Earlier, this week, like many of those hooked to the reflective glare of the internet, I was riveted by a Tumblr post by NYC-based comedy writer Matt Fisher entitled, “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court”. In a straightforward way, Mr. Fisher outlined how his sister’s greedy, shitty insurance company did everything in its power to avoid paying a claim, essentially acting the way greedy insurance companies always do, all the time. Not only was the story equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating, it also inspired me to take action.
What kind of action, you ask? Did I research advocacy groups that are fighting for insurance reform, to which I could donate my time? Well, um, no. Did I get a group of my friends together to take up arms, come up with our cleverest anti-vampire-capitalism slogans (i.e. ,“Quit playing CLAIMS with my heart”), sharpie them onto cardboard signs and then go march on the nearest Progressive management office? Again, I did not. That would be a lot of work. So what did I do?
I retweeted Eugene Mirman’s tweet about it, and then went on with my day.
I know, pretty epic. But I didn’t stop there. I also continued to follow the story throughout the week. I scanned the official Progressive Twitter responses and trending satire about it. I used Google news searches to stay apprised of new developments, like when Progressive released a statement saying, “We didn’t defend this guy’s sister in court!” And then Fisher was like, “Yeah, you kinda did,” And then, earlier today when Progressive settled with the Fisher family, I patted myself on the back, patted the whole internet on the back, really, as if to say, “Good job outraged Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter users. We really shamed the shit out of that company.”
Sure, there are other things I could have done. I could have researched whether MY insurance company was equally as evil as Progressive. But I didn’t, partly because I know if I did, it might mean having to switch companies, which would have been a HUGE headache, right? I also could have written an explicit letter of support to Mr. Fisher and his family, as this time of public scrutiny I’m sure has been trying. But again, I didn’t. You know, because I have other stuff on my plate.
When I hear about a company being extremely shitty to customers or to the environment or supporting a cause I find especially noxious, I do totally care. I really do. BUT, I only put the absolute minimum amount of energy/ emotional investment into caring about said issue. It could even be said that I couldn’t possibly care any less, because my level of concern is already at the absolute minimum.
Another story that caught my eye this week was this story of United losing an unaccompanied minor in Chicago’s airport. In short, the airline, due to bureaucratic disorganization, impetuous outsourcing and institutional apathy, lost a 10 year-old-kid on her way to camp and didn’t give half a fuck until reporters caught wind of the story. United is still in the midst of being publicly shamed for this specific instance of negligence, though they’re probably not going to make any sorts of procedural changes, because that takes work. And chances are the furor will die down, as the winds of internet outrage are fanned by different shitty, greedy companies being shitty and greedy.
So what am I going to do? Will I initiate a large-scale boycott among my fellow, influential bobo friends? Am I going to forswear ever using United again? In short, no. Because I always just book the cheapest fair, and take for granted that the airline fucking hates me.
This is all to (sarcastically) say that the internet shaming of organizations is still one of the best things about the internet. It’s right up their with Google maps, cat videos and free pornography. But it’s also a really fucking superficial. The company catches a modicum of heat for making sneakers out of baby porpoises or backing the horrible regime, they say they’re sorry, wait it out, and everyone keeps on living their lives.
And this is mostly directed at the man in the mirror (no, not MJ. Me). Remember the SOPA thing, how we all said we were gonna quit the evil, Republican Go-Daddy for our domain hosting needs? I definitely tweeted about how I was going to take the domains I had on my account, including such gems as imlivingmylifewrong.com, lookatthisfuckingjew.com and youreagrownman.com, elsewhere. Did I do it? Well, it’s technically still on the to0do list. Though, I haven’t registered any new names through them, so that’s a start, right? Also, as I type this, I’m literally eating a Spicy Chicken Biscuit sandwich from Chick-fil-A. I mean, it was right there, and I was hungry! And let’s be honest, my $4.99 was a drop in the bucket. Albeit, an incredibly lazy, intellectually dishonest drop in the bucket.
Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you take all these issues seriously enough to vote with your dollars and only spend it on shit you believe in, to attend protests and meetings and know the name of the intern who answers the public hotline at your congressmen’s local field office. If you are, you’re free to think I’m an asshole. You’re not the first.
But for, me, I’m resolved to do something different in the future. Not sure exactly what it is, but I’m all ears. My only hope is that it doesn’t feel hollowand that I don’t wind up getting self-righteous or pretentious or obnoxious about it (borderline inevitable). I don’t want to be the kind of asshole that says things like “I use this app to only buy sustainable stuff. Meeeaawww” All things considered, I’d rather be the kind of asshole I already am.
Henry Goldman is founder of Yr An Adult. He wasn’t always so apathetic.
Photocredit: flickr user lewishamdreamer, used under cc license