NSFW: Bendgate and the Internet echo chamber

NSFW is a weekly op-ed column in which I talk about whatever's on my mind. Sometimes it'll have something to do with the technology we cover here on iMore; sometimes it'll be whatever pops into my head. Your questions, comments and observations are welcome.

A new rumor spread this week that the iPhone 6 Plus was prone to bending, mostly on the strength of a YouTube video that showed an iPhone 6 Plus user bending his. Almost instantly a new meme was born — Bendgate. Or, perhaps more topically relevant, Bendghazi. The incident demonstrates more about how we process information now than anything to do with Apple's manufacturing processes.

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These days word on the Internet spreads like wildfire. And even if you haven't watched the video or seen a bent iPhone 6 Plus yourself, you've heard about it. That's the Internet echo chamber at work, where anecdotal information that's popular enough can rebound enough times that it feels like it's a constant stream, even though it's the same thing being repeated over and over again.

What's worse, the Internet echo chamber feeds mainstream media news coverage, so people of all stripes have heard of the bending iPhones. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked in the past few days if I tried to bend my new iPhone 6.

As I said on Twitter, "Have you tried to bend your iPhone?" No. Because I'm not a stupid asshole.

I put a case on my iPhone 6 about 30 seconds after getting it out of the box. And I heartily encourage you to do the same.

Apply enough force to something and it will bend or break, because physics are still a thing. It's how we consume information that has changed so much. I worry that we don't yet have the skills to differentiate signal from noise when stuff like this happens. Many of us certainly lack the critical thinking skills to differentiate that noise from signal, too.

Bending iPhones — or any smartphone, for that matter — are nothing new. Sporadic complaints about bending iPhones go back to the iPhone 4, but given the hundreds of millions of iPhones sold, overall, the number of complaints is infinitesimal.

In context of the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple later told CNBC that it's received a total of nine complaints so far. The company's moved over 10 million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models in that period, underscoring that this is an exceeding rare phenomenon. (Apple doesn't break down iPhone 6 Plus sales, specifically, but they're in the millions.)

If you're concerned about your iPhone bending, here's some advice: Put a case on it. Same goes if you're concerned about your iPhone getting scratched up, scuffed and dinged. It's a nice piece of hardware. Make a little bit of an effort to keep it looking good. It'll improve its resale value, if that sort of thing is important to you.

But if you bareback your iPhone and treat it roughly, expect it to look like crap in pretty short order. And you'll have no one to blame but yourself. Adamantium only exists in comic books - while our devices are made of real-world metals and alloys, we need to care care of them if we don't want them looking like crap.

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