A Million Drops of Water – Jamie Toeg

Winner of the Orwell Youth Prize 2017 (Junior Prize)

“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.”   B.R. Ambedkar.

The identity of each and every one of us is different. Some would describe this difference as unique and special like B.R. Ambedkar but others like global retailers and industries despise this difference. It makes it harder and harder for them to sell products to the consumer with more and more time spent finding out how to market a product than making it. This is where market research companies like YouGov enter the equation. From an internet browser you might assume that YouGov is a government run organisation but on further inspection you can see that they have ripped off the Government brand of you.gov to create yougov.com, a market research company that can be commonly found by googling YouGov profiles.

YouGov has a section on their website called YouGov Profiles which allows you to search for “any” person, brand or thing. Assuming that you are judging the Orwell youth prize I could make a logical guess that you are a reader of George Orwell along with 11,219 other readers. From a quick search of George Orwell on YouGov I could assume that as a George Orwell reader you are a slightly left wing lawyer or a miner from central Scotland who has a monthly spare of less than £125 per week. In your spare time you like visiting museums and galleries with your most likely pet to be a dog and you have a general interest in books and politics. You would describe yourself as alternative and independently minded but on occasion formidable and arrogant (hopefully when you’re not reading this piece). I could also guess that you shop at the Co-op supermarket and bank at the Co-op bank although I doubt that you’ll stay there as the Co-op has recently gone on sale. You read the Guardian newspaper and Private Eye magazine. And here’s what I think is the funniest part. Your favourite dish is potato bread. Nobody’s favourite dish is potato bread!

YouGov is taking all of this data to try and put us into categories. They then sell all this data to advertising and marketing agencies. So potato bread suppliers can advertise on George Orwell documentaries and the Co-op can try and use Orwell in their adverts. George Orwell would have been horrified by these companies using his name to flog merchandise. This principle goes against your identity and who you are. Your identity is much more than what you click in a survey online. Your identity is your personality, your individuality, your ego, your uniqueness and your selfhood. Your identity is much more than what can be defined by your education level, your pet, your favourite food and what magazines you read. Your identity is not just who you are, it’s who you might become.

By placing you into these groups these global companies are effectively taking away your identity. These companies are taking that special drop of water and putting it back in the ocean. These Companies composed of the men behind the men you think you know, are almost forcing you to lose your identity in the industrial society we live in. By placing adverts in our everyday life for products that aren’t necessary, these corporations are subliminally trying to get us to buy their products. They are exploiting us with the same data we voluntarily give them. This isn’t right!

This raises the question what is our identity?  If it is being exploited it doesn’t mean anything to us. Some of us are getting paid to give details about ourselves in survey groups so that they can take from us in the future when they sell products tailored towards us. Our identity is no longer unique and special to us but controlled and classified into groups to help these enterprises abuse us in the future. The information we give today is used against us tomorrow.

So I think we need to start a revolution. We need to boycott market research companies which is why I urge you to answer as many surveys as possible and answer every question truthfully except one. When someone asks you for your favourite food I want you to tell them that it is potato bread. And if we all say our favourite food is potato bread then these same global industries will start developing potato bread and potato bread will hit the supermarkets. And finally when potato bread reaches supermarket shelves and nobody buys it these market research industries will have failed and we will show them that they cannot put us into categories and groups and we as people have full control over these agencies. And with that note I’m off to get some potato bread along with the 1200 other left wing home and garden specialists who make a monthly spare of over £1000 and still shop at Lidl.