Essay:
Social Work
Hettie O’Brien considers the cost of never logging off.

  • Words Hettie O’Brien

Would anyone’s utopia have social media? Not mine. Twitter would never have been invented. (But everyone would have a permanent contract, parental leave and a spacious apartment.) In real life, however, having an online presence has become a means of attaining these things, a requisite for demonstrating your employability, a way of surmounting gatekeepers to enter industries without familial connections. Everyone understands the bad parts of social media: that it quantifies social status and assigns us all a score; that it collapses the border between private lives and professional selves, serving up both for the disenchantment of anonymous others. But what about the good: Is it even funny, or clever? Does mastering the form indicate anything beyond the form itself? Who knows. 

What I do know is that this compulsion does not apply equally: Those doing socially useful labor, such as stocking supermarket shelves or caring for children, are not required to be online. But for a small ...

1. Cowan noted that, by 1950, an American housewife could singlehandedly do the same amount of household labor as a staff of three or four in 1850.

2. About 50% of large companies had remote monitoring techniques in place by 2018, including surveying social media usage or reading messages on Slack. One recent survey anticipated that 80% would be using these techniques by the end of 2020.

3. According to a report by the US National Bureau of Economic Research published in July 2020, the average American workday was 48 minutes longer during lockdown than prior to it.

ISSUE 52

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