lifestyle

2015 was the year: People took their power back.

You know it’s December because your feed is clogged with Lists Of The Year, telling you what mattered in the year gone by. On Mamamia, you can tell us. Over the final few days of 2015, we’re running a series of essays on the issues that made 2015. Then, you tell us which one defines the year to you. Welcome. It was quite a year. 

There are a lot of rules in Australia, and more than most in Sydney, where I live.

For the most part, this is okay, because some rules make sense. Don’t take something from a shop without buying it first. Don’t push children over in the street. Don’t drive while texting. Don’t steal disabled people’s car parks. Don’t have sex in public.

But then there are the rules that aren’t really for you and me… they are created to make life easier for a big bank, or a shopping centre, a hotel or a cable TV service. These are rules for rules’ sake. Maybe they made sense when someone drew them up in a boardroom but by the time they reach us they are just arbitrary, confusing and  frustrating.

This year, 2015, was the year we finally said ‘no thanks’ and pushed back on those rules. Welcome, Uber, Airbnb, Netflix and Airtasker and many others were the driving force behind giving people back the power. Finally.

Long may it last.

Uber
Uber makes us feel like we’re breaking the rules. Image via Instagram @uber.

This was the year that our quiet rebellions, previously muttered to our friends or in emails of complaint, went mainstream. It was the year technology enabled us to cut out the middleman.

Of course, the fightback began a long way back when the internet first started bringing people together. Suddenly you didn’t need to ask a friend if they could recommend a hotel in Fiji. There was a whole website for that.

Ordinary men and women no longer needed permission to be heard. If they wanted to get their views across, they didn’t have to grovel to the letters to editor of the local newspaper. They just wrote a blog. Or later, a tweet.

They didn’t have to traipse around a department stor at inconvenient times when they could just shop in their lounge room when it suited them.

And then came Uber… and with just one little app we finally hit our straps.

The best thing about Uber was not the lower prices — although that was attractive too. The best part was that the ball was in our court. Rather than having to hail a cab on a busy street or jostle at a cab rank you called your own private Uber driver and he or she came to pick you up right where you were standing. Using TECHNOLOGY.

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You could track exactly where it was at any time and exactly where you were going once you were in. If you wanted you could talk to the driver to change the plans to suit you. You could rate the services when they were done. It was even easy to use. And at the end of the trip, rather than fumbling around for money, your credit card was billed so you could just jump right out. Essentially, even though the service worked for the driver and Uber, it was mainly designed to work for you.

Listen to the Mamamia OutLoud team and Kate discuss taking the power back. Listen on iTunes here:

This week when Uber was legalised in NSW, CHOICE director of campaigns and communications Matt Levey  said about the tax that will be paid to compensate cab drivers for Uber coming into the market: “This tax will see all consumers pay more to compensate an industry that refused to innovate or improve its customer service.”

And that’s the key. SO many of these companies have failed to innovate and failed to work towards the needs of the consumers because they didn’t think they had to.

It’s the same with Airbnb. A friend of mine spent almost his entire US holiday staying in great apartments in great neighbourhoods with advice from generous and absent hosts — all booked through Airbnb. It was a thousand times better  than staying in small and expensive hotel rooms who in 2015 still want you to pay for the ‘luxury’ of using Wifi.

Then there’s my cable TV service. I still have it because my husband loves football but everything else — from the way the search buttons are designed to frustrate and impede to the prohibitive cost — makes me feel like they are doing me a favour, not the other way around. This is especially clear when I can jump on my laptop or iPad or even my phone and watch Netflix — when I want and how I want.

NewYorkApartment
A New York Airbnb apartment. Image via airbnb.com.

Along the way I suspect there will be downsides to always getting what we want when we want it. But for the time being I’m content to celebrate the win for the little guys.

The revolution is here. We won’t be TOLD how or when we consume. 2015 was the year we took back our power or maybe got it for the first time, riding our Ubers, staying in our Airbnbs, calling in Airtaskers or Whizz for services that suited us and basically putting the middle finger up at the middleman.

“Thanks mate, we’ve got this… We can take it from here.”

What do you think 2015 was the year of? 

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