I’ve asked this question of groups of people on Twitter, at cigar lounges, groups of half-drunk friends, and elsewhere…always to the sound of crickets.
In the current culture war it seems every corporation has taken a stance.
Some are front liners. The behavior of Twitter and Facebook is absolutely unconscionable. TikTok is run by a malevolent foreign actor. Amazon kicked Parler off their infrastructure and has started banning books based on some internal leftist metric of “suitable content.” Don’t even get me started on fucking Google. Major media isn’t even worth discussing.
Most of these companies provide an incredibly valuable service. The social and business utility of the social media defies all metrics.
So my question is this: In attempting to maintain your convictions, is it okay to use the tools of your enemies, knowing that in so doing, you benefit them directly?
There are a couple people who I only keep in touch with over facebook. Quitting twitter is an absolute non-starter at this point. It’s really my primary social forum.
Those two use advertising income to pay the bills (note: If the service is free, you are the product.) So I have all MANNER of ad blockers on my home lan, my laptops, phone, browsers, etc. My personal information is a lie and on Facebook I post just about nothing. Facebook and Twitter just don’t get much from my participation.
But what about Google? Well, yeah I have an android phone, which is a google operating system (I bought an iPhone 11 pro somethingorother but just couldn’t get used to it as I’m unwilling to buy in to the ecosystem.) They bought FitBit so THAT’S now in the box of verboten hardware. I’ve got a few gmail accounts that are used for secondary concerns, and I use duckduckgo, Brave, and microsoft products for the most part. What about YouTube? Well, the ad blockers manage that pretty well and I pull down copies of most videos I ever revisit. So I’m more or less okay there. But there’s still a dependency that makes me physically sick.
Then there’s the big one: Amazon. I was an amazon prime user since it’s existed, for about 20 years. The amount of money I’ve spent at Amazon is almost embarrassing since 1999. As they dropped more and more books from their catalog, without a trace, I started flinching. But when they kicked Parler off the AWS infrastructure I had enough. I unplugged all my amazon echo devices, wiped my kindles (yes, plural. Don’t ask), boxed up my Fire TV unit, and just cancelled my account completely.
Felt good to exhibit the courage of my convictions.
Amazon is absolutely the one that hurts the most. I don’t QUITE walk into the kitchen and say “Alexa, play ‘My Likes'” or ask for the weather report. But…even now, months later, it comes up every time I walk into the kitchen. I’ve found other sources for books and other stuff. Abebooks, thriftbooks, hell, even Barnes & Noble. Walmart delivers pretty quickly. Newegg, Monoprice, Tindie, and Sparkfun have all the tech I could want.
But Amazon is SO damned good at what they do that, months later, I still feel a little stabbing pain when I order something from somewhere else.
The only way alternatives will exist is if the demand is there, and every person who makes that kind of decision pulls in the right direction.
Of course some people will say “That’s just stupid. They don’t care about you. It doesn’t make a difference to them and you’re just cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
And…maybe there’s some truth to that. I don’t know. Seems like giant low IQ cop out horseshit. That’s what I’m trying to navigate.
Let’s take the Amazon example a little further: I’m working on a book (yes yes finally, shush.) I’m not going to fill out query letters and go agent shopping. That time has passed. The one true platform for self-publishing and marketing is Amazon. Yeah there’s gumroad and others that have print on demand services and such. But…they’re not really marketing engines. So now what?
At what point is it acceptable to use the tools of people who’ve done nothing short of declare themselves as your enemies, especially when it benefits them in a material way?
On one hand it’s a matter of voting with my wallet and my attention. It’s a decision I’ve made and continue to stand by. Though I’d be lying if I wasn’t looking for a line of reasoning that would allow me to bend and sign up for an amazon account again.
On the other: What difference can it possibly make? Is it a hill worth dying on?
But aside from people either deciding to boycott or not I really don’t see a lot of discussion about this idea.
When push comes to shove it’s a personal judgement only we can make.