Childish. Petty. Disrespectful.
These were the only words I could muster after reading about how a group of Glass users destroyed the Yelp rating of a local NYC restaurant, all because they asked one person to take off her Google Glass in their restaurant.
I’ve been asked to take off Glass before, and I’ve obliged without issue. After all, it’s their restaurant and their rules. If a restaurant asks me to put my cell phone away, I will. If somebody asks me to take off my shoes in their home, I respect their wishes. But Katy Kasmai didn’t take being asked to remove Glass so well. She refused to eat there because she couldn’t put the computer off her face. Instead she posted to Google+ and, for some reason, her Google+ followers and other Glass users decided to vote down the restaurant on Yelp, OpenTable and Google/Zagat.
(Correction: From what I could find, Katy never rallied or asked her followers to downvote the restaurant. Google Glass users did that all on her own.)
For those who don’t know, a single star in a Yelp rating can make or break a local restaurant. In fact, just an increase by a half-star increases the chance a restaurant can sell out its seats by 49%. A full-star drop is a big deal to a locally-owned restaurant like Feast, which was only started a year or two ago by two friends.
Since then, Kasmai has defended the response, calling it “tech discrimination”:
I think I just vomited a little in my mouth. You can’t control being black, gay or a woman; you can control whether you wear a $1500 piece of hardware. To me, this kind of behavior reeks of entitlement. Just because I own a piece of technology instantly means that I should get my way. This kind of behavior is the reason why I rarely put on Glass anymore — I don’t want to be associated with Glassholes.
Unfortunately for Google, this isn’t an isolated case. Search the term “Glasshole” and you’ll get plenty of news stories about Sarah Slocum. (who shouldn’t have brought Glass into a bar like Molotov in the first place, but reacted badly by escalating the situation.) One Glass user in Shanghai was taking creepy photos of women in the subway. It’s gotten so bad that Google even had to release a guide on how not to be an asshole.
Seriously, why does Google Glass seem to attract so many assholes? Yes, there are plenty of great people using it for interesting and legitimate reasons — this story of a double amputee in Vegas is one the most compelling. But these legitimate uses are being drowned out by asinine behavior.
I have a simple theory as to why Glass seems to attract more assholes: unlike other technologies, Glass is also a status symbol.
Smartphones aren’t great status symbols — they stay in your pocket most of the time. Neither are smart watches, which aren’t always visible, either. But Glass? It’s the only piece of technology I can think of that’s impossible to miss. It’s in your face. If you walk in somewhere, everyone will know you have Glass. And in the early days, when only a few people could obtain Google Glass, it meant that you had been “chosen” in some way by Google.
Some people can handle that, but others aren’t so adept at handling the idea that they were chosen. To some, being chosen means that they were, in some way, better than those who weren’t chosen. And that goes straight to the ego. It leads to entitlement, which leads to glasshole-ish behavior. You see this kind of behavior with middle class who buy Porsches, Mustangs and Jaguars. It’s a flashy symbol of wealth and power that can make people act entitled assholes.
I doubt this mindset will go away anytime soon, despite the fact anyone can buy Glass now. “We were the original Glass explorers,” is a phrase that we will unfortunately hear over and over again.
By inadvertently making Google Glass a status symbol, Google attracted not just developers and tech enthusiasts, but a-holes into its Glass Explorers program. This has led to months of headache-inducing headlines that aren’t because Google built a bad product or had a bad idea. It just inadvertently found the wrong people to become its evangelists.
So I implore the Glass enthusiasts out there — please stop acting like the victim. Stop acting like you’re entitled to wear Glass around. And most of all, stop acting like Glassholes. If you truly love the product, you’ll respect the wishes of others and focus on sharing the use cases of Glass that make it stand out as a quality product with a positive impact.