessly mainstream...Even though nothing substantiative nor meaningful has changed about what they were once so into, it's simply a matter of wanting to be ahead of the curve in discovering the next big thing. I suppose the thinking is: you can be the very essence of 'cool' if you are part and parcel to establishing things as 'cool.' Yet once they become 'cool' to everyone else, they're no longer 'cool' for the people that are actually 'cool.'

Make no mistake about it, this type of behavior is an impediment to interpersonal communication. I remember trying to share a Youtube video with a friend--apparently many months after it had gone viral--and rather than precipitating mutual enjoyment, it merely provoked elitist ambivalence: 'Meh, you're just seeing this now, dude?' It's the WHAT, not the WHEN that should really matter, no? What's this guy, an Indian? Thinks he's got it going bossanova.

We're all guilty of it at one point or another--I know I've been blogging about it since way before blogging even got all played out. But we could at least become more consciously aware of the phenomenon when it compels us to race out and by the hippest new toy. Do we really even want that new toy to begin with? And imagine if there were similar societal
compulsions to be the first in your social network to donate blood or to participate in radical new charities. Can't it be a badge of honor for people to wait in impossibly long lines to do good for others, instead of to just lap up the annual incarnation of Apple's incrementally-stunted superfluousness?

It's clearly a lot easier to be the first to consume than the first to produce, so I won't be holding my breath. In the meantime, I'll just let the Early Adopters weed out all of the completely useless fads so that I have something worthwhile to enjoy when I'm riding around on my Segway listening to my Mini-disc player.

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