Consumers Gone Toxic
Let me start this off by saying that I am a big believer in being an educated and aware consumer. If a company espouses things diametrically opposed to my values, it seems very consistent to me to choose not to support them with my money. My spending budget don’t want none because of what you done, hon.
Boycotting is a very effective tactic in these cases, and can lead to change for the better. Boycott movements have become a much more visible presence in our lives thanks to the internet. It’s become laughably easy to find and share information about choices made by corporations large and small, and promoting a boycott is as simple as producing a handful of (factual) links and a hashtag. To be honest, we’re living in an age where being an informed consumer is easy.
Sharing information with people about a brand’s questionable practices is a natural consequence of choosing to boycott. In other words, turning to your bestie and saying, “Ya know, Shiny Happy Food Restaurant is a front for the Moonies,” for example, is just a natural result of discovering that Shiny Happy Food is exactly that, and even if they have the best Pho-To-Go on the planet, buying it means supporting that agenda. Your bestie might join you in boycott, or might not, but you’ve taken the time to pass on the information.
That’s all to the good. Sometimes there are reasons we can’t boycott a company. One that comes to mind is when a corp produced a patented medication that you need, and no generic is available yet. I give a pass to anyone who is in this boat. Your life is more important.
What’s been poking into internet culture of various sorts lately, though, is an expansion of boycott that’s been dubbed ‘cancel culture.’ This isn’t just not supporting a brand or celebrity or whatever and then sharing factual information. This is more like Mean Girls Gone Woke, where people literally go around and harass and threaten anyone who either isn’t on board for the boycott, or or actually supports the brand.
It’s one thing to present someone with a rational and supported argument. It’s another to tell a random person on the internet to kill themselves, or that you hope that they are viciously assaulted, or insert some other heinous comment you’ve seen lately. You see a lot of this surrounding certain brands, both pro- and con-. Fans of some brands can behave like brigades of rabid weasels, likely because they feel secure in their anonymity both as part of a digital goon squad and as an ‘anonymous’ presence on the internet.
This pops up a lot in the comments on YouTube channels of product reviewers who either review a product unfavorably, or mention a company’s practices. Heaven forfend you say that you don’t like this cult-favorite lip gloss, and think the brand is shady for their practices. You’ll get people threatening to shave your cat and assault you with Sharpie markers. (Okay, perhaps I made too much light of it there. People get actual assault and death threats. There’s no ‘funny’ in that.)
Folks, this isn’t ‘informed consumerism.’ This is fanatical Goon-Squadding. Sit back and think. Do you really want someone to kill themselves over a fucking lip gloss?
Another facet of the ‘cancel culture’ phenomenon is bandwagoning. Your fave YouTuber or Instagrammer ‘cancels’ some other internet personality over some dispute between them, which could be as serious as ‘this person committed fraud and stole my intellectual property’ or as petty as ‘this person threw shade at my purebred maltapoochiweenie by calling Precious a Frankendog.’ Out come the brigades of loyal stanners who perform as virtual infantry for their faves and start skirmishes with one or the other and their respective fans.
It’s ridiculous on a personal level to tell people to die in a fire for having an opinion that in no way affects you. Whether or not you think Precious is a Frankendog is completely unimportant and irrelevant, in the end. Does it benefit your life at all? Nope. Does it matter? Nope. In the end, you still have bills to pay and meals to eat and jobs to work, and those InstaTwitterTube influencers will be living their lives, with or without your ‘support.’
The internet is addicted to drama, collectively. Comments sections and social media are where discourse goes to die slowly and painfully, whimpering all the while. With so much of our lives centered around online cultures of various kinds, a lot of us wind up indulging in pretzel logic about what constitutes appropriate human behavior. Anonymity enables assholes.
There’s nothing wrong with challenging a brand, or corporation, or product, or influencer, on issues you have with them, whether it’s marketing, quality, personal behavior, or supporting political causes you completely loathe, to name a few. Where this goes pear-shaped is when it stops becoming a discourse and starts becoming a mandate, when everyone who’s not absolutely for you is absolutely against you.
From my perspective, going into ‘cancel’ mode and moving to the point of internet feuds, harassment, and threats is not only pointless AF, it’s also counterproductive to your personal well-being. Constant rage is not a healthy state, and hell, if you want to be angry, there are so many weighty things to be enraged about that wasting so much of your energy on the merits of a pair of jeans or a subscription-box service or a self-styled influencer is just… well, sad.