[Read time 4 minutes]
Brutus was founded with the goal of helping people to live their intentions. Our first product aims to lead more of us to step away from our screens and take action in our communities – to find our way to do something about what matters to us. However small, we believe actions make a difference for us, for our communities, and for our world.
While it’s increasingly easy to “stay informed”, it feels increasingly difficult to take action. Stories of the latest crises from around the globe are in our pocket for consumption at every moment. Yet it takes determination or luck to find an opportunity to act on one of these headlines. Maybe we see a friend’s post about a tree planting she’s attending in time to join her in acting for the environment. Maybe we see her post too late; maybe not at all. Yes, we can wade through search results to track down some way to push back against voter suppression or the gender pay gap, but it isn’t easy. Certainly not as easy as reading another article to “stay informed”.
During all this “staying informed” the only options for actually doing something about these important issues are to “like”, “tweet”, “share”, or “comment”. Perhaps these help us a little. We did something. We didn’t just consume more news about serious, scary things. We scratched the itch to respond, to act, to do anything. And at least it was easy. Just a click. Maybe type a quick thought. Then on to the next article in our effort to “stay informed”.
Eventually taking in all this information without ever having an outlet or empowering moment wears us down. We go on a “news diet” because we just cannot take all these serious problems anymore. In the end “liking” doesn’t cut it. Information, the ultimate tool of empowerment, leads us to disempowerment. So much going on, so many problems, but nothing to be done. Click.
If what I’ve described feels at all familiar, know it doesn’t have to be this way. All around us, in every community, there are people out there taking action on issues that drive them. People who looked up from their phones when passing those without housing and decided to volunteer with a job placement program. People who got tired of yelling at their monitor over the latest political scandal and are out registering new voters. It feels good to learn that there are things we can do. That everything is influenced by the actions of individuals, whose actions were influenced by the actions of other individuals, and so on until it gets to us. We step out there and realize we aren’t alone in our excitement or our fear. Our neighbors feel the same way and will work with us to do something to make a difference. We feel our power, we connect with new people, we have fun.
We “share” and “like” stories because it’s right there. Not very satisfying, but it only takes a click. It’s easy and immediate – two things our brains are hardwired to be attracted to. Companies that make the products we use to “stay informed” – websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – know this and design to take advantage of human behavior. They know how to build habits in us:
read >> feel inspired / angry / motivated >> click >> feel relief >> repeat
These products are designed to give us just enough relief through “acting” that we stick around and crave that same relief again. Foremost for them though, is ensuring that the “action” doesn’t take us away from our screen and their product.
That is one way to use product design and insights about human behavior to build habits. At Brutus we think there might be another way. Brutus was designed to build a habit around discovering and committing to real action in your community. It’s as easy as “liking”, but feels a whole lot better when it leads to your first urban hike or voter registration drive. Brutus is an “act” button on every article you read. You don’t have to spend hours searching for some way to take action. You don’t even have to leave the page you’re on. Brutus is right there waiting for you to click.