Last Thursday, Brian Mayer became the most hated man on the internet. For those of you that don’t follow tech news sites with the fervor of soccer fans in Brazil and therefore are thinking, “Is that John Mayer’s little brother or something?” let me recap.
Brian spent one weekend whipping up a site that he named ReservationHop. The site makes reservations at popular restaurants and then sells them to consumers for as little as $5. As Brian points out in his analysis of the whole fiasco, the idea itself isn’t even new, as at least two startups are doing the same thing in New York City and seem to be pretty popular. Brian saw the model and figured it’d take off in San Francisco’s rabid restaurant culture.
While Manhattan may be perfectly okay with conspicuous displays of wealth and giving rich people privileges if they’re willing to pay, San Francisco likes to pretend that it’s still the Summer of Love city, despite vast evidence to the contrary. As a result, the Twitter-sphere of self-hating tech people freaked the fuck out about Brian’s little weekend project.
Here are some samples of Tweets that Brian received.
Reservation Hop is horrifying and can hurt restaurants. Wow, @bmmayer, you are now San Francisco sleaziest tech a-hole.
— sarahharbin (@sarahharbin) July 3, 2014
Hopefully, every worthwhile restaurant in the Bay Area will impose a lifetime ban on #ReservationHop founders and backers.
— Steven Johnson (@steven_johnson) July 4, 2014
And we don’t even get to see the death threats.
There are people doing things, both in the startup world and out, that are truly fucking horrifying. Just within techlandia, have you heard of Gurbaksh Chalal? He’s the CEO that was caught on camera hitting his girlfriend 117 times and is just one example of thing that you should actually be getting pissed about.
Take some of the time you spend reading the crap that I and other tech bloggers write and open up a real newspaper. Do you know what’s going on in Israel right now? What about down the street, in San Francisco or Oakland or New York? Do you know that the majority of homicides of people of color in your city don’t even make it into the paper because our country is so racist that no one cares?
Point being, if you want to freak out about things, there are way better issues to focus on than people paying a few extra dollars for seats at expensive restaurants.
“But what about social inequality,” you ask?
One of the most tweetable attacks on RestaurantHop is that it is a symptom of and contributes to the growing, appalling socioeconomic inequality in San Francisco.
We’re not talking about wealthy people pushing out non-wealthy people from their homes. We’re not even talking about wealthy people taking away food or restaurants or public spaces from non-wealthy people. That already happened.
What we’re talking about is wealthy people taking away… what? Possible seats at restaurants that cost hundreds of dollars per meal? This is wealthy people “taking” something from slightly less wealthy people and that is why everyone is freaking out about it.
Like first-wave gentrifiers raising the battle cry against the next wave of gentrifiers, the people complaining about ReservationHop are extremely similar to the people who will use and love a service like this. Majority white, highly educated, and with a clear sense of entitlement, the biggest difference I can see is that one group revels in their privilege while the other spends a lot of time and energy shouting about how much they hate it.
And full disclosure: I’m totally a first wave gentrifier.
I’m an over-educated white girl from Vermont who worked as a social worker in the South Bronx while living in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. I’ve yet to have a fiscal year where I made more than it cost for one year at my private liberal arts college back East and championing human rights wavers between a hobby and a career, depending on who’s willing to pay me.
As a blogger, I’m also totally guilty of falling into the cesspool of internet outrage, as much as I try to keep my head above the water. That dopamine hit I get every time one of my posts goes viral is irresistible and I’m an addict just like the rest of you but the thing is, we can control our addiction. We can control what we put online, what we share, and what we hype. We’re the content creators and we can control the information the rest of the internet consumes. It’s a pretty massive responsibility and one that we’ve all been taking too lightly.
So, Twitter-and-blog-o-sphere, I’m one of you and I have a request.
I’m totally down with righteous anger and there have been a few cases where that anger has led to some pretty awesome real world results. The issue isn’t the anger, it’s the fact that we’re wasting it on stupid shit like this. It’s time for us all to make a change.