Posts Tagged Facebook

All work and no pay

“Millennials” have a lot to answer for.

We don’t buy cars, and we don’t buy houses. All we need to do is refrain from having 2.5 children, and we’ll have destroyed the American Dream.

Analysts often attribute my generation’s spending habits to some form of contrary thinking, but there’s a simpler explanation: we have no money.

A recent article in The New York Times highlights the problem of unpaid internships, which have replaced many entry-level jobs, leaving young people with no way to enter the working world.

Some college graduates spend the rest of their twenties in a cycle of internships, with no ability to advance to real jobs and, of course, no money to show for it.

Employers seem to think that they can run businesses without employees or, at least, without paying them.

In addition to replacing entry-level jobs with internships, they’ve turned increasingly to freelance or temp workers for jobs even the most desperate person won’t do for free.

Since these people aren’t technically employees, a company doesn’t have to offer them benefits, or pay its share of certain taxes–like Social Security–that are regularly deducted from employee paychecks.

Then there was the tantrum some companies threw when the Affordable Care Act mandated that they provide health insurance for all full-time employees. They delayed the employer mandate, then threatened to eliminate full-time positions just to get out of the requirement.

Unpaid internships, the cutting of full-time positions, and oppressively-low minimum wages may be good for business, but they’re not good for society.

People are quick to judge someone who borrows too much, or makes an extravagant purchase they really can’t afford. Maybe we should do the same with businesses.

A business that makes money while keeping its workers poor is operating on as false a pretense as a janitor who buys a new Mercedes.

The latter would be judged irresponsible, so why shouldn’t McDonalds’ be criticized for claiming massive profits while refusing to pay its employees a living wage?

That probably isn’t going to happen It’s always easier to blame the individual than the organization, especially when the organization is judged according to different standards.

Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp is in the news because of the comical list of companies that appear to be worth less than WhatsApp.

Nobody seems to have heard of WhatsApp, yet it’s worth more than some of the tech companies that produce the devices needed to use it, as well as Harley-Davidson, News Corp, and others.

Yet, like Facebook itself, WhatsApp doesn’t produce anything. It’s just an app.

It seems that actually making goods or providing services is bad for business, let alone taking care of employees.

And how can employees stand a chance when money is flowing to businesses that don’t even need to pay for factories or stores to operate?

Karl Marx said the only way for workers to secure their rights was to gain control of the means of production, but when nothing tangible is produced, what is there to take control of?

The economy is becoming increasingly ethereal; the rise of the Internet has made eliminating expenses the main priority of businesses, not being good at what they do, or playing a responsible role in society.

The fundamental purpose of a business is to make money, but when businesses make that their exclusive purpose, everybody loses.

The snide criticism of the “Millennial” lifestyle will probably turn to panic is this generation reaches middle age, and is still getting other people’s coffee.

Advertisements

, , ,

Leave a comment

The algorithms of progress

After 200 posts, I still have a love/hate relationship with the Internet.

I mean that in the most literal sense: I love the opportunities the Internet has made possible, but I hate most of what comes with using it and interacting with people through it.

Without the Internet, I wouldn’t have a job right now. I certainly wouldn’t be able to cover the car industry from a house in Connecticut.

However, the Internet has also de-valued skills.

For many jobs, remote working has opened up a pool of applicants that literally spans the nation. People with job-specific skills are much more interchangeable than they ever have been.

That’s great if, like me, you want to write about cars without moving to Detroit, but it also means that being good at something just doesn’t cut it anymore.

People are expected to bring much more than relevant skills to a job; they’re expected to bring specific training, connections, and name recognition.

Some call this the entrepreneurial spirit; I call it blurring the line between work and life.

Because when people expect less from organizations, organizations expect more from people. So much for punching out at 5:00 p.m.

Those aren’t the only terms the Internet dictates.

We work for it: we design content for it, adapt messages to suit it, alter our language so that both humans and Google will comprehend it.

Then someone invents a new “breakthrough in communications” that must be satiated on its own terms.

Earlier this year I got a Twitter account, because everyone else has one.

