What Is A User?

The “Search” For Our True Selves.

John Herrman
May 22, 2013 · 2 min read

I Was On Kik Messager The Other Day When My Son Sent Me A Message.

“What Is A User,” He Asked.

I Sent Back A Message. “LOL.” But I Was Not LOL. I Was WAI (Worried About It). In All My Years As A User I Had Never Thought About What The Word Meant. How? It Was A Moonshot Of The Mind.

Before I Was A Path User I Was A Facebook User, A MySpace User. I Was An AOL User, A Forum User, A Usenet User. “Use”net. It’s Amazing How Long Something Can Be In Front Of Your Eyes And You Can’t See It Even Though It Is Right There. It Was There. The Greatest Minds See Things That Are There But Are Not Seen. Users — Of Greatness.

Before That I Was A User of School, A User Of Nickelodeon (Remember). I Was A User Of Mom And Dad, Of Water And Air. We Are All Users. Nobody Is Not A User. My Cofounder Is A User of Me. I Am A User Of My Cofounder. We Are Both Users Of Medium.

Most Importantly. We Are Users Of Our Users.

This Realization Disrupted My Life Completely.


Once You Understand This It Is Easier To Understand Your Users. Your Users Are Just Like You: They Are Users. Services Cannot Exist Without Users.

Users Cannot Exist Without Services. I Use, Therefore I Am. I Am A User. Have You Looked Your User Interface In The Mirror Lately?

Steve Jobs understood two things:

  1. Art and design
  2. Technology (Tech, for short)
  3. User Is Always Right

He Once Told My Cofounder Something I’ll Never Forget. He Said: Be The User.

Jack Dorsey? User. Bill Gates? User. Mark Zuckerberg. User.

You. Reading This Post. A User. Please Feel Free To “Use” This Post On Hacker News. God Is The Ultimate User. He Uses Everything. Everything Uses Him. As Richard Dawkins Famously Said, “I Have No Use For God.” Perhaps He Meant To Say: “I Am Not A User Of God.” This Is Fundamental.


So I Told My Son. It’s Time To Be A “User” Of Your Toothbrush And Get Ready To Go To Sleep. But It Was Too Late — I Had Become A User Of A New Idea That I Would Never Stop Using.

And So Did My Cofounder. And That’s How We Got Where We Are Today. People Ask Me,

waho cooooolllll

my home on the web

    John Herrman

    Written by

    Co-editor, The @Awl

    waho cooooolllll

    my home on the web

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