Kenneth Ballenegger

Angel Investor, Engineer, Startup Founder

The Incredible Hypocrisy of Modern Citizens

One thing I’ve noticed about American culture from living in the USA for over two years now is that there’s a deep kind of hypocrisy running through our morals. We condemn many things for being indecent, while we allow much worse things to go under the guise of free speech. Meanwhile, individuals feel an incredible sense of entitlement when it comes to their perceived rights.

One recent example was when my social network feeds were inundated with calls to sign a petition for Facebook to add transexual options to the gender option. Now, I don’t want to get into gay-rights politics, but I am fervently against the idea that Facebook has any kind of obligation to include a feature because not doing so would offend a minority of its users.

I take issue with the idea that some people think they are entitled to the feature—that it is their fundamental right. They are not, and it is not. Should we start adding “Flying Spaghetti Monster” to the religion drop downs too, because some people want to identify with it? Point is, with any popular product, people will find something to rebel against. If not this, it would be something else. People need to realize that Facebook has a vision for their product, and that they need to be able to follow it unimpeded.

One fundamental aspect of good design is that it has been curated by somebody who knows what they’re doing, and has intimate knowledge of what they’re designing. This is why when users tell you that you should implement a feature, and that it will make your product better (and make you money), they’re most often full of crap. This is why anything on is crap. This is why Apple products are so great, and why Facebook beat MySpace.

Remember Henry Ford? “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

My goal as a developer and designer is to make a product that people will love, and will make the world better. However, the way I’m going to do that is by thinking about what’s best for the majority of my users. The truth is 99.9% of users don’t care for outlying setting such as transgender identity. Transgender identity is much trickier than just adding an “Other” drop down item. If you allow it, how do you then genderize all the pronouns? Do you default to “he,” “she,” or use the combination “he/she?” Or worse, do you turn the user into an object and go with “it?” Bottom line is, it’s just not worth doing for the 0.1% of user’s feelings. They’re convinced with all their might that, surly, they deserve special treatment. But really, they don’t.

Secondly, I’m growing extremely tired of America’s prude culture. People are constantly getting offended at really silly things. Just look at video games, for example. You can’t sell a video game with “sexually suggestive” language to teenagers under 18, if you can put it on the market at all. Yet, there’s no problem with selling games to 10 year olds that vividly depicts ripping people in half.

Meanwhile, in real life, some words are prohibited and frowned upon for the sake of political correctness, while much worse sentiments are perfectly acceptable. It’s perfectly fine to go on Fox News and say “Mexican Immigrants are mostly criminals and should be deported,” or even openly be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, because it’s free speech. On the other hand, though, exclaiming “Holy Shit!” on broadcast television when the Giants score a home run will get you a class action lawsuit.

Personally, I think people should be able to say whatever they want—except for maybe hate speech. As for products, their owner have the right to design them however they want and let the general population vote with their actions. Isn’t that the founding principle of capitalism and the American Dream? Lastly, people really need to get off their high horse, when it comes to accusing everybody of discrimination.