Corey Jacobson : When DOTs make up big changes

This may come as a surprise, but there is a campaign on campus trying to change the world.

Last night, a group of students covered campus in blue circles to launch “Do One Thing.” The campaign is geared toward improving our impact on society. Originally created by international advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, the campaign has since spread to a number of college campuses.

Essentially, the campaign consists of a simple, self-gratifying action you pledge to work into your routine to positively impact society. DOTs can be environmental, like taking five-minute showers, or personal, like substituting reading instead of watching TV. There have been 32 million registered DOTs so far – 32 million personal goals connected through this movement, according to the campaign’s website.

I am fully aware of my lifestyle’s flaws. I do not need anyone to tell me, for instance, that I should run on Eastern Standard Time and not Corey Time. But there is a difference between being aware of your flaws and actively working to improve them.

This is where the campaign comes in. Goals are turned into specific, measurable actions people work into their routines until they become habits.

Let me make something clear: My optimism for such lofty goals bettering the world only lasts as long as it takes for reality to smack it in the face. Too often, these campaigns either fall flat, have no actual impact or both.

But despite its happy-go-lucky language, DOT is a smart campaign. It incorporates a social component, and it is this simple tweak that can make self-improvement trendy. People are encouraged to register their DOTs on the campaign website and then share them through social media and on blue paper circles they post around public areas. The idea is the enthusiasm for carrying out your DOT will inspire others to do the same.

Without this social component, the campaign is just a more glorified New Year’s resolution to be forgotten in a month. But the emphasis on creating a viral campaign out of self-improvement caters to our need for outside motivation. The network of DOTs encourages people to take the leap by helping them see how their goals are connected to those of others.

But given this worldwide network, it begs the question: What is the goal? Is it to truly change the world, or merely to encourage self-improvement on a massive scale? Neither aim is completely independent, but the distinction is important.

My biggest problem with the idea of the campaign is that it seems prone to focusing on the symptoms of problems rather than their causes. For example, instead of working to improve slaughterhouse conditions, a person with a DOT might merely choose to buy only free-range meat. Though the campaign implies a larger impact, the campaign is fairly limited to changing an individual’s lifestyle.

Real change comes about on Capitol Hill or in the boardroom. It comes about with a sustained lobbying effort and, most importantly, actual legislation or company policy. Until you get a governing body to mandate something, even the most popular social movements are not the silver bullets for wholesale lifestyle changes. Inspiring people to commit to canteens will not cause Dasani and Aquafina to go out of business.

Still, in order to motivate others to push for those bigger changes that address the root of a problem, it first takes people being aware of the problem and their role in it. The campaign can fulfill this role, and the beauty is that it is personalized and designed to spread.

Is the campaign the most effective means of bettering the world? I don’t know. But it is certainly not fruitless – it is a movement that inspires introspection and a frame of mind from which society could clearly benefit.

And that, my friends, is no small change.

The writer, a senior majoring in business, is a Hatchet columnist.

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