I’ve been kind of crabby and oppositional about Apple stuff because I’ve been trying to pay more attention to what goes on inside my head when I interact with the part of tech media that’s about obsessively tracking product lifecycles.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a shift when new Apple stuff comes out because I like Apple stuff. Even when they’re just talking about phones and watches I find myself looking at my laptop, desktop, and tablet, too, wondering if it’s time to think about a refresh.

So we go into an update cycle, and all these conversations happen. There are the people saying “this isn’t even an update, I’m disappointed,” and the people who are saying “this is awesome, I want one,” and the paid writers who depend on our traffic who are commercially obligated to say something, and the “advocate” layer who are going to come up with some reason to patiently explain that something about this is all reflective of Apple’s Grand Design or whatever. And the “just let people like the things they like” people, which is one of the more contradictory positions in the discourse, because … just think about it.

Look, I was going to say “nobody likes a scold.” But I think it’s more like “very few people like every scold on every topic, and we all seem to like certain scolds on certain topics,” and I think it’d be worth asking “what even is a scold?”

Because regardless of whatever your personal upgrade cycle is, or how long you’ve been nursing along your half-dead old phone from four years ago or whatever, the industry that is making these goddamn things counts on a layer of people who just want to update their phone every year if given even a vague pretext to do so, and as a macro cultural, economic and environmental question I think it’s in bounds to say “that doesn’t seem sustainable or healthy.” It’s even in bounds to express dissent on even flimsier grounds – matters of aesthetics, taste, or simple dumb oppositionalism to the amount of time wasted thinking about phones.

I’ve been wrestling a lot lately with questions of tone and advocacy; and how candor, tact, kindness, and pragmatism interact. I see a lot of, er, modes of discourse that bother me because, frankly, it’s just some asshole who seems to care about something I care about, too, advocating for that thing in the worst possible way, guaranteed to drive people off. I cringe. And when they get self-righteous about it, I get angry.

But I also think that sometimes you have to put a little sauce on the pitch, because it’s a pretty complex world out there and it is very hard to walk that fine line of making connections, drawing peoples' attention to the impact of choices they may or may not have consciously considered, and staking out some ground over the ways that the world is currently one way and should probably be another without someone out there somewhere in the vast discursive space that is The Internet feeling a little put off.

So, it’s okay to care enough about something that you don’t always use your best words. It’s definitely okay to risk making other people uncomfortable. We all have to do our own cost-benefit analysis about the modes we engage in, and the tones we choose, and how deep our desire is to influence instead of berate.