Twenty years ago Robert Putnam wrote a book called Bowling Alone where he surmised that the American public was disengaging from civic life, that through reduction of in-person social intercourse we’d no longer be tied together in a democracy.
It was just at that moment though that new forms of communities were arising online. We no longer went bowling with neighbors down the street, perhaps, whom we were bound together with through nothing but geography. Instead though we found new forms of communities online as the cost of finding people with similar interests fell, and the reach of communication technologies grew. The internet reduced search costs and allowed us to create far more niche communities of greater interest.
A large city can support a vibrant dining scene because there are so many people with eclectic tastes (and also often because there’s enough prosperity that more people have disposable income). You’re going to find fairly good renditions of many different cuisines, and at least examples of most, whereas in smaller cities experiences are far more… provincial.
The internet is the largest city of all, because nearly all of us are connected. Whether it’s communities of frequent flyers or fetishists it’s possible to find early anything and anyone online.
That also makes it possible to earn niche incomes the way that no one ever had before, and to do so out in the open (semi-anonymously).
One of those subcultures that apparently thrives online also supplements the incomes of cabin crew. Though the average flight attendant makes about $45,000 plus fairly generous benefits, that’s not a lot of money if you’re raising a family or living in a high cost area.
And some have taken to “selling their used tights and unwashed uniforms” on eBay where they can, ahem, command a premium.
This is apparently especially common for Norwegian flight attendants where wages are lower than at legacy European and American carriers.
A man who has worked for Norwegian Airlines since 2015 said his colleagues on “every flight” are taking part in the antics.
He said: “You do think, ‘oh goodness £500, it’s a lot.’
I’m not sure it’s the sort of community that Putnam had in mind, but it’s certainly engaging and ultimately I think the erosion of social capital thesis fails because it predicted disengaging from political involvement. And if you read the comments any time President Trump talks about the 737 MAX or an airport decides to ban Chick-fil-A, this blog’s readers are nothing if not politically engaged.