Our high school economics teacher used to say, “You don’t vote at the ballot box. You vote with your money.” And although she was notoriously frugal and wore the highest-mileage reading glasses I’ve ever seen (I’m talking paperclip, tape and glue), she had a point.
Everything we buy is a vote. When we buy a pair of shoes, we are saying, I like your way of looking at things, Chuck Taylor, whoever you are or were, and I want more of this. Give me the patent-leather white with the throwback fat laces!
The internet has monetized our votes even more, where now even the slightest little click or mouseover counts as a vote in the same way a purchase does. (And yes, we all shudder at some of the votes we’ve cast over our entire internet-surfing lives.)
So how can we cast click-votes for good? Consider what browser you use when you’re voting.
- Are you using the Big Box of web browsers?
- Are you voting for corporate control that sees customers as just numbers in a spreadsheet?
- Or are you browsing local, thinking global, and in control?
Mozilla’s Firefox is the only independent web browser made by a tech non-profit. We direct your votes back to sustaining the health of the internet with every click. That’s just a subtle word from our sponsor.
But seriously: Everyone has the power. Power to shape the future. Power to build a healthy internet. And we can all use our power for good.
Here are a few super manageable ways you can click with your conscience every day.
1. Support organizations that seek to keep the internet free and open.
”Supporting the internet” can mean volunteering and donating to organizations you believe in (like Mozilla!), but it can be even simpler than that. If you hear about a company doing great work, buy their products. Support their mission with simple economic choice and activism. Use their browser, for example (hint, hint).
2. Contact your government representatives and tell them the health of the internet is a priority to you.
Search the contact information for representatives in your local, state or federal government, and send them an email. (We did this—it took 3 minutes, no lie). Tell them you value an open internet for all. Be polite, personal, factual and brief.
The internet is a global resource that connects all of us to the vast library of human knowledge. It opens doors to fair economic opportunity for everyone, and that’s a big deal. All of our messages added together can be surprisingly effective on a grassroots level.
3. Be wary of the controlling twins, Consolidation and Centralization.
Big corps shouldn’t be able to turn our private lives into sellable products. When we concentrate our online activity onto just a few social networks and messaging apps—as billions of people do—it narrows the Web and points us only to content that appeals to our likes, our biases, and our preconceived notions. The internet ceases to be a place for serendipity and instead becomes an echo chamber. We become consumers, not creators.
(No, we’re not telling you to stop using F___book or G__gle. They are popular products for a reason. But be aware: On any free service, you are probably the merchandise that’s really for sale.)
4. Take responsibility for the things you say on the internet.
This one should be the easiest, but it’s not, because trolling is a hobby almost as old as the foam mousepad. The early days of the internet introduced us all to the sometimes-too-real effect and fallout of verbal attacks. The truth is, online communication still lacks context, tone, and civility. Words that hurt online don’t magically disappear when we’re offline.
If you’re getting in a flamefest, take a moment to pause. Open a simple text app like Notepad. Type out all the angry words you feel like saying. Use ALL CAPS YELLING IF YOU WANTTTT TOOOO. Then consider trashing that text file in favor of a second draft with a more empathetic and human approach.
5. Be as discerning about what you read online as you are on April Fools’ Day.
That raised eyebrow of suspicion we have on April Fools’ Day could probably be raised the other 364 days of the year, too. With so much sponsored content, dubious journalism, and ads disguised as information, it’s definitely overwhelming to separate the fact from the foolish online. But if we all maintain some critical thinking before we share to all—before we vote “yes” and tempt others to do the same—we assert our power as curators of truth.
But don’t get us wrong. We don’t mean to say *just* click with your conscience then kick your feet up on the sofa and call it good. It’s much more than that. (Besides, there’s already a great parody in a recent SNL/Louis C.K. sketch about lazy click-activism. “Thanks, Steve, for reading something on the internet and then posting it on the internet!” haha.)
Online participation should ultimately lead to richer participation in real life. So consider your clicks as practice, and then get out in the world and do something positive to support whatever it is you’re voting for!