Living in a World of Apples

I didn’t begin to pay attention to technology advertising until I arrived in Silicon Valley.

I came to Stanford from Morehouse, a small historically Black, all-male college in Atlanta. When I think about it, the educational setting was technologically diverse. We had PC labs and Mac labs; our classrooms were PC-equipped yet Mac-friendly; and the student laptop landscape featured as many Lenovos, Toshibas, and Dells as Macbooks.

At Stanford, however, my PC and Android are nothing short of anomalous.

Everyone here has at least an iPhone and a Macbook. All of the computer labs I’ve seen and used are Mac-exclusive, and a PC seems to be the option only of the less wealthy and international students.

Considering that CNBC’s 2012 All-America Economic Survey identified the most saturated Apple demographic as those making more than $75,000 a year, it’s no secret that owning an Apple product lends itself to defining one’s social status.

This social status correlation with the technology we own even plays out in the advertisements from each camp.

In the likeness of the now infamous “Think Different” slogan, Macbook campaigns assert that you can have “all the power you want.” Take into account Apple’s iPhone 5C and 5S slogans of “For the Colorful” and “Forward Thinking,” respectively, and you have a company that touts its consumers as the best, brightest and—with a price tag often double that of its competitors’—the richest.

On the other side of the aisle, new Microsoft Windows campaigns feature Sara Bareilles imploring us to be “Brave” and take a gamble on Windows 8. Microsoft aims to encourage hesitant consumers to subscribe to its new operating system as well as the countless products on which it is featured.

What we have here is one company that wants to make you feel powerful—because the only people who would pay for power are those privileged enough to not know they already have it—and another that dares you to be brave because they know nobody wants to play a game of “Which one of these is not like the other?” and, in buying their product, you automatically lose.

Though this may seem to represent an unbalanced juxtaposition between Microsoft and Apple, Windows advertisements feature a variety of PCs, phones and tablets across distributors. With Microsoft beginning to finalize its deal with Nokia, whose phones continue to sell internationally, it should come as no surprise that Windows is making the non-Apple world more formidable.

But this isn’t a battle over who can net the highest profits or the possibility that Microsoft will one day overtake Apple. What I’m concerned about is the social environment created and perpetuated by advertising schemes and how that manifests on a campus like Stanford.

This campus is a peculiar environment for those, such as myself, who can’t afford–or simply choose not to afford—Apple products. Though Windows’ assertion that I can be brave is uplifting, it doesn’t supplant the often subtle manifestations of elitism and separatism running amok in the minds of Apple subscribers.

Pair those manifestations with the prestige and pompous culture of Stanford—and higher education in general—and you have a recipe for the continual widening of the gap between the haves and the have nots.

For us non-Apple-ites, bravery seems to be our only choice.

Reprinted with permission from The Dish Daily, an online journal of student news and opinion at Stanford University.

Tre’vell Anderson is a student in Stanford's Graduate Program in Journalism. Follow @TrevellAnderson

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