3 touchy tech topics to avoid at holiday dinners

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Place Setting Pixabay
Which fork does one use for seppuku, again? Someone get Miss Manners on this.
Photo: Steve Buissinne/Pixabay

The ever-expanding holiday season is upon us once again, and Cult of Mac wants to help make your obligatory family dinners the least awkward they can be.

We know that a certain amount of discomfort is unavoidable. Kids might have tantrums, Grinches might get a bit too much “holiday spirit,” or some cousin with a beef might have been waiting for everyone to be in the same room before they announce how they really feel about Grandma.

Family drama aside, we have a few tips for conversation tech topics to avoid during dinner to keep everyone as happy and un-yelled-at as possible. It was a big year for tech, but some topics are best left in Internet forums and the comments of your favorite Apple blog.

Virtual-reality porn

Look, we know: Virtual reality is really taking off, and everyone’s trying to get into the game. Facebook bought the Oculus Rift headset last year, and Microsoft, Samsung and Sony are plugging along with their own wearable holodecks. Even Google’s in on the game with its entry-level Cardboard sets and a new app for taking 3-D panoramas.

It’s all pretty exciting — and potentially nauseating, depending on your propensity for motion sickness — and you have plenty to discuss with your family if they’re interested in it. But maybe don’t mention that, while we wait for gear and software, most of the action in the virtual-entertainment game is going down in adult entertainment.

Google Cardboard
It’s just safer to show the goggles.
Photo: Google

Surely, tech that promises to immerse users in an interactive, 3-D world has pretty obvious porn applications, and the number of sites that tout VR is on the rise. Some even offer to provide you the headset you need to get yourself in there. All of this is fascinating and obvious, but if talk turns to virtual reality at the dinner table, you’d be better off trying to explain how bomb-defusal simulator Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes works.

Platform wars

Above: A really bad idea.
Above: A really bad idea.
Photo: Cult of Mac

The go-to forbidden topics are politics and religion, and somehow the debate over which phone operating system, computer manufacturer or gaming console is the “right” one fits into both categories simultaneously.

I’ve had perfectly lovely dinners that took a swan dive into Nope Lake after one of my co-eaters voiced some very strong and must-hear opinions about which platform’s emojis look better. And that was just about tiny pictures people use when they don’t word so good. Never mind the inevitable topics of privacy, security, government lawsuits, hacking and which digital assistant, Siri or OK, Google, has more annoying ads.

Cost is the other issue; Cult of Mac writer Rob LeFebvre says he still has people asking him why he’d cough up the four-figure cost of a MacBook when Windows machines are available for $300. Of course, the answer to that question is that a $300 laptop is almost guaranteed to be a piece of crap, but holiday dinners are no place for logic. Just avoid this topic completely.

And if you’re a gaming family, you should also avoid conversations comparing the relative merits of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. People are going to have preferences — I know I do, and I own both machines — but you really don’t need to start a console war over which is superior. They both have strengths and weaknesses, just like every other device. Best to just keep it on the software end by asking your gaming relatives what they’ve been playing.

The iPad Pro

You can expect a 67 percent larger argument than the one you had over the iPad Air 2.
You can expect a 67 percent larger argument than the one you had over the iPad Air 2.
Photo: Apple

We’ll throw in a caveat here that if you own an iPad Pro, you may have a much easier time convincing your family of how cool it is because you just have to show them. But if talk turns to an academic discussion of Apple’s biggest tablet ever, you should grab those reins and pull for all you’re worth.

Why? Because it’s hard to convince people who might think a $300 computer is a great buy that an $800 tablet is worth it. Not even to mention the $99 Apple Pencil stylus and the $169 Smart Keyboard that almost, but doesn’t quite, turn the device into a laptop.

Still, if you’re a creative professional and have some cool stuff to show off on your awesome new iPad Pro, go ahead and do that; you might win some skeptical family members over. Or you may not. Just try to get a read on the room.