I desire marginality, therefore I accept wacky theories like this: I marvel at how some writers have the ability to string together complete crap and actually get it past an editor. Like, for example, this collection of gobbledygook at wired.com about “closet iPod users.” The writer apparently has discovered a faux-phenomenon in which early-adopters of iPods now are embarrassed that the device is so popular. These astoundingly insecure neurotics don’t want to be seen using something that would conflict with their efforts to exude “marginality.” Like characters from the William Gibson novel, Pattern Recognition, these “closet iPod” users are affronted by the now-mainstream product’s “lack of exclusivity.”
Wait a minute. I get it. This is satire. How dumb of me. I should have noticed that the writer quotes “media and culture” expert Dr. Bull who, in a obviously inside joke, quips, “As iPods become more popular, so their cultural cachet is reduced,” Bull said. “Quite a few U.S. users note with alarm the increase in numbers of iPods they see in the streets. Before there was a kind of specialness in recognizing another early adopter, a recognition of cultural superiority. (Dr. Bull, you may recall, was described by the same wired.com writer in an earlier satirical piece , as “the world’s leading — perhaps only — expert on the social impact of personal stereo devices.” I guess he’s now become a recurring character in her quest for a career as a humor writer.)
Okay. Let me make this clear to those who will pick-up this obvious satire and create an urban myth: People don’t use those white headphones that come with an iPod because they suck. As good a product as the iPod is, those standard-issue white ear-buds are awful. So, people go buy some decent headphones to use with their iPod. Even Apple knows this and sells a half-way decent headphone replacement product.
So, despite what Seth Godin (a talking expert) or someone named Bull who is a “listening device expert” says, not using those white earphones is not about a desire to exude marginality, but a desire to improve fidelity.