Lauren Smiley's talks about some real problems in her piece on shut in culture
, but she's also missing something pretty profound.
COMPLAINT: these services encourage people to be shut ins.
One part of this is an extrovert problem. A long time ago I read an extrovert complaining about the move to delivery, self checkout, and not chatting to strangers on the bus, because he couldn't get the social stimulation he <i>needed</i> in his day. I get that that is a real loss for him, and I hope he finds a way to get what he needs. But what he's complaining about is that social norms are no longer <i>forcing</i> people to give him what he wants at their own expense. Except not even/more than that. He is asking for social norms and societal structures that force two people who don't want to talk to each other to do so, when he is not even around, so that the activation energy for starting social interactions will stay low for him. It reminds me a lot of Christians in the US complaining that they're being oppressed, when what is actually happening is they are no longer quite as privileged relative to other religions.
She dimisses the possibility that these shut ins are actually socializing on line, because on line sociailzing doesn't count. This is going to sound sarcastic, but it's not: It must be really nice to enjoy interacting with most people you meet. Getting a charge off of small talk sounds so relaxing. Easily finding nearby people you feel truly understand you and you can be yourself around must be even better. Not all of us are that lucky. Even if we agree in person interactions are strictly better than online, people we can really connect with may be rare enough that we're forced to look long distance. And it's kind of shitty to view that as something the weirdos are doing to you, rather than something that is happening to them.
[And yes, lots of these people choose to phrase it as "I'm too good/smart/rational for the normals", which is a dick move and betrays an attitude that makes them unpleasant to be around. But it's hurting them more than it's hurting you.
Also "learn these skills so you can enjoy more things, some of which you have to do anyway" is a much more compelling argument for learning social skills than "learn to fake this thing you hate so other people will find you acceptable", and I wish someone had put it that way to me earlier]COMPLAINT
: the world is dividing into served and being served.
Everyone she talks earned their money via a job (most of them undoubtably started out with a lot of advantages, but they're not trust fund babies, they had to work to turn those advantages into money), so by definition they're serving somebody. If you want to argue their jobs don't count because they're working on something that scales rather than an individual service... yup, that is why they are able to hire the people to do their chores, and the people doing the 1:1 service jobs can't.
At least not to the same extent. They actually indirectly pay a lot of people to do a lot of things for them, relative to a self-sufficient 18th century farmer or a member of the modern bottom billion. In fact, a lot of what the "served" class do is lower the cost of things everyone, including the "serving" class, uses. Email and all social networking is expected to be free. Amazon's prices are low for lots of reasons, but one is their excellent software. Kick ass electronics are accessible to more people every year because engineers discover new techniques to make them cheaper.
Which is not to say that current system is perfect, or fair, or even very good. Just that the line she's drawing defining the problem doesn't make any sense.COMPLAINT
: But doesn't going to the store have some intrinsic value beyond the goods you pick up?
Assume arguendo that there is some value in walking to the corner store for groceries, or doing your own laundry, or standing in line at the post office yourself. I certainly think there's a value add in a homecooked meal shared with friends over a glass of soylent, and found when I offloaded too much of my cleaning it made me feel out of touch with my home. But I can't do shared meals 21 times a week and I am pretty sure I could feel just as connected to my home with half the grout scrubbing I do now. Soylent lets me maintain better nutrition and frees up time so that instead of 10 half-asses meals, I have 8 soylents and 2 really delightful meals. Maybe not everyone does it this way, but of the people that don't, I'll bet they weren't getting a lot of fringe joy out of doing their own laundry before.
"Optimizing for stated goal at expense of a bunch of fringe goals you didn't know you had" is a common human problem. But there's no reason to believe that the line for proper number of chores to do is exactly between "complex farming-industrial complex brings delicious food to a building 15 minutes away year round" and "complex farming-industrial complex brings delicious food to my house". If these services are letting people define their own line, that's a good thing.COMPLAINT: People are spending this extra time working, rather than watching sunsets with their lovers/errand jobs suck
I'm combining these two into one complaint because I think they're actually very related. The way jobs are defined in our society sucks. Programmers are putting those marginal hours into working either because it's genuinely fun for them, or because at that level work has tournament styel compensation and the returns to time are exponential. This is why it's hard to find a part time programming job even though companies are desperate for programmers, and it sucks.
Errand jobs seem like they'd be great for part time work. For teenagers with intermittent free time or people with passion projects that pay some but not enough, or not regularly enough, to live on, they could be a real boon. But as replacements for the cultural archetype of a Job, they suck. Flexibility often requires a paycut, and if you don't want the flexibility that's a pretty bad deal. This is why I was so angry when Lyft changed its pay structure to favor drivers who worked full time, or taskrabbit redifined itself to make the rabbits interchangable and give them less control over their day.
Mininum income guarantee would do a lot to alleviate the second problem, but not the first. The best it could do is allow more people to opt out of tournament style compensation.
Maybe this is my lingering bad feeling over that cut-off culture
article (which I just noticed was published by the same website), but I'm really beginning to loathe complaints about "X culture", where X != rape. The shut-in and cut-off culture articles are shockingly similar, shaming people for choosing not to interact the way the author wants them to. That's extra creepy for phrases that intrinsically refers to rape culture, which is in large part about feeling entitled to things from people. Yes, it would be nice if we had little urban villages full of people waving to each other, but if you don't want to wave, or don't want to wave at the people you happen to live near, not having to go outside is extremely powerful.