At 1 am, a 23-year-old Pinduoduo female employee shared the annual playlist of NetEase Cloud Music in Moments, preparing to finish her work day.
Half an hour later, she fell on her way to get off work and her life came to an abrupt end.
A few days later, one morning, a post published by Pinduoduo on Zhihu broke the mentality of countless workers who were squeezing the subway, and also put himself on the cusp of public opinion.
After Pinduoduo, Zhihu, and netizens launched the "refuting rumors" and "anti-refuting rumors", this incident had the most violent catalyst for the topic to go out of the Internet era-reversal.
Things have fermented up to now, the public’s anger is mainly focused on Pinduoduo’s eagerness to turn the article and trying to dump "temporary workers" and other public relations operations, but this article does not intend to discuss several "Rashomon" statement.
What is even more thought-provoking is that from Jack Ma's "996 blessing", to the takeaway rider trapped in the system, to the sudden death of Pinduoduo's employees, Internet giants seem to have become a new synonym for "sweatshops" in this era.
We seem to have also entered the "age of overwork" described by Japanese economist Takaji Morioka 15 years ago:
The development of information technology and the rise of consumerism have made it hard for people to escape the fate of overwork. Material life is constantly enriched, but personal life is getting poorer and poorer.
Pinduoduo's failure to "refute rumors" is not just a public relations crisis
Although there is no evidence that the sudden death of Pinduoduo's employees is directly related to overtime, the vague language in Pinduoduo's statement can't help but make people think about it.
Why is Pinduoduo eager to dismiss the post that he has not posted, or try to explain that the content of the post is not his original intention, as Internet observer Lan Xi said, this fact is very important, it involves the values of a company .
In the past ten years, during the rapid development of the mobile Internet, "algorithms have no values" is actually the values of many products, and the wolf culture is the creed of many companies.
At this stage, as long as the needs of users can be met, users can actually ignore many problems for the time being. For example, Robin Li once mentioned that "Chinese consumers trade privacy for convenience", which is a big truth to some extent.
But as Internet services are deeply tied to people’s lives and cannot be separated, users may no longer be so tolerant of technology Internet companies, and society will also require these companies that eat early dividends to take more responsibilities.
Zhang Peng, the founder of Geek Park, put forward a point of view that technology Internet companies are moving from the "bilateral relationship" that only pleases users in the past to a more complex "multilateral relationship" . They must think about this problem:
What is the meaning of your existence for the entire value chain, for society, and even for every individual in society?
Whether it is an Internet employee who suddenly died in an overtime position, or a takeaway rider trapped in the system, what is behind it is no longer just users and products, but broader social issues.
▲ Picture from: Caixin Global
When a service platform needs to take into account efficiency, sustainability, and social responsibility at the same time, this often leads to systemic problems that cannot be solved by algorithm optimization alone. This is why "technology for good" is also a product capability.
And behind the big Internet companies being regarded as a new generation of "sweatshops", it is also a manifestation of this systemic problem.
In the age of overwork, the "chronic disease" that workers cannot escape
The sudden death of a young life after working overtime and the remarks of "exchanging life for money" are not a small stimulus even when people are becoming numb to 996.
This is not an isolated case. In some workplace forums, employees from big factories can often see messages saying "get a few years and leave". This is no longer news in Internet companies. An article in " People of the Day" records the experience of a former Ali employee :
In a team of less than 10 people, half of them fell down during overtime: some colleagues worked overtime until they had nausea and vomiting, some colleagues worked overtime and had no time to eat and got stomach ulcers, and colleagues who were in poor health went straight after working overtime for a while. The operating room…
These are by no means unique to Internet companies. In the last few days of 2020, several captains died suddenly. Among them was He Zhongping, who was called "the most beautiful captain" of China Southern Airlines, but it did not arouse much public attention. .
And the tragedy of the sudden death of a 23-year-old employee of Pinduoduo cannot help but reminds people of Molly Takahashi, a 24-year-old employee of Nippon Dentsu, who could not bear the pressure of work and chose to end her life by suicide on Christmas Eve in 2015.
▲ Takahashi Jasmine.
One month before her death, Molly Takahashi worked over 105 hours of overtime. She once sighed on social media at three in the morning:
Life is really unclear, whether to live for work or work for alive.
