We live in a digital world, and as technology converges, it can become increasingly difficult to stand out as a recognisable face in the crowd.
Until fairly recently, your choice of social network was one good way to set yourself apart from other groups of people, but with Facebook now incorporating hashtags, and Twitter moving towards hosting pictures and videos, the two popular platforms are gradually blurring into one and the same service.
There’s Google+, of course, but to many people that still seems to consist solely of internet marketers shouting into the void about how good Google+ is – and at the time of writing, it still has a long way to go to prove itself to the mass audience of casual users.
It’s not just the software you use that defines you though; increasingly, the hardware you carry with you is taken as a direct example of your personality, and that means the decisions you make are about more than just the smartphone with the best usability.
You might feel like none of this matters or really impacts you – and that’s fine, if you’re confident that your personality is strong enough to overcome the connotations attached to the devices you own.
In my case, it wasn’t until I decided to sell my fairly new iPhone, and replace it with a BlackBerry, that I realized just how much people treat your gadgets – and your phone in particular – as a part of who you are, no matter what level of confidence you have in yourself.
People would look at my BlackBerry almost with pity, as though there were no way I would ever have chosen to own it.
No matter that its battery lasted longer than my iPhone’s had, or that the tariff was cheaper because the handset wasn’t as valuable, or that it did everything I needed or wanted it to do, without unnecessary extras.
All of that was seen as irrelevant by my newfound critics, who were convinced that the phone I now owned could be nothing but useless, compared with the might of the iPhone.
I was, at first, shocked to find myself on the outside of the Apple owners’ circle of trust – experiencing for the first time what I had heard others talk about, and had always dismissed.
Was I like this when I owned an iPhone? I thought about it – and realized that yes, I often treated other manufacturers’ handsets with disdain, and only gained my appreciation of BlackBerry when I had to use one at work.
Over time, though, I found that I actually enjoyed the incredulous exclamations of my Apple-owning friends – for every one who told me my phone was useless, I smiled secretly to myself at how wrong they were.
Ultimately, I found ridding myself of my iPhone to be a surprisingly life-affirming process, which has led me to a much stronger sense of my own identity – especially as a true individual among the Apple-loving crowd.