Make a Choice, Take a Vote

When I visited India a few years ago, I was walking around a market and made the mistake of picking up a brass statue. After having a quick look I placed it back down and walked away, not thinking anything of it.

The next 20 minuites or so resulted in trying to hide away from the stallholder, statue in hand, as he proceeded to follow me around the market trying desperately for me to haggle with him.

Not taking “no” for an answer, for the rest of my visit I was shadowed by Statue Man until I literally ran around a corner and hid, as I watched him walk by, trying to find me.

Phew.

Google has made the internet that experience.

If there is one thing that drives me nuts, it’s targeted ads. Ok, I get that a capitalist society is based around advertising and that marketing is a way of life. I also see the obvious benefits of marketing and how powerful targeted ads actually are.

However, I don’t want to visit a website, click on some product and decide it isn’t for me, then proceed to see said product for the next week or so while it follows me around the internet, splayed all over different sites as an ad, not taking “no” for an answer.

Fuck off Statue Man!

I am a website developer by day and know how powerful the likes of entities such as Google, Facebook et al are. And its not a pretty sight.

Those who buy into their services are offered codes to place on their websites. These help with tracking traffic, from an ad to a sale. They are a no-brainer for those who need to see if a particular ad is working or not, which is why they are everywhere. The issue with this, is that for companies such as Google and Facebook, the exchange is far outweighed in their favour. By visiting a website which has its tracking code, or pixel, installed, as a user, you can then be tracked through whatever you are doing within that browser. As long as you are logged into Facebook, everything you then do is sent back to their servers – all excused as a better way to serve you ads. They achieve this by creating a profile about you, which advertisers can then target. Bet you wished you didn’t look at those French Knickers now.

The same goes for Google. Which is why Statue Man knows that you viewed his product on website A and then shows it to you again on website J, as it did on website, B,C,D,E,F,G,H and I and any other place which displays their advertisements.

… have to draw the line somewhere

Personally, I find this creepy. As I do any company who’s sole purpose is to collect data and why I simply refuse to consume any form of Google product or service, which kinda makes me an Antigoogletarian. And yes, that does sound wanky, but we are going to roll with it anyway.

I avoid all things Google as much I can can. I don’t use their Chrome web browser, I don’t use their maps, calendars, documents, their mobile services, have never used Android, hell, this computer that I am writing this article on has never even seen the Google search engine. Ever.[1]

I choose to avoid anything Google like the plague simply because I don’t like them. I don’t believe in their morals, their business ethics, how they do business, how stealthy they are, and I certainly don’t trust them.

Whatever the reason to not like or support a company, product or service we are always faced with a choice. Continue using them, or don’t.

Easier said then done right? Especially when said company is flouting convenience for users.

Convenience is everything. I also don’t use Amazon for various reasons and simply refuse to give Jeff Bazos any more money. Especially when in interviews, I don’t at all feel aligned to him, I shudder at reading how his employees are treated and would rather simply not do business with him at all. This seems simple, but can also be a royal pain in the arse because Amazon sells pretty much everything. Other platforms which I buy books do not always stock what I am looking for, and herein lays the problem. Do I submit and give Scrooge McDuck some more money, or go without? Fuck it, I aways go without. Bollocks to him.

When more is never enough

EVERY DOLLAR WE SPEND IS A VOTE

Voting is not just the domain of a polling booth. We vote in all kinds of ways. Any support given to something is a vote in its favour, regardless of what that is.

Our personal value system and identities work in a similar way. Someone could say that they identify with being a environmentalist, they love the natural world and identify with all of the global movements to protect it. But then, their stocks see most growth with an oil company and so they choose keep them there. Their actions do not follow their beliefs and therefore they are incongruent. Their true value is making money, not protecting the planet, which turns out to not be an identity but rather a nice idea. That was an obvious example, but it is the same principle on a smaller scale when we choose to buy something for even $1.

We collectively moan about how supermarkets are killing small independent family businesses, yet we shop in supermarkets regardless. Its that good ol’ convenience thing again and we justify it by telling ourselves one more customer can’t hurt the situation. But times that by everyone who needs to buy something and suddenly Mr Family Butcher ends up buying his meat in there as well.

Of course, progress will always inevitably happen but the question we need to ask ourselves is – is this a progress that I wish to support or is it just convenient to do so?

If it is the latter then you are supporting it, no matter what your beliefs, values or so-called identities are saying. We should also bare in mind that we tend to romanticise the past, yet demonise the future and avoid change for changes sake. When convenience is involved, these changes are pretty easy. Case in point is the near-future cashless societies. Let everyone effortlessly pay for their goods by waving their phones around and do this for long enough, most people wouldn’t even notice that paper money is actually no longer a thing.

On the mental level we could hate the idea. Change = Evil. Paper money, what we have always been used to using = nice and safe (even though most of us use cards over cash anyway). But project yourself forwards 200 years into the year 2220 and look back on us now, with all of the other advancements which had been made throughout that time period. My bets are on that we would be asking how we ever managed with paper money at all, like how we managed without mobile phones or having to remember a myriad of actual phone numbers. Though it is highly likely that we will all take ourselves there regardless, as convenience is king.

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FOOTNOTES:
  1. For the sake of transparency, I do use YouTube when I have to, but this is only due to their being no real alternative at the moment, and that is only through a super-secure browser.
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