As far as I can tell, Twitter is just a forum for anyone who has ever been involved with Star Trek, and a gruesomely effective way to relay information during a disaster.

Every time a celebrity does something, it explodes like a healthcare exchange website on October 1, 2013. I can’t see how this leads to productive discourse.

We shouldn’t feel obligated to make room for new social media in our lives, but we do. That’s what frustrates me the most about living in the shadow of the Internet.

After several generations of continuous technological progress, people seem resigned to the Digital Age being just another part of an inexorable historical movement. Nothing stays the same forever.

When I was in first grade I learned to type on beige Macs and play with floppy disks. The teachers said computers would one day be an important part of my life. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Even if we use a piece of technology, we should still be allowed to evaluate its effect on us, and tailor it to our lives–not the other way around.

The Internet has certainly changed the way people live, but whether “different ” really means “better” — and doesn’t mean “worse” is a determination we need to make. It’s easy to assume we have no agency in the face of progress, but we need to take account of how we use technology.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Boston is bombed, one tweet at a time

Since I got a Twitter account recently, I haven’t been sure of what to do with it. On Monday, I found a very good, but very unpleasant, use for it.

As with so many things these days, I found out about the Boston Marathon bombings through a reference on someone’s Facebook profile. Scrolling through the newsfeed, I saw a status from a college classmate:

“Slowly finding out more about what happened during the Boston Marathon,” it read.

I jumped over to Twitter and, sure enough, a photo of the scene of the first explosion had already been retweeted by a friend. Reports of a series of explosions were starting to come in, intermixed with Pulitzer prize winners and the announcement that Chris Hardwick will be in Baltimore on May 24.

“Two men had bombs strapped to themselves and they both went off,” a tweet posted 32 minutes before I logged on read, “everyone is scrambling.”

Switching over to the New York Times’ website, there were only a few short lines confirming that explosions had occurred, not even using the word “bomb.”

Facebook and the news sites stayed quiet a bit longer, but Twitter was shot through with  reports, mostly from the Associated Press and journalists who were already on site. The Boston Globe posted a video of the first explosion, and soon it was possible see it from nearly every angle by scanning the tweets.

Not everything tweeted that day was accurate (the report of suicide bombers doesn’t jibe with what investigators are learning about the bombs) but the most necessary information was imparted as quickly as possible.

So that, it seems, is what Twitter is for.

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Five things that would have made Richard Nixon a great tech entrepreneur

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneurRichard Milhous Nixon may have been born too early. While our bejoweled and disgraced 37th president might seem like the prototypical curmudgeon, he could have dominated one of today’s hottest industries. Here are five reasons why Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur.

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur1. He loved invading people’s privacy

Consumers have grown a love-hate relationship with tech companies like Facebook and Google because of the way they collect and mine users’ data. This would have seen second nature for a man who organized a break-in at the Democratic Party’s headquarters. Imagine what he could have done with the Internet.

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur2. He was great at playing competitors off against each other

Nixon was a horrible person, but was also a master statesman. One of his most impressive achievement was playing China and the Soviet Union against each other.

Today, just as during the Cold War, we have a few giants slugging it out for world domination. If Nixon was in charge of one of them, you can bet that he would use his rivals’ competitiveness against them.

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur3. He was extremely anti-social

Being creepy and unable to relate to other people isn’t a requirement, but Nixon would definitely find kindred spirits in the same industry that spawned Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

Five things that would have made Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur4. He loved secrecy

Companies need to keep their trade secrets, well secret. Whether it’s Google Glass or the next iPhone, keeping information out of the public eye can create a competitive advantage. Nixon would have loved that.

Just as corporations feel they don’t have to tell anything to anyone but their shareholders, Nixon felt he had not obligation to tell Congress, the media, or voters what he was actually doing. Who else would send Henry Kissinger on a secret trip to China, or retain a team of “Plumbers” to take care of information leaks?

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur5. No matter what he did, people accepted him

Did people stop using Facebook when they found out what the company was doing with their information? Did people stop buying Apple products when Jobs’ abusive nature was revealed? No, which is perfect for Nixon.

