If you were to text me right now, my response would likely show up on your iPhone as a green bubble. To some people, that first text might be last one they ever send me because, as it turns out, many people aren’t fond of green bubbles.
In case you are unaware, when an iPhone sends a message to another iPhone, the responses will show up in blue bubbles. This indicates the messages being sent are iMessages, Apple’s proprietary messaging format, not standard SMS text messages. If an iPhone user were to send a message to an Android phone (like my Google Nexus 6P), the Android response would show up in a green bubble on the iPhone, indicating the messages are SMS. Unlike SMS, iMessages can be natively sent over Wi-Fi, traced as “read” or “unread,” and do not possess character limits. Technologically speaking, iMessages are superior to SMS.
Chances are you already knew all of that. Apparently, iPhones are popular. A walk through the Diag or a glance around an Angell Hall auditorium only confirms this fact. From my three years of experience at Michigan, it is very clear that we as a university do indeed bleed blue.
As a Michigan student, I realize the off-putting nature of anything green. However, I never realized the extent to which many people outright hate receiving green bubbles. Beyond the common “Why don’t you just get an iPhone?” I get from my friends a few times a month, I have seen a number of top yaks pop up on Yik Yak dissing those of us who choose the green bubbles. However, I figured occurrences such as these were the exception, not the norm. That is, until I read a recent piece by Paul Ford.
All you need to know about Ford’s piece can be found by doing a quick search on Twitter for “green bubble.” It turns out those top yaks were more of the norm than the exception after all.
As an Android user on a largely iPhone-based campus, I understand the technological complaints about green bubbles. They’re slower, you can’t send them from your MacBook and they absolutely destroy any type of group text. You have a right to hate the underlying and dated technology that is the green bubble. You do not, however, have the right to hate the green bubble in and of itself because, in some parts of the world, blue is synonymous with green.
In passing discussions, international students have told me of the messaging service WhatsApp. It operates in a similar fashion to iMessage and is technologically superior to SMS in pretty much every way. However, unlike iMessage, WhatsApp is cross-platform, meaning iPhones, Android phones and even Windows phones (yes, those do exist) can all reap its benefits. This is one of the many reasons WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging services in the world.
To any of the hundreds of millions of WhatsApp users, green and blue bubbles are equal; they are not WhatsApp messages, so they are inferior. Like my iPhone-owning roommates hate my Android phone, WhatsApp users hate iMessage.
All of this hate can manifest into something real. While many people are merely joking, some of those tweets you might have found in your search reflect real people making real life choices to avoid those of the green bubble. Dates are canceled, friendships are strained, people clash.
A recent article from The Verge detailed how one of the publication’s writers suffering from depression purchased an iPhone in order to gain access into his friend groups’ iMessage chats, which he was previously excluded from as an Android user. To know such a minor feature could have such a profound effect on a person’s life really struck me. What if I’m missing out on my friends’ conversations because I’m green?
What is the solution to this problem? In theory, iMessage on Android would fix your group chats in an instant. But this is unlikely to happen, as iMessage is a defining feature of iPhones, and the societal pressure to adhere to the blue bubble is a powerful economic force. It is, after all, the only reason I’ve ever legitimately contemplated getting an iPhone.
A second solution would be for the entire world to use WhatsApp or any similar service like we all once used SMS. Given that many friend groups have a tough time finding a restaurant in Ann Arbor on which they can all agree, deciding on one messaging platform is an ideal but unlikely solution, at least in the near future.
A final solution would be for us all to just live in harmony — blue, green, WhatsApp and more. In the short run, we miss out on some of the benefits of living in a unified, all-iMessage or all-WhatsApp world. But in the long run, we allow important societal and individual characteristics, such as a person’s moral fiber, devotion to friendship or general personality dictate our relationships, not a silly colored bubble.
After all, I am green. Your grandmother with a flip phone is green. Your friend who goes to Michigan State is green. It would be a shame to let something as trivial as the color of our bubbles on your phone dictate our relationships with people like you.
Elliott Rains can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.