“Outsourcing Adulthood” Doesn’t Cut It
Every week, I swear, I read a new smear piece on why “Millennials,” aka human beings aged 23-38, are not doing it right. This article on The Cut stands out because its author is actually a Millennial, so you think they wouldn’t be so quick to hop on the self-loathing Millennial train, but it’s not just that that makes me feel betrayed. It’s the complete embodiment of entitlement, self-entitlement and narrow focus that non-Millennials attribute to Millennials that has to make me laugh.
“Outsourcing Adulthood: Can you ever really grow up if you don’t do anything for yourself?” Cute hyperbole, O’Connor. The idea of “not doing anything for yourself” effectively negating your personhood is incredibly ableist, I mean, what about all the Boomers and Silent Generationers who require round-the-clock care in their advanced age? Are they no longer “adults” because they’re in hospice care? This bugs me because its narrow focus seems to be that Author watched a friend hail an UBER, then wrote a smear piece about how other Millennials are helpless.
Doesn’t really take into consideration that things like UBER cater to people who can’t afford cars in the city, things like FOODKICK allow Millennials with mobility issues to live independently, BLUE APRON takes the burden of emotional labor off of Millennials working multiple jobs to make ends meet and don’t have the time to plan weekly menus, TINDER solves the problem of how to meet people when your workplace explicitly bans dating and you’ve had to move out of your hometown to find gainful employment!
For that matter, many of these services represent the gig economy. On the flip side, the people staffing these services do so often to supplement their income with flexible, freelance work (TASKRABBIT, UBER, LYFT, etc). All generations, but especially Millennials, have found their income limited by the lack of solid, full-time steady work, and turn to driving UBER or picking up TASKRABBITs on the weekend to make ends meet. If you’re gonna complain about the “outsourcing of adulthood,” your legitimate argument is not how easy it is for Millennials to be lazy, it’s HOW EASY IT IS TO SELL PEOPLE ON SLAVE LABOR IN 2019. These gigs are notoriously low-paying and exploit the already limited resources of workers trying to earn money relatively off-the-grid in the gig economy. Single parents, students, illegal immigrants are already exploited for low-paying work, and the rise of these apps without much oversight or unions to protect the workers is the real problem here. Not a 27-year-old who makes $88K a year taking an UBER home from the club.
And really, what kind of fucking anti-progress bullshit is this anyway? If we can fix the problems of the gig economy, pay these workers a living wage and make their jobs safe, it would be AWESOME to create a new economy based around selectively opting out of the banal tasks that you don’t want to do! I know countless freelance writers and actors who have spent years of their lives making their livings walking dogs (while also working full-time at unpaid internships, which is another piece of this complicated “Lazy Millennials” puzzle that we don’t have time for honestly — who walks the full-time unpaid interns’ dogs???). If you could make a living wage, say, walking around a grocery store ticking items off an online shopping list, then we’ve created a good job! Then that shopper can go ahead and pay for an online personal stylist to pick out outfits for them and mail them to them — and if that online stylist gets paid a living wage? They can hire a dog-walker to make sure their Bedlington terrier doesn’t poop on the carpet while they’re putting together StitchFix boxes for UBER drivers and FOODKICK delivery people. THIS COULD WORK! This could totally work, if everyone was benefitting from the work they did, and nobody was being exploited. Nobody wants to do all the bullshit they have to do — and skip lunch to rush home to let Jinxie run around the block and piss so he doesn’t destroy your apartment — but come on. Isn’t Business School 101 “find a need and fill it”? Can we really be mad if these apps are finding needs? It’s not trying to infantilize Millennials, it’s innovation.
I’d like to see MORE innovation, not LESS. Let’s not be the Old Folks in rocking chairs on our porch who mourn how difficult our lives are while refusing to take advantage of opportunities. Let’s find apps that connect people with affordable childcare. Let’s find apps that discreetly report sexual harassment at work. Let’s put the same effort and tech know-how into improving the way we interact with outdated, clunky, and buggy government apps so we can interact with our governments more easily.
And while we’re at it, let’s make sure we’re doing it the right way. Let’s unionize workers and create legislation that protects workers in the gig economy, so marginalized workers aren’t forced to the outskirts of the economy. Let’s talk about what social services are lacking that these apps are rushing in to fill, in terms of our mass transit (UBER) meal delivery (SEAMLESS) and safety (the CITIZEN app). Technology isn’t going away, and it isn’t going to become less important in our lives. We may not have the teleportation and flying cars that we imagined we’d have, but we do have the capability to get food delivered to our homes, taxis at our beck and call, and helpers to do every possible task we can’t do for ourselves. It’s not the future we envisioned, but it’s the present that we have. And the future is yet to be dreamed of.
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz via Unsplash