Tricky Dick thrived on a similarly understanding public. Never a likable guy, he wormed his way out of a campaign financing scandal with the famous “Checkers Speech,” and despite being a commie-hating conservative, he was able to take advantage of public outrage over the Vietnam War to win the presidency in 1968.

While president, Nixon was able to silence critics by co-opting liberal policies (he created the EPA and Amtrak and supported universal healthcare). Nothing could stop him. Well, almost nothing.

Like today’s tech barons, Nixon didn’t car about being liked, and found ways to make it so that the public didn’t have to like him either.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Pope watching

Pope Francis IIt’s amazing how the choice of one religion’s leader can still be a worldwide event. As I write this, congratulations and snarky comments are flying on Facebook over the election of Pope Francis I. Why do all of use non-Catholics care?

A few years ago, when Benedict XVI was elected, I was in the midst of the high school crucible known as AP European History, so I was happy to put everything I’d learned about Avignon and Ignatius of Loyola to work as a Pope watcher.

I guess there is an element of glamorous drama involved, the same thing that makes Americans want to watch the Royal wedding. After all, it’s not every day that they elect a new Pope.

This event was also unprecedented in many ways. Benedict XVI was the first Pope to step down with a waiting replacement in over 600 years, and his successor is the first Pope from the Americas and only the third Jesuit Pope.

The Pope is more than a celebrity, though, and maybe that’s why the election of a new Pope is still relevant to non-Catholics. After years of heinous scandals and the obvious hypocrisy of a primarily white European governing body ruling over an increasingly diverse religion, people want change.

These are matters that should be the concern of everyone, regardless of their religion. That’s what makes this more than a media spectacle.

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Fighting ironic battles

Pearl Harbor posterI never thought I’d see the day when World War II became a source of irony. It was the definition of “good fight,” a time when the nation harnessed all of its resources to defeat what one of my high school history teachers called “made to order bad guys.”

Yet here we are. Barbasol is running a commercial featuring the viewer’s “ great grandfather” on the ground in a French village, perhaps Ste.-Merie-Eglise or St.-Lo, laconically comparing his attempt to stop Hitler with the current young generation’s obsession with tweeting and Facebooking.

Like “first world problems,” this is another example of a perverted form of thought. Its as if people think that, by noting their shortcomings in an ironic way, they don’t have to actually do anything about them.

It’s also a silly comparison. I’m not saying that my generation is perfect, but it’s not really fair to compare us to the “Greatest Generation.” We’ll never know how the social media-savvy would deal with a Great Depression or a World War, because we lived through a Great Recession and a pseudo-War on Terror.

Twitter and Facebook can lead to some shallowness, but we’ll also never know what our grandparents’ generation would have done if they grew up with these luxuries. I recently ate lunch at a restaurant packed with senior citizens, and most of them had smartphones.

Maybe we should cut back on the irony before we lose track of what we’re making ironic jokes about. This reminds me of a New York Times blog post I read recently called “How to Live Without Irony.” The author argued that too many people are using irony to avoid honest (and sometimes painful) emotional commitments.

That seems like what’s going on here. People need to accept the fact that they’re better off than others, including their own grandparents and great grandparents. That’s what those World War II soldiers were fighting for, after all.

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Social media finds its niche(s)

Social media is evolving. The basement geeks that built the first social networks have moved into the niche market. Facebook is still essential for any digital identity, but now other platforms like Instagram and Loopster are being designed to share specific types of information. Which got me thinking: why stop with photos and videos?

Here are five possible social media platforms for sharing other vital aspects of one’s life:

Crassfone: For sharing inappropriate thoughts you know should be kept to yourself yet feel the irrational need to blurt out in a crowded room.

Triv-o-gram: For sharing random bits of trivia.

Noisss: For sharing non-music sound files

Aro-matic: Until smell-o-vision is invented, this platform will allow users to share descriptions of their favorite smells.

Splice: For sharing the sequence of a person’s genes.

Social networks allow us to share every aspect of our lives, the good, the bad, and the boring. Who cares if no one wants to (or shouldn’t be allowed) to know every thought that pops into our heads and every one of our actions?

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment