From Conversation to Action: r/AntiWork, r/BlackFridayBlackout & Plans to Buy the U.S. Constitution
So, what’s happening?
Employees are questioning their role within the capitalist system, persuading each other to fight for fairer treatment in the workplace, and organizing to push back against “The Man.”
This is not a new trend.
As I wrote in March’s “ Power to the Players “ piece:
“Everywhere we look in culture rampant, institutional injustice and inequality is catalyzing action.”
“COVID-19 spotlit our exacerbating inequality, the driver of every social movement of the last 700 days and the fuel for each one moving forward.”
“Ok Boomer,” “Karens,” r/WallStreetBets, the nation-wide marches after the murder of George Floyd, and current distaste in the Hollywood elite are all signals of the demand for equality and modern, more progressive norms.
r/AntiWork is just the latest manifestation of the “Power to the People” movement.
The 9-to-5 is now upended by the 0 or 24.
When I started watching r/AntiWork, it quickly joined the size ranks r/Startups. Work is being seen as a capitalistic plague or always-on lifestyle. There’s no in-between. In either case, down with “The Man.” Independence is sought.
Workplace frustration is at an all-time high. Coming out of the pandemic and watching the wealthy get wealthier, low-wage employees were teased with paid unemployment. Why go back?
4.3M people quit their jobs in August. Nearly 3% of the workforce. According to the BLS, that number doubled since May 2020.
It’s more of a wave of reassessment than it is merely resignation.
Stimulus checks were spent on stonks, crypto and NFTs — gambles for new, lucrative pursuits of wealth. Opportunities for millionaire-status, just within reach. We’re not getting Bezos or Musk rich from a 9-to-5. Financial FOMO, fueling this wild chase, is intertwined with the r/AntiWork sentiment.
r/AntiWork isn’t doom and gloom. And it’s not just about quitting. It’s thrill around potential change. (We already saw what happened last go around with a punch at the elite… see: r/WSB)
As more joined the r/AntiWork movement, negativity didn’t boil over. Instead, things got lighter and more productive. Via social listening, words tagged as “joyful” in r/AntiWork have more than tripled from Sept. to Oct. However, conversation topics via top keyword mentions did not change. The only thing that evolved was tone.
While accounts subscribed to r/AntiWork are most likely to also subscribe to darker-themed communities like r/LateStageCapitalism or r/collapse, the language within r/AntiWork is most likely to overlap with r/careerguidance, r/povertyfinance, or r/AskAcademia.
Conversation within r/AntiWork is ripe with self-empowerment, crowdsourced insight, and constructive help. Support and action overshadows whining and apathy. (Sure memes and questionably fake posts exist, but that’s the internet.)
r/AntiWork, much like r/WallStreetBets, was seeded with resentment, which grew into conversation, and then into community. In this pattern, radical action is the final form. Prepare…
With anger replaced by motivation, r/blackfridayblackout (r/AntiWork’s output) is being formed. This new, separate subreddit is up to over +10K subs in just one week. Meanwhile, mentions of “Blackout Black Friday” are doubling. Many are organizing on Reddit to then spread the word across other platforms. Poised for (hopeful) virality, a website and #BlackFridayBlackout have been created.
Starting on 11/26/21, a 10-day boycott will begin. “Call in sick to work and don’t buy anything.”
Whether or not #BlackFridayBlackout actually “hits big money where it hurts”, it’s enough to prepare around.
We’ve already seen the pattern. This is not an isolated incident.
‘Online community’ was once synonymous with like-minded online conversation.
‘Online community’ is now becoming synonymous with like-minded offline action.
The same week of the formation of #BlackFridayBlackout, a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) was formed whose mission is to buy the Constitution of the United States of America.
Yeah, you read that right. Thousands of people are organizing and pooling money to purchase a copy of the Constitution that’s up for auction by Sotheby’s. It’s going for $20M. As I write these words, +$3.7M has already been committed.
Will it be bought, eh, who knows. Unlikely.
But like #BlackFridayBlackout, whether or not these two events transpire, it’s enough of a signal that more of these efforts will manifest.
Next time, stronger.
Matt Klein is a cultural theorist and strategist analyzing the psychosocial implications of our technology to consult on business decisions.