• Charmaine Lising

Who's the Green Chat Bubble?

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

The divide between Android and Apple users goes beyond their tech preferences

Can you guess what I'm referring to? You've most likely deduced it to being the one person who often ruins the unified blue bubbles in the group chat. You may have even had someone in mind. Well, usually we reveal the secrets at the end, but I'm here to spoil the fun early. I'm the green chat bubble, because I'm an Android user.

When I was in high school and got my first smartphone, I felt I had reached a sense of new maturity and a shift in responsibility. In 2016, high school wasn’t just the age of following trends, it was also the age of exploring technology in order to expand those trends. Owning specific technology was its own trend. Specifically around this time, a touch screen was the opportunity for connection. Smartphones allowed us to build interests through apps, share newly discovered features, and create innovative ways to express new dialogue that wasn’t just confined to texting and calling. The brand of the smartphone itself didn’t matter so much to me because I was so happy to finally have a cell phone with a touch screen. As someone who didn’t grow up with a lot of expendable money, it felt surreal to be able to experience the prime of when smartphones were first emerging. However, as I grew up, what I originally thought was a simple distinction between Android versus Apple products started to feel like a form of classism and isolation.

To be frank, the differences in chat colors began to create an illusion of a social hierarchy. I didn’t see how something as simple as display settings could carry so much weight that it had the power to make individuals become divisive. I didn't realize there was a whole culture surrounding iPhones until I repetitively found myself in a game of hide and seek. The green bubble and I never chose to be it, yet it somehow turned into the entertainment of signaling out the one who didn't have an iPhone and we became the “hiders” by default. As the one and only Android user, I would stay silent until I absolutely had no choice but to admit that it was me. It was inevitable, but I remember trying to delay the process as long as I could. Every group project, friend group, or group message followed the same question, "who's the green chat bubble?"

Before I knew it, I began to feel embarrassed. Not for having an Android, but embarrassed to be put on the spot as the one individual who didn't have what the rest did. As ridiculous as it was, it became hard for me to admit that I was the one and only non-iPhone user. This is because what often followed that initial question was either more inquiries of why I didn't have an iPhone (as if it were a basic necessity), or reasons for why having an Android sucked.

Phones are not cheap, whether it's Android or Apple products. As a 23 year old, freshly graduated college student without a full-time job, I don't pay for my phone bills or the phone itself. My parents do, which I see as a privilege. What breaks my heart is that I've allowed the isolation from my peers to make me second-guess the good gifts my parents have worked hard to give me. It would be different if those who often pointed fingers had paid for their phones themselves, but I know that this is often not the case among my circle of friends. As a result of this, it unintentionally targets what my family is able to afford.

They would never say that out loud, or even realize the impact that it has, but I have always been taught that intention versus impact goes a long way.

As a child of immigrant parents, my parents were never raised with a cell phone along with many other technological devices that we rely on today. This analogy is not to reference that my parents are trying to raise me the same way that they grew up. In fact, it's quite the opposite because they wanted me to have what the other kids had. It is to reference that my parents don’t see a significance for luxury as long as the item functions well. As their daughter, I too, was raised with that belief. There is nothing wrong with those who do seek luxury items, especially if they have the means to afford it. However, my issue lies with the judgement that comes towards others who are not able to afford such things, or willingly choose not to obtain it.

My family actually didn't see a need for me to have a cell phone, but with the understanding of the culture surrounding kids my age in America, they wanted to give me that experience so that I wouldn't be left out. I could have stuck with a brick phone, but they chose to buy the newer, but affordable, phone with a touch screen.

I don't feel oppressed by my economic class. Instead, I am liberated because I have what I need as a result of loving parents who wanted to make sure I didn't struggle to fit in while growing up in the States. As a kid, I begged to have a cell phone because it was what all my friends had, but I didn’t receive one and resented the fear of being left out back then. Years later, I stopped asking for a phone because the desire to own one for the sake of trends became less appealing to me. My parents gave me a smartphone that year, despite no longer begging them for one. With little to no money for luxury items, they still wanted so badly to fulfill my desire at the time when I was too naive to realize I would grow out of it.

I never told my parents the reason I stopped asking for a phone. It was within their hearts that they wanted to make sure that they were providing the most supportive environment for my upbringing, by giving me what I had told them was best for me— even if I was wrong. Rather than the phone itself, my parents dedicated themselves to putting me at ease. It was through receiving my first smart phone that the realization of the device’s significance didn’t come from the validation of others, but from within my own circumstances.

I love my phone, and I cry a little whenever I drop it and part of the screen cracks. It guts me because my initial thought is that I don't want my parents to think that my phone didn't matter enough to me, for me to properly take care of it. My phone represents my parents giving me what they didn't have, but wished they did, growing up. No one ever asks someone why they're happy to have an Android, but if you were to ask me, here’s what I’d say: It’s a testimony of the hard efforts my parents worked for in order to help us assimilate to the U.S., and a gift that made me see a parent’s life dedication for a child’s fleeting moment of joy.

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