Fans and groupies have existed in society for hundreds of years. From followers of religious figureheads to Beatles groupies, people have been known to become obsessed over their interests. These extreme fans have been dubbed fanboys (or fangirls). And, like the groupies who came before, these individuals have been known to go above and beyond the normal definition of a “fan.” In fact, the bias toward a hobby or field, often having to do with technology, borders on fanaticism.
While the concept of fanboys is more well known today, CNET notes that camps of extreme fans began in the 1980s when technology was on the rise. Back then, the top groups of fanboy products included: IBM, Apple®, Commodore, CP/M, and VAX/VMS.
Fanboy wars and battles are a common occurrence among fanboys when they start defending their chosen products. Currently, the top five fanboy wars are Digg, Xbox 360™, Linux, Nintendo™, and Apple. The latter, coming in at No. 1, was also a big hit in the 1980s. These wars tend to get exacerbated as technical writers often compare technology, such as PC vs. Mac and Microsoft Explorer vs. Firefox™, and the fanboys react fervently to such articles.
While fanboy wars exist in nearly every spectrum of products, technology has produced some of the biggest wars between fanboy camps. Techquark notes that the following are the most extreme wars that are still raging.
PC vs. Mac – Techquark calls this the battle as old as desktop computing. Both camps are equally trying to smear the image of their competitor, and John Q. Public has enjoyed the battles (think, “Hi, I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC,” commercials).
Firefox vs. All Other Browsers – Firefox users boast their browsing platform has better security and support, even though the load times are slow compared to Explorer and Google Chrome™.
Android™ vs. iPhone – One of the newer wars brewing is between Android smartphones and the iPhone. Android fanboys cannot fathom using any iOS, while iPhone users think that “i” is the only way to go.
Going to Extremes
As noted above, the hostile fanboy-mob mentality is particularly strong among Apple fans. According to zdnet, this fanaticism may actually be damaging Apple’s reputation.
The fanboy wars are not limited to ripping on counterparts via blogs and online forums. Websites are actually being developed to keep like fanboys and fangirls together. Cupidtino is an online dating service started in 2010 exclusively for Apple users. The site is hoping those drawn to Macbooks, iPads, and iPhones will also be drawn to each other. Cupidtino has more than 30,000 members, many of them living in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, London, Toronto, and Moscow.
What Causes Fanboyism?
As illustrated thus far, fanboys are overly obsessed with a particular brand or product and will often go to extremes to keep their product’s reputation in tact. But what makes a person become a fanboy? There are several reasons that may explain this phenomenon.
People are creatures of habit, which explains why familiarity is a major reason for fanboy extremism. It is hard for people to transition to a new product, which explains why many PC users have a hard time switching to Mac and vice versa.
The psychological need to want acceptance and to belong to a group can lead to feelings of eletism. Many people often feel they are special when they’re part of something that is not mainstream. Yet this perception is entirely based on subjectivity – hence the existence of both Windows fanboys and Linux fanboys.
Like familiarity, fear may also play a part in strong preferential treatment to a brand. When someone becomes immersed in something they know backward and forward, changing that worldview can be a scary concept. Finally, whether it be a commitment of money or time to the preferred product, that investment is enough of a motivator to provoke a dedicated fan to become an extreme fanboy.
In an age where technology is changing daily, extreme fans will stay active online. And, as long as Macs and PCs continue to exist, so will their respective fanboys and fangirls.