We are what we buy, or so argues a fascinating new survey from that compares IPhone usage with Blackberries and Androids. According to Atlantic writer Emily Badger, a brand doesn’t simply signify a product; the Apple logo symbolizes a lifestyle and a socioeconomic location. People who both use Apple products are more likely to share a class background than an Apple user and someone with a Cricket phone.
Where I grew up, cellphones weren’t a huge priority. People could barely afford to pay their bills, so ain’t nobody got money for an IPhone. If you had a phone, you were on a smaller carrier — often one with a month-to-month plan. Some still use pay-as-you-go phones.
When I moved from a poor, rural area to a densely populated cityscape, it wasn’t just that all of my friends had phones; they all had IPhones, a brand loyalty signifying a certain class stature. It wasn’t that I’d never seen an IPhone before, but they were a much rarer beast, like spotting a Yeti or Anne Heche in the woods.
However, the graphics show that cities break down in the same way, showing that IPhone users live in wealthy, heavily gentrified neighborhoods and Android users come from lower-income geographies. Badger tracks this by tweet usage, and the Chicago map shows IPhone users tweeting from the North Side and the Loop and along the train lines. They are signified by red dots, where as Android users are green and Blackberry folks are purple. My neighborhood, Edgewater, and those around me are red with IPhone tweets. I still have a Windows Phone, but I am alone amongst my friends. When I see another Windows phone user, it’s like we share a dark secret.
The only outliers on the Chicago map (see above) are Midway and O’Hare, the city’s airports, which are almost entirely red, speckled with hints of green. The IPhone red signifies that one at least has the moderate wealth to be able to afford a flight. I wonder what color the Megabus and Greyhound stations are. When I used to take the Greyhound bus home to Cincinnati to see my mother, I shared the bus with Blackberries, Sidekicks and flip phones along with the smattering of IPhones, the technologies of the recent past intermingling with the present. I would arrive and text my mother to make sure had gotten there on time to meet me, forgetting her Jitterbug doesn’t text.
Today she like many in her community had to shut off her cellphone to cut back during a hard economy that forced lower-income families to ask what expenses were expendable. My mother is no longer represented on these maps. She is the black space to the West of Chicago, where many of our schools are being shut down. Over 50 elementary schools will be shut down this summer, as our mayor works to build a new arena at McCormick Place that he believes will generate revenue for the city. McCormick Place is covered in red.
These maps speak to the ways in which we form communities around technology. The next time you are at a bar, look around you. Watch how people are using their phones. Are you a see of red or do you light up like Christmas? If you can, find your map below and locate yourself. You’ll be surprised what you see when you’re really looking.
New York City:
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