This incident also directly led to the resignation of Dentsu President Toshihiro Yamamoto, while Takahashi's mother expressed the hope that the death of her daughter would bring about a reform of the working environment, but the facts proved that a worker who beats a worker costs his life. It is also difficult to change anything.
So we have seen that on the other side of Japan, the culture of overtime work has become almost pathological. Entrepreneur idols use seriousness to rationalize 996:
Today, companies such as BAT in China are able to achieve 996. I think it is the blessing of us people.
Work is easier in some places, but no one can change the world by working 40 hours a week.
Hard work is right, comfort is left to the dead.
All this confirms the description of Japanese economist Takaji Morioka in the book "The Age of Overwork". People lose their minds and discuss the topic of "whether they can fight 24 hours a day". "Overwork" has become a society that cannot be ignored. problem.
In 2019, the World Health Organization included “overwork” for the first time in the latest revision of the International Classification of Diseases , officially admitting it is a chronic disease with three main characteristics:
- Feeling exhausted;
- The "mental distance" from work is getting bigger and bigger, and you feel tired or resentful about work;
- Professional efficiency is reduced.
According to this standard, this may be the chronic disease with the largest number of patients in the world. According to statistics, nearly three adults in China have been on the verge of death from overwork.
" Where has the time gone? " published by China Social Sciences Press According to the China Time Utilization Survey Research Report , the overtime labor rate of Chinese workers in 2017 was as high as 42.2%, and today this number may increase unabated.
Since it is a chronic disease, it means that it may not be cured for a long time, and patients have to be with it for a long time. This is the characteristic of this age of overwork. We have to face it for a long time, but it is difficult to find a special medicine. Even Morioka, who promoted Japan's legislation on death from overwork, could not escape the fate of "death from overwork."
No wonder someone ridiculed that preparing quick-acting heart-saving pills for overtime employees may be the most effective solution right now.
While enjoying the convenience of 24 hours, stuck in the 996 system
Why must 996? This is a question that hits the soul of the worker directly.
Morioka believes that a high degree of capitalism is an important driving force in the emergence of the era of overwork. This is not just referring to the "squeeze" of employees by capitalists. Information capitalism and consumer capitalism are the more important driving forces. They have penetrated into the way of life.
In the past ten years, the popularization of mobile Internet and portable digital devices has blurred the boundaries between our work and life. Even during the epidemic, the company can deliver office computers to your home deep in the mountains on the same day.
The grand occasion of consumerism is no longer necessary. Huabei can satisfy your ever-expanding desire for consumption and in turn encourage people to work harder.
As mentioned in our previous article , when our productivity and production level cannot meet the demand, it becomes the only choice to exchange part of our own benefits for more benefits.
On the other hand, the popularity of mobile Internet services gives us 24-hour convenience. We may not be able to accept takeaway a few minutes later, but this is not without cost. Behind it is countless people's 996, which maintains a fast-running system.
This creates an embarrassing situation. On the one hand, we enjoy the material life that the ancient emperors could not reach. On the other hand, our personal living space is not squeezed and trapped in the 996 system.
When more and more people agree with 996, it is often inevitable to be trapped in it. Those reasons for rationalizing 996 become hypnotics for self-comfort. A Zhihu netizen who claims to be a former colleague of Pinduoduo's sudden death employee just Means :
There are too many Chinese, and there will always be countless people who can replace you. You are not willing to 996, and there are many people who happily ask 007 not to pay overtime.
It's like you didn't want to be a slave, but there are more than a hundred people who want to be a slave are envious of you, want to replace you at any time, and always look at you as a slave… Do you feel the shackles Beatty? Fanny limited edition is still shiny?
Yang Heqing , who wrote the preface for the Chinese version of "The Age of Overwork", said that in China, where per capita resources are relatively small, light overwork is an inevitable choice for China's economic development for a long time in the future.
However, he also pointed out that we should not work overtime indefinitely, because this will pass the cost of the enterprise to the society and bring negative effects to the society. Some scholars call it "profit corporateization and cost socialization". Many problems in the food delivery industry originate from this.
As a technology media worker, I really can’t provide a feasible solution to such a social problem, nor am I able to change the pathological 996. I just hope that the bosses will stop saying 996’s motives so well and justified and give it to every hitter. The most basic respect.
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