These changing narratives for changing times suggest that a new workstyle is gaining
momentum. Before workers can be comfortable with freelance as a viable work model,
they may need to quiet the social ghosts haunting them.
The Big Boo: Quieting The “Social Ghosts”
A common theme for many of the eleven free-range workers is that they remember or still
hear the anxious voices of family members asking them, “when are you going to get a real
job?” Mary Gergen refers to these internal “voices that inhabit us” as social ghosts and they
have the capacity to haunt, warn or in some cases inspire (Gergen, Schrader & Gergen,
2009, p. 61). These ghosts apparitions borne of relational conversations are difficult to
shake even when they are no longer physically present or needed. While whispering, “get a
real job,” they speak to the concern that the freelancers would have a diminished life
without the benefits of a steady paycheck, pension, stock options, health care and
essential financial security. The entire workforce in the United States has been flattened by
the economic “subprime meltdown” that resulted from mainly subprime mortgage
foreclosures and collapsed hedge funds. That big “boo,” the recession coupled with digital
expansion, has somewhat quieted the social ghosts; and consequently it is helping to
reinvent and change expectations for what is considered a “real job.”
Changing Expectations in Today’s Economic Landscape
All Americans are trying to pull themselves out from the pileup of unfortunate events
including the dot-com crash (2000), September 11, 2001, a subprime meltdown (2005
2008) and a global recession (late 2000s). Steven Tatar’s story illustrates the excesses of
the dot-com era as he recalls the short-lived insanity as a salaried creative director position
at the now defunct marchFIRST in Cleveland, formed in March 2000 and bankrupt in
March 2001 a casualty of the dot-com crash:
I was meeting all kinds of people who were getting these salaries and jobs titles
whereas at MarchFIRST they didn’t know shit none of us did. They were tasked
with creating the new paradigm the brave new world but they didn’t know
anything about the world. I remember at marchFIRST having colleagues, creative
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