Tech Induced Class Gaps Summarized In Two Studies

This story and this story are quite fascinating. They both came out around the same time and highlight something alarming and obvious: technology is driving a gigantic wedge in between classes. It’s frightening and kind of grosses me out, making me want to throw any technology away as to not be associated with “those people.”

First, rich kids use Instagram while poor kids use Facebook. According to Pew, the richer you are seems to correlate with your diversity in social media accounts instead of your predominately using one (Facebook) for majority use.

The survey data reveals a distinct pattern in social media use by socio-economic status. Teens from less well-off households (those earning less than $50,000) are more likely than others to say they use Facebook the most: 49% of these teens say they use it most often, compared with 37% of teens from somewhat wealthier families (those earning $50,000 or more).

Teens from more affluent households are somewhat more likely than those from the least affluent homes to say they visit Snapchat most often, with 14% of those from families earning more than $75,000 saying Snapchat is their top site, compared with 7% of those whose families earn less than $30,000 annually. Twitter shows a similar pattern by income, with the wealthiest teens using Twitter more than their least well-to-do peers. It should be noted that some of these differences may be artifacts of differences in use of these sites by these different subgroups of teens.

Interesting considering you can see Facebook as a simple form of emailing and shopping—the utilitarian Wal-Mart of social networks—while Instagram and Twitter are about showing off what you have—gloating—online. Snapchat is a hyperactive version of that, a blink-and-you-miss-it online club that works with an invite-only, disposable mentality: you basically are sharing private, privileged moments for seconds that are then thrown away. Nothing is logged or cherished or saved. This makes sense: if money is not a scarce resource, you don’t have a need to savor anything. Throw it away. Get something new. Everything is an object: Snapchat reflects that.

Continuing this idea of online rich kid mentality, the New York Times reports that kids want Uber instead of cars. Instead of employing one big sum of money for the autonomy of a car, little bursts of money are being used for chauffeurs.

In recent years, there has been a considerable decline in the percentage of teenagers with a driver’s license, according to Brandon Schoettle, a project manager at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, who has studied the decline with Michael Sivak. In one study, they found that the ranks of 16-year-olds in the United States with a driver’s license had fallen to 28 percent in 2010, from 46 percent in 1983.

Mr. Schoettle said that while the number of licensed teenagers has started to level off in some areas (though rising slightly in a select few), there are many reasons that teenagers are choosing not to get a license, including the advent of ride-sharing apps.

“Having the convenience of Lyft and Uber probably outweighs the money and cost of owning a vehicle,” Mr. Schoettle said in a phone interview. “The cellphone also makes it so much more convenient to get a ride from a friend or taxi service.”

The article raises a very valid point (That teen drivers are the worst and Uber drivers driving them is ultimately safer.) but I cannot help but think that those who can Uber will and those who can’t will—Uh.—learn how to drive in order to drive those who can Uber. I’ve long held a theory that celebrity and online culture are converging to make something really ugly, working in concert to stroke literally rich egos and make it impossible to keep up with the Joneses (let alone the Kardashians).

Apps like Snapchat and Uber are propelling the idea that we all have to be rich dickheads in order to get ahead—and that notion is unfortunately starting with kids. The thought is quite uncomfortable since there’s nothing we can really do but watch it unfold. And maybe take the bus. Perhaps mass transportation will be the next big thing? Then what will us poor kids do?

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