Influencers aka the most popular kids in school

I want to address this phenomenon without coming across as a salty, bitter lurker. With the advent of social media platforms, we have all suddenly  gained backstage access to strangers’ lives. And- what- a -thrill it has been. For an expert stalker such as myself wasting time oogling peering into someone’s extravagant house renovation or latest shopping excursion is a regular Tuesday.

But what has been most fascinating about the  evolution of influencer-dom is the monetization of the lifestyle. The lifestyle that is being born rich and for the most part white. Now we find the same kids whose parents gifted them luxury sports vehicles or designer handbags at the tender ages of 16,  as being touted as masterful marketers.

Let that simmer a bit. Influencers remind me of this scene from Mean Girls

It is textbook popular kids 101.  And big brands have figured out a way to monetize and thus perpetuate the haves and the only can dreams. The constant allure of material is overwhelming and intoxicating at once.

I can only imagine that it’s more lucrative for brands than a celebrity’s endorsement, because the modern day influencer is just a ‘regular person’ whose life just happens to be better than yours, ammmIrite?

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Tech and the community that feeds it.

Or the tale of the quintessential symbiotic relationship.

Do you remember when ridesharing was shiny and new? I can remember very clearly the day I heard someone describing this new way of getting around. It went something like this, “They picked me up in this black  SUV, there was a water bottle waiting for me and get this, there is zero money exchanged — not even tips!” I was sold. I had been burnt so many times by cab drivers and their visible (and audible) annoyance that I wasn’t carrying cash and once was even asked to disembark mid-ride due to my lack of cash. The stories are endless.

I thought finally, someone who had experienced the same frustrations actually decided to do something about it.  As far as I was concerned it was pure glittery magic.

The thing that made ridesharing so special to me was actually quite small. It was the clear effort they made to make customer service and attention to detail integral to their brands. You knew what to expect, an effortless, smooth ride from a friendly driver who seemed happy to be giving you a ride — simple and easy.  It set them apart from Yellow Cab and Orange Cab and ushered in a seemingly new era of “affordable luxury”. Now at the touch a button, you had your very own personal driver there to uncomplicate your life, offer a friendly chat. I know your parents or some authoritative figure imparted this timeless wisdom at some point but it bears repeating, attention to detail goes a very long way in this world of competitive global everything. It’s a small act that builds big, loyal dependable communities.

Fast-forward a short ten years and is it just me or is the magic beginning to fade?

Uber, currently valued at 120 BILLION dollars, a giant in its own right seems to be biting the hand that feeds it. and I think they can’t afford to do that.

It feels like lately, I am reading story after story of the quality of rides declining , I’ve read stories about women being kept on elongated rides so that drivers can flirt with them,  I’ve read about people of color having their rides canceled due to the way their name is spelled —  and apart from discrimination  examples (which to be clear are troubling ) I myself have experienced the creeping realization that ridesharing is not much different at all than cab drivers.

And here’s the thing about taxi cab drivers, they may not be easy or effortless but at the end of the day, they have two friends that you can rely on (on a federal and state by state basis) in lieu of those things and their names are regulation and policy. There was/is safety in that.

And if that’s not enough— As the months and years pass by I find myself increasingly aware of stranger danger as I willingly strap into a dun.. dun.. dun..stranger’s car. Because that’s what they are. a stranger who decided to make extra cash on a Tuesday. It’s true we’re all strangers but — I wouldn’t ask Gary the barista for a lift to the airport.

 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

 

 

 

 

Full disclosure: I started this blog post in 2016 and finished it in 2019, I made minimal edits.

 **This  blog post is not an endorsement for or against Uber or Lyft, these are my own observations as an avid user.

I’m back.

I have been a writer for the better part of my existence, see here, and here and my Livejournal from Highschool that I cannot locate in the vast land that is the internet. I never believed that I was a good writer or that I had anything that anyone would be interested in reading. But over the last several years in my professional career, I’ve been asked to provide my voice or spin or to use my innate talent (that’s right I said innate) to bring otherwise dull words to life. I’ve been asked so many times in fact that I’m starting to believe that maybe they might be on to something. So here it goes, my attempt to stick to writing for myself on a consistent basis.

I hope this space will always be a place where you can read authenticity and feel like you’ve found your tribe. I will talk about my failures, my observations, my goals. Occasionally, I’ll even pretend to be domestic or fashionable, appease me, please.

Welcome back.

At my house pillow talk includes the future of driver-less cars and basic income.

