August 8, 2020

In Celebration of Your Own Personal Boycott

ballons in the sky

There are at least two kinds of boycotts. The first is what we almost always think of when we think of a boycott. It involves people banding together to boycott something while encouraging others to do the same. It is an example of collective activism. Collective because we are trying to bring in as many people as possible to join in our boycott and activism because we are trying to bring about change through our boycott. Most of the calls for a boycott you see on social media are this type. They call attention to a perceived injustice and encourage others to join in.

The second kind of boycott is probably more common than the first even though we don't hear about it nearly as much as we hear about the first. This is the personal boycott where I decide for whatever reason that I am going to boycott something. This type of boycott isn't really about activism. It is more likely to be about me (or whoever else is doing the boycotting) getting fed up with something and deciding that I am no longer going to support it. The reason we don't usually hear about these boycotts is that the person doing one is doing it for themselves and isn't necessarily interested in broadcasting it or trying to get others to join it.

I trust that everyone is familiar with the first type and can think of many examples, so I'll share a couple examples of the second that may help to illustrate the difference. At this very moment, I am boycotting all team sports that have attempted to resume while we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every single one of them. Why? I do not believe what they are doing is safe, and I hate to see them putting mindless entertainment ahead of public health. I'm not encouraging anybody to join me in this boycott because I don't particularly care whether they do. That isn't what it is about. I need no external validation for what I am doing because I am just doing it for me.

Now here's a very different sort of example that is even more personal and will undoubtedly make even less sense to you. I am boycotting restaurants. Every single one of them. Why? For reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, my boycott started last November. It hit me one day after eating lunch at a local restaurant that I rarely enjoy the food I get at restaurants and that it would be better for my health and my wallet to steer clear of them. Because I cook much healthier stuff than I ever see in restaurants (e.g., low fat, low sodium, etc.), I am not used to eating the unhealthy stuff which is endemic to Mississippi. As a result, I often feel ill when I eat out. The idea of paying for food I rarely enjoy and that often makes me feel sick is something I can no longer justify. And so, I've decided not to try. I have not eaten restaurant food since last November, and I can't say I've missed it. I'm not urging anybody to join me because doing so wouldn't make any sense.

I think there are advantages to both kinds of boycotts, and I sometimes find it puzzling that more people don't do the second kind of boycott more often. If something upsets you or you simply decide it isn't worth whatever aggravation it is causing, skip it. You don't even have to turn it into a big production; you can just decide it isn't for you.