Rawdogging, Revenge Effects, and Technology

Air travel without phones, ear buds, movies, music, or anything else is newly a thing. It may also be an augury of a reversed revenge effect.

Rawdogging, Revenge Effects, and Technology

Apparently “raw dogging” air travel is a thing, that is, traveling without drinking, eating, watching movies, listening to music, sleeping, or anything else. Just staring vacantly forward, like Puddy in the classic Seinfeld episode.

While this is in most ways silly, it may augur the beginning of a change in young people’s relationship to technology. Demonstrating that you don't need technology is, in this flex, a demonstration of willpower, independence, and mental strength, according to those doing it. I increasingly get the sense young people are exhausted by their relationship with technology, and it would be unsurprising to see it noisily reverse.

This is a kind of reversed revenge effect. Normally a revenge effect is when a rising technology gives rise to a negative counter-trend, like better household appliances leading to higher cleanliness standards, leading people to spend even more time on housework. Or household lights that require apps, making them hard to turn off. Or overuse of antibiotics causing resistant strains of bacteria.

Here is Edward Tenner on the topic from his book about the phenomenon:

Revenge effects happen because new structures, devices, and organisms react with real people in real situations in ways we could not foresee.

Rawdogging is a kind of reverse revenge effect, where resisting a widespread technology is valorized, and thus becomes popular, but has unexpected positive consequences, like, perhaps, the return of conversations, or more social connections. Hey, it could happen.

Will air travel rawdogging persist? Perhaps not, and it may fade out quickly, like asking your parents to dance to Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy, which is also an ironic thing. Oh, you clever young people monetizing your parents' bad dancing for clicks and influence.


How my dad stole my moms heart #fyp #80smusic #dancingtrend #smalltownboy

♬ Smalltown Boy (Remaster) - Bronski Beat

But it's also possible that something deeper is going on here. Not using technology for long stretches could start as a new flex, but such a flex can find deeper resonance, with phone use in gatherings, say, increasingly anathematized. If this breaks free from airplanes and we start seeing it as a thing in other gatherings, it will be interesting, surprising, and a kind of augury—and a classic revenge effect.

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