On unpopular opinions

April 24, 2018, 1:00 a.m.

As I walk into lecture, pull out my laptop and flip the screen around 360 degrees so I can write on it, I take a quick glance around the room and see almost nothing but MacBooks, open to a simple and convenient 120 degrees. I pulled out my Android phone in a sea of iPhones to check the time. Clearly, my choice of devices is not the popular one.

I’m quite used to having unpopular opinions. I don’t use Apple products, I infinitely prefer cats to dogs, I refuse to take CS, I chose FroSoCo over an all-frosh dorm, I don’t like boba and I like jeans more than leggings, among other things. I’ve had good-natured arguments with my peers here at Stanford over each of these subjects at some point or another, and most of the time, I’ve been outnumbered. In many of these cases, the winner is usually whichever side has the most people. While this majority rule may be a principle of democracy, it doesn’t mean that having an unpopular opinion is invalid.

There are a couple of different ways to oppose the prevailing consensus on any particular subject. One way is to oppose it on principle. Having an unpopular opinion this way is very rarely about whatever the topic is; it’s more about resisting the wave of people who are “sheeple,” “normies” or — to use a concept extensively broken down in an amazing article by Grind writer Claire Francis — “basic.” In this instance, the point of avoiding following whatever is currently trending or popular is to seem distinct and aloof from a crowd, maybe even cool. However, all this really does is tear people down for liking something popular while ignoring something that could actually just be really good. This counterproductive reason to have an unpopular opinion does little else besides push people into their own echo chambers of liking or disliking whatever it is they have chosen to like or dislike. The preteen version of Kiara from middle school who wanted to be different and edgy would disagree, but she disagreed with most things on principle, so I wouldn’t really listen to her.

On the other hand, people sometimes have unpopular opinions for legitimate reasons. For example, when buying a laptop to replace my ancient, virus-ridden behemoth from high school, I — unlike many of my peers — didn’t choose to buy a MacBook. I understand why people love MacBooks and Apple products in general. They’re reliable. They last for ages, they’re less likely to be infected with viruses and malware and they just work. If something does go wrong with your MacBook, you can just bring it into your nearest Apple store and they’ll take care of it. Plus, you get the perks of AirDrop, iMessage, iCloud and other factors of the Apple ecosystem, making the device incredibly convenient to pair with the iPhone that you probably already have. To be honest, if I had an iPhone, I might have been much more inclined to get a MacBook. However, as an Android user, the competition for me started on equal ground, and I eventually went against the popular consensus — and the advice of my dad — and got a Windows laptop: a 15” HP Spectre x360 with a string of letters and numbers in the official name, to be exact. Even though I picked Windows over Apple, I have to admit that Apple has much more concise product names.

So why did I make the unpopular choice? First of all, I’m pretty sure having a MacBook is very much a Stanford thing, or even just a college thing, so it’s pretty popular outside of the bubble; but more importantly, I chose differently from most of my classmates after thinking about what would actually be best for me. I know that people sometimes go against the popular opinion just on principle, but I’m sure some MacBook owners here chose their MacBook just because everyone else also chose a MacBook, and probably because it was easier to rely on popular opinion than to spend a month of summer vacation doing laptop research. I did consider just going with the trend — like I said before, MacBooks are objectively good laptops — but I realized Windows laptops had much more value for me personally than a MacBook would ever have. The MacBook that has the closest specifications to mine cost over $1,000 more and has fewer of the features that I use almost daily on my laptop. While I can flip my laptop around into a (giant) tablet and write on the touchscreen with the included pen, with a MacBook I would have been limited to a cute touch bar that I have yet to see anyone make use of. Other factors went into my decision as well, like not having to pull out an adapter to use a regular USB port, but for someone who loves taking notes by hand and loves saving money even more, it really wasn’t a competition.

So, that was a very long, very roundabout way of saying that there are legitimate reasons to have unpopular opinions, and of course legitimate reasons to have popular ones. So don’t major in CS if you hate coding or avoid CS if you love coding, just because it’s one of the things that is popular at Stanford. Make choices because you like what you’re choosing. What works for other people may or may not work for you, and that’s your decision to make, not everyone else’s.


Contact Kiara Harding at kiluha ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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