Let’s face it: it’s hard to quit the terrible companies in our life. It’s difficult to persuade ourselves to sacrifice convenience in the name of personal ethics, especially when, well, pretty much all the major companies that dominate our modern lives have been embroiled in scandals big and small and none of them can be perceived as unequivocally “good.”
Last year was a turbulent year for many major corporations. Amazon got a lot of backlash for its inhumane treatment of employees at its warehouses as well as its controversial decision of the final locations of its HQ2. Google faced heat for sexual misconduct allegations and the now-shuttered Dragonfly project, the company’s plan to develop a censored search engine for China. And don’t even get us started on Facebook, which faced a stupefying list of problems in 2018, from the Cambridge Analytica scandal to its executives’ troubling response to the company’s PR crisis.
As we start the new year afresh, the editors at Digg have decided to come to terms with our own fraught relationships with the big corporations in our lives. We’ve each listed a company that we’re going to quit or have quit in 2019 and a company that we find it hard to boycott, despite its many objectionable qualities and our reservations towards it because, you know, we too are human and we’re weak.
The Companies We Can’t Quit
Mat Olson — Spotify
Oh, Spotify. I can still remember installing it on my laptop in my freshman year dorm room during orientation week — a bit of a desperation move, since the bulk of my music collection resided on a desktop hard drive in another state. It was neither revolutionary or particularly remarkable at the time, and I think I still kept Grooveshark in my bookmarks bar for a while… but now I’m ashamed to say that Spotify’s been my go-to method for listening to music for the better part of a decade.
Not for discovering music, mind you; I entertained algorithmic suggestions when coming up with setlists for a college radio show that I’ll admit, with deeper shame, I DJ’d solely through Spotify, but I can count the number of times I’ve liked listening to a playlist Spotify spun up for me on one hand (sorry, DeRay). I either go straight for an album or put my sprawling “Starred” playlist on shuffle, listening experiences I could easily replicate on a Gen 1 iPod. Still, Spotify’s so embedded in my routine I just can’t imagine giving it up (though, reading Liz Pelly on Spotify’s deleterious effects on how music is made and paid for certainly makes me wish I could).
Laura Anderson — Google
My main email address is a Gmail account. (Digg’s email runs through Gmail, too.) I have a ton of important documents saved in Google Drive. I use Google’s search function frequently for work and fun. I watch YouTube videos occasionally (I’m an older millennial, so I’m not as up on YouTube culture as some of my younger colleagues). I find Google’s refusal to do anything about a YouTube algorithm that serves far-right conspiracy videos to unsuspecting users absolutely morally abhorrent, and probably as bad for society as Facebook’s fake news problem, but my online life is so deeply intertwined with Google products that I can’t imagine quitting anytime soon.
BJ Pang-Chieh Ho — Facebook
My relationship with Facebook was already complicated to begin with, and all of the company’s data breaches this year, as well as the role it continues to play in spreading misinformation and hate speech to this day, have given me even more qualms about using the platform. But out of all the terrible companies that currently dominate the fabric of the modern internet, I find Facebook one of the hardest ones to quit.
95% of my Facebook friends are made of my family and friends living in Taiwan. To give up Facebook would be to give up a platform that has the largest repository of my social contacts, one that can’t be easily replaced by other alternatives. It would be cutting off one of the biggest ties and sources of information I currently have to the country and culture I grew up in. It’s hard for me to leave Facebook because it is an 8-year-old habit, but also because of the people who have chosen to remain on it.
Steve Rousseau — The Entire Internet
As I wrote earlier last year, I don’t think I can abstain from any part of the internet and not have it negatively impact my job — which is writing and editing stories about the internet. While it’s absolutely vital to my mental health to take breaks from the internet, doing so increasingly feels like a luxury that only seems to make me worse at my job.