What will Edie do? Maybe she can be a lawyer, we will always need humans to argue on our behalf right? A writer? no computer can add soul to content like a human can — this is my thought process, as the idea of the inevitability of large swaths of jobs one day being completely automated by the time our two-year-old is of age. As we all know, self-driving cars are here, you can sign up on Tesla’s site to order one right now. Uber and Apple are also testing out driver-less cars as well. There are legalities still at play in many states, but the writing and money savings are on the wall. On the consumer level the  idea of self-driving cars is incredibly sexy to someone like me because I hate driving and have actually dreamt of self-driving cars since my college years when I would have to make the 7+ hour drive home between semesters.

But as convenient as the idea is for my car to one day be able to parallel park itself, it would be very short-sighted if we thought driver-less personal cars were a period to the conversation instead of a comma.  If we can have driver-less cars, why not driver-less trucks? The implication of no longer having to hire drivers to operate trucks to ship goods cross-country (rough estimation of 8 million jobs) would cast a major blow to our economy. Depicted below is a breakdown of the most common job by state.

job-in-each-state
Image Source: NPR

Major blow.

Yes, I think driver-less cars much like the internet will be a mainstay someday.  But why stop at driver-less cars/trucks? What about robots instead of surgeons? You wanna talk about steady hands and all the world’s knowledge readily and instantaneously available?

—  All this to say, I believe it’s not too far-fetched of an idea, to think we could one day innovate ourselves out of jobs.

Before you come at me with “but Tracey, what about the Great Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s?– won’t we just adapt?”. My theory is that some of us — those skilled in  computer programming, will still have thriving careers but a large portion of us particularly the last threads of the middle-class might find themselves without  full-time opportunities.

With robots at the  helm, there wouldn’t  be a need to pay for benefits, wages, 401k contributions, raises etc. basically everything it cost employers to hire and maintain employees. This is where the idea of basic income seems to make more and more sense to me.

Enough money so that poverty would cease to exist in America and that social safety net programs would vanish overnight. Families could have the flexibility to have one parent stay home with their children and  we could end world hunger, and finally have peace in the middle east 🙂 …alright alright  I know unicorns don’t fart glitter.. one can dream though right?

I have more questions than answers at this point, but the more we invent and streamline work the harder it becomes to justify keeping jobs around for the sake of keeping them around.

What do you think?

Food for thought.

Social Justice, Tech, and Privacy.

About a week and a half ago, something revelatory transpired in the intersection of social justice and tech. It was quiet but the implications spoke volumes.

It was revealed that a little-known company called Geofeedia   was giving their clients such as  police departments and law enforcement agencies, real-time information about users — shady,  but not news. But it was further revealed that it has in fact provided user data such as location and even facial recognition during major protests, such as in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore — This is news. You might be asking yourself, but who cares?  I don’t use Geofeedia, why does this matter? It matters because it is more than likely that by engaging in your favorite social media network, you have given them the keys to your internet front door.

Welcome to the new Wild West.

Democracy and Privacy policy, as it pertains to the internet, is the new wild west. As you post and live stream moments in hopes of connecting with others, you may be now inadvertently implicating yourself and setting yourself up to be arrested and even jailed despite the availability of privacy settings. We’ve all been warned about the perils of oversharing on your social media accounts and the importance of privacy controls when it comes to maintaining your professional brand. But being arrested or jailed  for exercising  your First Amendment rights on your personal platform feels sneaky and  backward. The new wild west is created when laws and regulations can’t keep pace with the innovation of technology, and when people by and large  blindly sign away their rights via “privacy & terms of use” while downloading the latest.  As the internet and software continue to eat the world, the vulnerability gap grows larger and larger. And here’s why : social media and the internet,  like it or not, has come to be an extension of your home, your front door if you will. We’ve all succumbed to feeling safe and secure in our “space” and  with the connections and friends we’ve allowed in.

The internet is not going anywhere and the platforms for which we engage are constantly changing, VR anyone? How do we ensure that with the freedom to engage with anyone and everyone that the boundaries of our privacy are not encroached upon?

How do we stay vigilant and maintain safety in the new wild west?

** Back to the story at hand, giant social networks (ie. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) that were feeding Geofeedia the geo-location of users severed ties. Immediately issuing statements.

“[Geofeedia] only had access to data that people chose to make public,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Its access was subject to the limitations in our Platform Policy, which outlines what we expect from developers that receive data using the Facebook Platform.”

Food for thought.