Exits and Voices
Here is the concept in a nutshell: People have two responses when they see a decline in quality and benefits to their community. They can either exit (leave the group) or they can voice (improve the relationships through complaining, providing feedback, and voicing a need for change). These groups of people can be in a company, a community group, a religious group, residents of a city, or citizens of a country.
A disgruntled employee can either voice their concerns to their manager to make a change, or they can join another company (exit). A voter can either “voice” their concerns to their political party, or they can join another political party. Understanding how people are “exiting” current institutional structures in place today can help us predict where we're going in the future. Below are a few examples of people choosing to exit after becoming tired of expressing their voices and seeing no change to the community.
A resident of a city can either voice their concern to their local officials, or they can leave, which is what we’re seeing happen in San Francisco right now. After complaining about high rental prices, lower quality of living, and high taxes, people are leaving for Austin, Miami, or Lake Tahoe.
Figure 1: 3 of the top 5 US cities with the steepest drop in rental prices this year are in the Bay Area.
Figure 2: It’s not just the rental market. The number of home sales has nearly doubled too.
I love living in San Francisco. The people are nice, the food is great, and I think I’ve become addicted to cycling around the Bay. I don’t have much to complain about. But others clearly do, and their complaints have yet to be met, which is resulting in them exiting the city.
There's an interesting nuance here. Many people who have come to San Francisco are not originally from here; especially those working in tech. When you go to a party (pre-Covid) you're surprised if someone says they're originally from San Francisco.
So now you have people that aren't San Francisco natives wanting to leave the city. A lot of them may have previously chosen to "exit" their own cities because the opportunities weren't as lucrative. Growing up in rural North Carolina may not have provided great employment opportunities. Yet, these folks are now exiting again, given the ability to work remotely from anywhere in the world.
I can personally relate to this desire to work from anywhere. Vancouver didn't have the level or volume of job opportunities I was interested in compared to San Francisco when I moved here. But if I can work in my current role and live back in Vancouver for a few months of the year, I wouldn't be opposed. Many others who I have spoken with from different places around the world share the same sentiment.
Speaking of work, people are also choosing to exit the belief in traditional career paths. Younger people are more distrustful of institutions and “traditional” careers—having been burned by both the Great Recession and the Covid-19 economic crisis. When asked “what do you want to be when you grow up”, about 30% of children said they wanted to be a Vlogger/YouTuber.
Figure 3: Results when children were asked: “ what do you want to be when you grow up?”. I guess we’re also going to see a lot of Chinese Astronauts...(source)
Many others are turning to freelance work. Freelancers in the U.S. will grow from 65 million today to 90 million by 2028. This trend has a greater impact than just finding a job; it’s a complete rethinking of the meaning of a career. People in existing traditional careers are caring less about climbing the ladder and more about creating their own. (Source).
As shared above, many people are making a living on YouTube, Tik Tok, or writing online. David Dobrik made $7M on YouTube last year. Charlie D'amelio has 102M followers and a net worth of $4M and she's only 16. I wonder what major she'll choose in college? Will she go to college? She might go for the social aspect, but how can you tell a 16-year old that college is the place to go in order to get a career and make a living when it seems like she already has it figured out? She's exited our current norm of finding a traditional job to provide for yourself.
There's an open question on what’s going to happen to our large media companies now that they don’t have Trump to speak about all of the time. The only time I watch the mainstream media (CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc) is when I’m watching sports or when I’m at my parent’s place. Otherwise, I get my news through newsletters, Twitter, Reddit, or HackerNews.
Writers at large publications are catching on and leading this trend. Over the summer many prolific writers left their big publications (NYT, WSJ, etc) and started writing on Substack, a newsletter subscription platform. These writers want a direct relationship with their audience, and the audience wants a direct relationship with their writers. Writers at publications like the New York Times, despite how talented they were, would get paid the same as the other writers, no matter how their pieces did. Now they can grow and shrink depending on the quality of their work. These writers are exiting the current model of media and reinventing the way readers consume their content.
My sense is this trend will continue. This will be a good thing for both the writer and the reader. The writer will have more control over what they are sharing, and get paid for the quality of their work. The reader will have a direct connection with their favorite writers, and feel like they are a part of a broader community. For example, Lenny Rachitsky offers access to exclusive Slack groups for his paid subscribers. I’m excited for more writers to do the same.
I’d love to do something similar with Across The Lines. How powerful would it be to interact with a community of listeners and readers, each who have similar values and aspirations? How cool would it be if the audience can speak directly to guests? Imagine the value you could provide to guests themselves by making inroads and connections between them. I’m looking forward to learning first hand how to build these authentic communities and creating our own type of media. One that is closer to the ground.
Online education has been growing steadily over the past few decades with different business models for teaching springing up. Lambda School and their Income Share Agreement (ISA) models have changed the incentives of educators. In this model, the education is free, but the student signs an agreement that will pay Lambda School a percentage of their earnings for an agreed amount of time. People’s first reaction to this is negative, “OMG you’re taking ownership of a person?”. That’s fair, but we tend to forget about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that students currently have to pay in student debt throughout their lives. This alternative model allows for students to leave behind a lifetime of student debt and instead take ownership of their educational and career paths. This also aligns incentives between the students, teachers, and school administrators. If a student gets a higher paying job, then the school gets paid more. You can’t say the same is true for our current higher education institutions today.
What’s driving this change?
Technology is reducing the barriers to exit. You can research new places to live, find alternative news sources, and further your education- all online. Yet this transition is not occurring seamlessly for everyone. Many are leaving their in-person communities and are becoming quite lonely online. Others are getting left behind because their communities don't have good internet access.
And even more tragically, for some, the benefits of these new technologies will be missed by a population of people who are unable to adapt quickly enough to know what the hell is happening. To no fault of their own.
These issues will be important to be mindful of. As we leave the current systems behind, we may leave our communities behind as well. The lack of communities can lead to poor quality relationships, which will impact our mental health.
With these shifts in living, work, media, and education the next wave of communities will be online, and they'll be powerful. I've been thinking a lot about this concept. With many people opting to leave their communities, how can we create authentic communities online? How can we connect with one another in an increasingly virtual world? I think the following principles are important to create and maintain social relationships:
Create a community of shared values and background
While maintaining values and background, introduce a small percentage of randomness to ensure the community does not become single-minded
Facilitate authentic and vulnerable conversations and connections
I'll be thinking and writing more about online communities in the coming months. For now, remember that the barriers of exit have lowered. People who are not satisfied with their current situation can leave. They can start or join another community. With this in mind, we must be mindful of the negative consequences of exiting like loneliness, disorientation, and carelessness. Let's get excited about these new realities while crafting them in a thoughtful way.