I've never seen another Explorer in the wild. It's been near isolation in my tech-napped
world for the past five weeks, sans Google hangouts with my inspiration for investing in Glass.
Then, I met Aaron*, a fellow second generation Explorer and programmer. Just days before Christmas, amidst the throngs of holiday guests to the happiest place on Earth, I stood at the checkout counter of a store along the main street in California Adventure. The cast member registering my purchase took an eager interest in Glass, so I began my friendly, routine explanation. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a figure lingering nearby, not even eight feet away from me. As I glanced sideways, I caught the startling image of a face with Glass.
The sight shouldn't surprise me, yet, since this was my first public encounter with another Explorer, I was unprepared for meeting my kin. In a way, my initial mild shock is probably similar to what the general public upon meeting "one of us". Note to self, smile even more and look even more approachable to assuage that shock.
He grinned and slowly approached me, and we exchanged pleasantries and names. At this point, with two of us bearing the same unfamiliar gadgets on our faces, the curiosity of the people around us became insatiable, and the flood of questions began. Typical, expected. However, he was well-versed in his response. He whipped out his phone and opened his screencast so fast that I simply deferred to his explanation.
While his words were amicable and demonstrated patience, he certainly moved and spoke with, might I say, aloofness, with a general lack of eye contact and an over confidence in his knowledge of Glass. I can't say for sure that it was true aloofness, but at the time, I couldn't put my finger on the meaning of his demeanor. He brusquely pointed out that should show my screencast as well, but, in my mind, our holding up the entire line to demonstrate Glass felt a little selfish and, with attention spans waning, perhaps unnecessary.
His explanation was rehearsed yet approachable, and when one of the cast members asked if we received a lot of questions about Glass, he replied with, "Yes." That tinge of exasperation in his voice was so subtle, so brief, that I'm sure I'm the only one who caught it (intuition of people's feeling courtesy of my counseling background). Then, as quickly as he appeared, he wrapped up his three line explanation and left the store at a quick pace.
I didn't know what to make of this encounter. In all, everyone we talked to walked away with positive awe about Glass, which is one of our primary goals as technology ambassadors. However, something felt odd: the way he kept distance from people; the forced, albeit friendly, recitation of how Glass works; the tinge of exasperation; even the lack of eye contact; the quick departure. These all spoke of someone who has been jaded by the Glass experience.
I messaged my Glass friend about meeting another Explorer "in the wild" and gave a brief synopsis of the experience, ending with my dismay at Aaron's apparent aloofness. My friend messaged back,
"Yeah, I could see that happening. A lot of Explorers would probably fall on the introverted side of the spectrum."
I sensed validity to this assertion, as several of my technology-oriented friends, many of whom are self-proclaimed or are otherwise labeled as a "geek", tend to exhibit the very traits I saw in Aaron: socially awkward, intensely occupied with technology, unconsciously didactic, friendly but skittish. Of course, individual experiences tend to bias in a particular direction, and with pop culture directing the masses toward believing geeks to be introverted, technology-oriented, and often socially awkward. Just look at The Big Bang Theory's characterization of geeks, and you'll see my point. Even American author Julie Smith described a geek as "a bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace."
Don't get me wrong; most geeks are amazing people who tend to cluster around a specific set of personality traits, including introversion, and I am not saying there is anything wrong with introversion. Even I tend toward introversion the Myers Briggs Personality Profile. However, this classic geek trait does carry certain ramifications in the introduction of Glass by an almost exclusively technology-oriented population, such as programmers and developers. The original premise of the Explorer program was to invite individuals to test, for a price, Glass before it reached the general public, meaning that it has fallen upon those introverted individuals to interface with the public about Glass.
I have a feeling that a lot of people, while curious and excited by the new technology, see it as a geek gadget for that exclusive population of programmers and developers. Nearly every person I have spoken with while wearing Glass has asked if I work for or am somehow affiliated with Google. The next question is always an assumption formed as a question about my being a programmer. People do not yet see this product as a gadget for the general population, which I think is being perpetuated by the fact that the lovable but not exactly extroverted population of Explorers happen to be technology savants who can demonstrate the product well but leave doubt in the minds of the public they interface with if this product can be useful anyone.
With third generation Explorer invites being submitted as I speak, I hope the Glass population waters down to include more "average" people, such as myself, not because I don't appreciate the tech-geeks responsible for initially introducing Glass, but because the public needs to feel like they are an extension of this project, too, capable of becoming, in their own right, a self-proclaimed tech-geek.
*Name has been changed.