Dan Fallon — Google
There’s a minor feature on my phone, a Google Pixel 2, that provides an hourly reminder of why I won’t be quitting Google and its suite of data-sucking services. Unlike iOS, which puts every last app icon on your home screen, Android hides most of them in the app drawer. It’s a tradeoff: a cleaner homescreen, but it can be a bit more time-consuming to locate an app in your drawer. But with the latest version of Android, a short swipe up brings up a menu of five constantly rotating apps, the apps Google thinks I’m most likely to want to use at that moment, based on past usage and context. And it’s spookily accurate — I commute to work on CitiBike, and 19 out of 20 times when I’m headed to pick up a bike, the CitiBike app is, helpfully, one of those five suggested apps.
As I said, it’s a minor thing, but it makes my life just a little bit easier, and it’s a microcosm for my relationship with Google: letting it see my data in exchange for making my life easier (the facial recognition search in Google Photos is another good example). Is it worth it in the grand scheme of things? Probably not. But that’s not enough to pull me away from it.
Is it worth it in the grand scheme of things? Probably not. But that’s not enough to pull me away from it.
Joey Cosco — Amazon
I’m hardly an online shopper. I stopped caring about “The Man in the High Castle” years ago. I moved to a neighborhood that doesn’t have a Whole Foods. I shouldn’t have to think about Amazon at all. But things are not the way they should be. Amazon is everywhere. It’s inescapable. And that frustrates me, because I really, really hate Amazon.
I work on the internet, of which vast chunks depend on Amazon Web Services equipment. Sometimes I like to visit a handful of free websites, like GoodReads and Twitch. Surprise! Those are wholly owned by the big A!
I also live in New York City, which just landed half of Amazon’s new HQ2. Simply by paying New York state taxes, I am supporting Jeff Bezos’ terrible empire. I am upset. I am outraged. I am canceling Prime and never looking back, even though it’s not even a drop in the bucket for one of the world’s largest companies.
Eliza Bray — Amazon
I recently realized I have been rationalizing my choice to shop with Jet, a disguisedsubsidiary of Walmart, because it felt like a more moral online shopping choice simply because it’s not Amazon. Obviously, that’s not how this works. I may think I’m quitting Amazon, but I’m just opting for a service no less problematic. Everything is bad.
The Companies We’re Most Likely To Actually Quit
Mat Olson — Uber
I’ve not hailed an Uber since the taxi strike at John F. Kennedy airport in January 2017, staged in solidarity with the people protesting the Trump administration travel ban. Even without #DeleteUber, I wouldn’t have needed much of a push, as I’ve never felt great about ridesharing and Uber’s consistently been the more despicable (or at least more PR-inept) of the Uber/Lyft duopoly. Plus, since I live in New York I can use Juno, which is at least a smaller company if not any less scummy where it counts.
Then again, this comes with a big asterisk: I’m sure I’ve joined friends on a handful of Uber-hailed trips since I deleted the app. Does it matter whether or not I split the cost of the ride with them? Then there’s the fact that I used Portland, Oregon’s bikeshare service when I visited last year — the bikes are branded for Nike, but the system’s run by Lyft-owned Motivate while Uber-owned Jump manufactures the actual bikes. Does that count as patronizing Uber? Aren’t markets and the freedom of choice they afford us, like, so great? Anyway, quitting a behemoth corporation in 2019 is never as simple as just deleting an app, and I’d sooner live in a world with shitty public transportation and no Uber than the other way around.
Quitting a behemoth corporation in 2019 is never as simple as just deleting an app.
Laura Anderson — Facebook
Last year was the year that Facebook was fully revealed as an avaricious company that cares even less about its users’ privacy than it does about its responsibilities to civil society (which is not to mention its role in destroying a number of beloved media companies). I barely even use Facebook these days, so it’s ridiculous that I haven’t quit it yet.
