Day 113: The Serfs 2

There are many reasons to feel trapped by technology. Giving up email would make the modern job search very hard. Giving up Social Media would distance you from your social group even for those who only check when notified. Giving up the smart phone once again would make the job hunt harder, the job harder possibly, and navigation impossible without a map on hand. Without a computer and Office, well you would need more manpower and effort to maintain the current workload. However, I feel Farhad Manjoo’s NYTimes piece missed the hold of tech on us.
Maybe it is because I am too poor to enjoy the glory of the internet. I can’t afford an Echo let alone to pay anyone to install anything in my home. I am the Taskee not the Tasker. I think the internet means different things to different people. I personally hate Yelp to me it is a collection of attention grabbers and whiners. I wouldn’t flag people on the street for recommendations, why would I trust someone who is compiled to force theirs on me. Same goes for Amazon reviews. One example: My A/C broke a few weeks ago. I went to Costco and saw they had a budget model. I google’d it at my girlfriends request. A few reviews said it was so noisy, the reviewer couldn’t sleep. I bought it anyway (Costco returns are so easy, unlike online). It ended up being significantly quieter than my last one (which was 15 years old). Youtube for me is a memory of pre-21 in high school and college hanging out awkwardly in some basement with friends waiting for booze to arrive or parents to leave and kinda wishing I was home.
Instead the internet controls through smoke and mirrors. In this month’s Atlantic, theres a great article about how online prices especially the list price are framed to only make you perceive you got a deal while possibly paying more than other users. Twitter flurries appear as mass reaction even though it is an small percentage of users commenting let alone a small percentage of the population as a whole. Facebook encourages echo chambers which had no small part in electing Trump.
I do agree with Manjoo’s fear of the comfort tech creates. It is another illusion. To click and receive. Yet as cyberattacks especially ransomware increase, the comfort becomes a security flaw. Alexa is not a personal assistant but the property of Amazon on loan. As we give control of our lives to these networked systems, we don’t increase our practical knowledge of them. It is no different than magic and we become marks for wizards, who are always waiting in the virtual. We are sold gadgets and apps on the notion, they give us tools to gain control but the only tools of control exist in coding.  
The only way out is to stop selling ourselves into serfdom. It begins with reclaiming ownership of the self. An act as simple and rebellious as buying a physical day planner at Staples.
-E.C. Fiori

Day 73/74/75/76: Between the Media and Me

A lifetime ago, Jack Delaney recounted to me the exchange in writing of Fitzgerald and Hemingway regarding the rich. Fitzgerald wrote “the rich are different than you and me” and Hemingway responded in Snows “they have more money”. Fitzgerald in “The Rich Boy” said more than that line. His observation is true today, the minds of the rich work differently. As do the middle class (each chamber its own variation) and the poor. I am reminded of this each morning and evening while I read the New York Times. 

Especially this evening reading Kyle DeNuccio’s essay on his gap year. It wouldn’t be unseemly to question why the NYTimes is in the business of publishing personal essays. It is a vapid bit of fluff from the child of a man who earns 1.3 million a year. His struggles are none. He overcomes the challenge of going to an overpriced liberal arts university for free by simply completing the required work and now thanks to the NY Times can call himself an author. He proposes that the government should loan kids more money they have to pay back so they can understand the value of a dollar not understanding that they already do. Kids on loans can tell you how much each class session costs them and must wring the last penny’s worth out of each of them. 
I don’t just mean to knock on that one ridiculous essay but shine a light on something ignored by the media: Class. We talk about poverty and falling wages but we don’t talk about how more and more young stars and behind the camera talent are children or friend’s children of those that came before. Our media is frightened by the intellectual and cultural diversity of Americans. They certainly didn’t champion “Hell or High Water” as awards worthy as “Moonlight” even though “Hell or High Water” actually addressed the world it was set in. Give them degrees is the new Let Them Eat Cake because in the rich liberal view if you fail with a degree, you are without merit. Or that many crowdfunded project succeed not because of the internet but the social layer the creator was born too. Yet we hail the successes as pure merit. 
The media endears itself to the rich who in turn keep the institutions afloat as they drift into irrelevance to most of society. Not that journalism is irrelevant but the churn that surrounds it. The essays of luxury both belittle the plight of the people in this economic era but belittle them by ignoring their existence. One can not walk away thinking the Times cares more about the rich. No one can look at the rise of alternative media and not see that besides alternative facts, the focus is on what is left off the Grey Lady and the other mass media icons. Whether it is DIY tutorials or comparisons between bargain brands, the articles address the needs of the community not just those in the penthouse.
In the online age, there is no excuse for mass media to be so class focused. There is infinite room in cyberspace. Perhaps, it is time for the rich to not be heralded as the only worthy lifestyle.
-E.C. Fiori