Yes, we hand our browsing habits to a slew of social media apps — Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook – in exchange for sharing creative content with others, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the risks. No, most of us accept them because we begrudgingly feel the need to. It’s a choice that doesn’t seem much like a choice, and one that often needs defending.
The privacy of our information online and the freedom to share content are priorities that rightly feel personal. The repeal of net neutrality, the hacking of Internet of Things (IoTs) and the passage of FISA piqued my interest when framed as risks to platforms of expression. These platforms have evne morphed into economic opportunity for a lucky few, opening doors to promotion-based entrepreneurship like “tweet-decking”, that didn’t exist a decade ago.
We grew up curating an online self, honing our “skills” at raising Neopets, building acronym-only AIM profiles (“AK JS YP = MY BFFLs. LYLAS!”), writing angsty Xanga posts and creating viral Twitter memes. The internet allows anyone with an IP address and enough wit, beauty or wealth to amass a public following. After spending years racking up this online social credit, a growing number of 20-somethings are cashing in.
Automation and the gig economy, fear-mongering buzz words in the media, are economic trends that my generation takes advantage of everyday. In fact, we’re driving it (quite literally, in the case of ride-share services like Lyft and Uber). Other examples are my housemates: one is working to become a famous Instagram photographer and model, while the other is setting up a bazaar in our living room. His brother ships him goods directly from Moroccan flea markets – hand mirrors, wallets and fake-ivory trinkets – to sell on Amazon for a premium.
For the rest of us, lacking the “it” to be discovered or resources to build a start-up, universal basic income is an attractive promise. Especially in rural America where factory jobs are disappearing, it could ease the transition to automation without villainizing technology. Job security is important, but the kind of work that automation will replace is mostly toil. On the other hand, social media platforms have the potential to foster creative entrepreneurship in a post-work world.
Yet, nostalgia in the age of tech continues to dominate. For example, this headline suggesting we make iPhones less addicting by making them worse? Hm. That sounds like trying to solve climate change by shrinking our population (questionably ethical) and equipping everyone with a spear (go hunt!), rather than investing in renewables or developing all-electric transit.
As someone who is risk-averse, I understand the hesitation to innovate without considering every consequence. We’re hardwired to fear the unknown. But what best explains the contrasting attitudes between 20-somethings and 50-somethings might be this: technology, my generation knows best.