Consider your online health

By Baylee Versteeg | Multimedia Journalist

In 2008, the internet company Cisco released a new marketing campaign called the Cisco Human Networking Effect. This campaign was designed to reflect the way the internet has changed how the world communicates for the better. Cisco altered its entire company’s image around the gamble that the internet would bring people together, promote unity and be the step toward a better, more empathetic humanity.

The discussion of whether or not that has actually been the case so far in internet history can go both ways. Was Cisco’s prediction right or wrong? More than anything, it has highlighted a diverse but segmented audience. Whether we like it or not, the internet is here to stay. I believe that the overall outcome of this falls on us: the consumer. Our online decisions bear consequences for ourselves and for our world.

Twitter offers a great example of these choices. It is a platform where users can choose the input they want and avoid what they don’t, creating a sort of alternate reality where people sit in a virtual room agreeing with each other. Other sites work the same way: Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. It is easy to build an online world of people exactly like you, while subconsciously training yourself to avoid the uncomfortable but healthy ideological diversity needed to remain in a place that regards all people as human.

Use this tailored exposure to your advantage. Remember that the sites that allow you to tailor your feed also make it easy to expose yourself to foreign input. Follow accounts that teach you something or make you belly-laugh. Unfollow accounts that remind you of what makes you angry or cause you to regard yourself in a negative light.

Social media helps families and long-distance friends remain connected. Memes especially remind us that we are all the same: We all love avocados, and Mondays are pretty much the worst. We are unified in our humanity, and thanks to the internet, we all know what it looks like when a deployed spouse comes home, a puppy cuddles a kitten and, yes, heartbreaking things too, like a starving child clutching a doll in a dusty refugee camp.

This platform begs us to fight with our relatives over politics or share angry fake news articles. But if we teach ourselves to be conscious everyday when we are online, we will see more of the good stuff.

The online market presents yet another ethical obstacle course. Any book, movie, ugly Christmas sweater or obscure kitchen item comes your way in droves with the quickest online search. Whether you choose to support the local bookstore in Seattle or the monolith that is Amazon is up to you. Your responsible buying convictions are put to the test when you choose between the ethically-sourced jewelry and seven-day shipping or the corporate monster and two-day shipping. You think, “Does my purchase really matter?” It does. Use your money to vote for things that make the world a better place. Seven days really isn’t that long to wait.

The decisions we make regarding food derive from a few factors: taste, health, cost and ethical responsibility. Let’s consider our online choices the same way. Pick healthy entertainment the same way you reach over the Skittles for a grape. No one is watching (probably). Your online health is up to you.