I know what I need to do: First I’m going to go download any photos I want to keep. (I don’t really care about downloading *all* my Facebook data; why would I want logs of my status updates and messages taking up space on my hard drive?) Then I’m going to write a final status update sheepishly telling my Facebook friends that I’m quitting and letting them know how to contact me if they want to keep in touch. Then I’m going to pull the trigger! I cannot fully explain why haven’t taken these three easy steps — laziness? Aversion to doing something mildly boring? Embarrassment? I promise I’m going to do it. Tomorrow.
(Update: Eleven days after I wrote this, I finally posted the final status update, and one day after that, I asked Facebook to delete my account forever. It felt… kind of anticlimactic, like checking any other task off my to-do list, but I’m glad I did it instead of just continuing to say I was going to do it!)
BJ Pang-Chieh Ho — Amazon
The main impetus for me to quit Amazon has been reading about the horrendous working conditions for its employees in warehouses. Because the receiving and opening of Amazon-ordered items is such a tactile experience, it’s hard to ignore the fact that each Amazon package I’m opening is the result of someone’s labor and that labor is concomitant with a demoralizing workplace culture and a hefty price on workers’ health. I’ve canceled my Amazon Prime account a few weeks ago, a move that was admittedly less challenging for me since I rarely shopped online to begin with.
The question of quitting Amazon gets tricky, however, when it comes to the movies and TV shows the company distributes. Does it count as quitting Amazon if I see an Amazon-distributed movie in theaters, like “You Were Never Really Here” or “Beautiful Boy”? For now, I would say I would still see the movies distributed by Amazon since I perceive them to be less tied to the identity of Amazon and more associated with the filmmaker, the producers and the talent behind the movies. When I’m going to the theaters to see “Beautiful Boy,” for instance, I’m going to see a Timothee Chalamet or a Steve Carell movie, and not an Amazon movie, unlike Amazon’s package orders, which foreground the main aspect of the company I object to the most, its treatment of its warehouse employees.
Steve Rousseau — The Entire Internet
This year one of two things is going to happen. I’m going to come to some transcendental rationalization for building a career in a dying industry that is increasingly reliant on Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple in some form or another. Or I’m going to be reduced to a shell of a person, doing nothing but scratching around in the dirt and collecting sticks in Prospect Park. Bring on 2019!
Dan Fallon — Facebook
For all intents and purposes, I have quit Facebook. My last status was years ago, I check the site once every few days for any lingering event invites, and I swap the occasional Facebook message. Facebook stopped being fun years ago and remains useful only in the vaguest “I might not have remembered that college friend’s birthday without it,” but I still feel a compulsion to be on it, just so I don’t miss the occasional party invite. But in 2019, I’m ready to pull the plug. Facebook has no concern for me, other than that I exist as a Facebook user. The site’s tyranny over our ability to plan get-togethers will only exist as long as we allow that to be an excuse to stick around. I’ll probably miss a few invites and forget a few birthdays, but it’s time to stop relying on Facebook to handle that for me anyway.
Joey Cosco — Apple
The world’s second richest company may be too ingrained in my life for me to quit. But the world’s richest company1? Fuck ’em!
As much as I hate Amazon, I hate Apple nearly as much. This is a company that hooked the entire world on an expensive and addictive product over a decade ago and slowly iterated on it every year until it was twice as expensive and infinitely more addictive.
Fuck that! And fuck Apple! I’m not giving them any more of my money in 2019. I have a handful of older Apple products (MacBook that Digg technically owns and an iPad Mini my mom bought me in 2014) and I’m uninterested in buying any more. I don’t plan on buying an app on either one, and I will not use Safari or iTunes or GarageBand unless I absolutely have to.
Eliza Bray — None Of The Above
It would be great if the government could step in and protect my data or bust up a few digital monopolies because, if I’m being quite honest with myself, the only thing I plan on quitting this year is La Croix. Big Seltzer is slowly bankrupting me with its addictive bubbles. Don’t even get me started on Pamplemousse.
So, I guess I’ll catch you on Facebook soon as the new year unfolds, which I will log into using my Google email address on my Apple computer before surfing Amazon and feeling terrible about myself.
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