Can you really boycott Facebook, Google and Apple?


Megan Binkley, Opinions Editor

Over the last few weeks, a number of articles and opinion pieces have popped up about growing antipathy toward Facebook, Google, Apple, and big tech in general.

Facebook, already on a downward trend for the last half-decade, was recently involved in a scandal with Cambridge Analytica (a partnership that compromised the personal information of almost 87 million Facebook users, for 2016 election purposes).

Google was similarly implicated in having intentionally swayed the 2016 election, and has developed a reputation for sexism and a tolerance for sexual harassment in its work places.

Apple finally owned up to having intentionally slowed down old iPhones (but really, we all knew that already); this, combined with exorbitant price tags on the latest iPhone models, has turned the tide of public sentiment increasingly against the tech giant.

Then came the cries from the soap boxes.

The hashtags #boycottgoogle, #boycottfacebook, and #boycottapple all made their rounds on social media. Instagram gained 200 million new users just in the past year, many of whom claim to see it as an alternative to Facebook. The irony of these demonstrations is abundant. Many of the #boycott posts were made on Facebook, read about through Google, and written on iPhones or Androids (the latter is developed by Google). Instagram is owned by Facebook.

One activist, when asked about his attempt to spread an Apple boycott using his iPhone, responded: “I do have an iPhone, but as a customer of Apple’s, am I not allowed to hold them accountable?” Of course you are, but I’ve got some bad news: as long as you continue to use and pay for their products, Apple couldn’t care less what hashtags you coin. This brings us to the larger issue of Facebook, Apple, and Google boycotts that seemingly no one has really brought up yet.

Many people, especially those in the younger generations, have built their lives around these three tech giants. Even those of us disillusioned with the mindless consumption of content on social media find it hard to disengage completely. Personally, I’ve kept a bare-bones Facebook account active because it’s an ideal platform for coordinating with the student groups I participate in.

When I played sports in college, it was the only source of mass communication we all participated in. Practices, team bonding, team dinners, and tournaments were all coordinated and discussed via Facebook. Apple made my laptop, the one piece of tech I would truly struggle to live without; Google has helped me produce countless research papers, navigated me through strange cities, answered all of my random questions, and hosts two of my three email accounts.

The truth is, boycotting these companies will take far, far more than whim. Ejecting them from our lives cannot be sustainable accomplished based solely on anger and disillusionment. Instead, this purge has to come from a change in mindset—a lifestyle shift as deeply rooted and fundamentally transformative as the choice to get in shape, or the decision to end a long-term relationship. It will require the conscious, ongoing conviction that these companies are not only bad for us as individuals, but that they are counterproductive to the kind of society we would like to become, and that they impede us from moving in the right direction.

My advice: start small. Make little changes. Begin by taking breaks from social media. You don’t have to delete your apps—just stay off of them for a day or two. See what your experience is like without a screen, or constant distractions. Explore other search engines, such as Bing, Blekko, and DuckDuckGo.

Consider making your next phone purchase a ‘dumb’ phone, or explore Motorola phones if you can’t live without the smart technology. Above all else, be mindful of where your money is going, and who it’s going too—at the end of the day, those are usually the votes that count.