This is a question that's been bothering me a lot lately. It recently popped up in another Tildes thread. This comment from @pseudolobster sums up an example of such a system (streaming services becoming dominant forms of media distribution):
Someone's going to spend $10/mo for the streaming service, the movie is 1/10000th of their catalog, $0.001 goes to the middlemen, who give $.00001 to [the creator]. [...] If I could somehow give 1 cent to the actual creator, I'd have increased their revenue by orders of magnitude.
In a vacuum, the choice "do I steam or do I pirate" from a single person doesn't really do anything? But then, you could argue, we don't live in a vacuum. We discuss things with other people, which could influence their decisions. There could be a ripple effect, eventually shifting the overall outlook towards streaming/piracy on a group/community/society level. Or maybe, as change gets bigger, it becomes too finicky to really influence with the (nonexistent) power most of us have.
This could be generalized to so many things, and not just whether consumption can be ethical or not. With climate change, for example, I hear "well, whether I recycle as an individual doesn't really change anything when my output pales in comparison to the waste of large corporations." You could apply this to voter apathy, too. ("Well, whether or not I voted wouldn't have changed the outcome of the election.")
What do you think about this? Do you focus on the small actions, the larger systemic change, both, or neither? How do you feel about apathy/jadedness in these situations? How much of a moral offense is it to not do the "right" thing? Does the answer change if you're acting alone vs. encouraging others to act with you?