Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sympathy But No Sympathy

Speaking as an Official Old (42!), I tend to defend Millennials at all times.  They catch a lot of shit for having been basically born into a terrible economy with elders who decided about 20 years ago that while benefits like free college and actual pensions were good enough for them, they'd have to slashed for their children and grand-children because Neoliberalism.

That said, with the decision by Youtube (i.e., Google) to stop "monetizing" videos they feel are too controversial or political and the resulting backlash, I think we're seeing a potential blind spot for those under 35.

If you grew up on a media-consuming environment of Youtube and Vimeo and Twitter and tumblr, it's possible you take these entities for granted as "free" or "natural" or "impartial."  They're just simply kind of out there and always have been, and the people who created them wanted nothing more than for you to have the ability to make stuff and put it online and, sometimes, make money off of it!

And even when the CEO of Twitter himself admits they're doing a terrible job of fighting online hate speech, your sympathies for social media outlets to remain as "neutral" as possible when dealing with the content generated by individual users are probably quite high.  I mean, for a while now these companies have created a network for you to upload stuff at will that might make you internet famous, or even rich.  Win-win!

But the most important cliche of the 21st century so far goes like this -- if you aren't the customer, you're the product.  Youtubers might feel like they're suffering censorship now, but it's basically the long hand of the market.  Your freedom of expression was never really the issue.  It was actually completely orthogonal to Youtube's monetary interests (and by extension, literally, Google's.)

I mean, at least Facebook has always been honest about how its advertisers come first and your freedom of expression doesn't mean spit.  (And it's no surprise that they continue to make money hands over fists.)

To think that the Apples and Googles and Twitters of today's meda-rich world are somehow better or more enlightened than the salt mines and widget factories of the pre-2000's isn't just wrong, it's dangerous.  It's part of a humanistic spin that's been added to the world of "creative" work and living.  It's ignoring what us Olds have known for a while -- major companies are not your friend.  They never were.  They never will be.

However, they do tend to have excellent P.R. (Which is kind of the ultimate killer app.)

Now, get your selfie-stick off of my lawn.

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