The World Wide Web, with all its dimensions like social media or other virtual social spaces are environments where often the fact of being digital citizens means also being users, being consumers.
Understanding the dimensions connected to this issue is one of competences that future individuals need to have if they want to move in these digital environments.
In a consumer driven economy, the very act of consuming goods and services is a form of democratic participation, a form of vote. Buying a certain product or service is not only a selfish, individual decision, but a formal support for a company, its business model, business practices, production strategy, etc. Given the growing role of the private sector in our economic and political lives, democracy cannot only be exercised via the ballot box.
There are many dimensions to consumer awareness has. Organised boycotts have contributed to achieving many political goals such as ending slavery or fostering fair trade. Consumer activism on the other hand, supported the emergence of new businesses in line with certain core values such as environmentally friendly business practices or supporting the local economy. New forms of consumer participation are emerging thanks to technology such as crowdfunding platforms. At the same time, technology has allowed the emergence of new business models which escape consumer awareness, namely, business models relying on data for various purposes: targeted advertising for search engines or social networks, individual risk-based pricing for financial service providers, dynamic pricing for online sellers and traders; all of these developments require a strengthening of consumer awareness.
At the same time, consumers need to understand the limits of consumer power and recognise attempts at misleading or manipulating them (for example, via green-washing, targeted advertising), be aware of the emergence of monopolies or dominant market players locking consumers into certain consumption patterns by restricting consumer choices and the undue influence over politics via lobbying which may also diminish the impact of consumer awareness, calling for solutions outside the realm of consumer activism, via public policy and politics.