This past week has witnessed some of the biggest layoffs in recent tech history, with companies such as Meta and Twitter at the forefront of the slim down process. Meta fired 11,000 employees, Twitter following with a comparable 3,200 — which translates to half its staff.
Meta employees who’d spent their entire careers slaving away at laptops — trapped in golden prisons that promised warm towels and free snacks in exchange for 70 hour work weeks — received the news in the form of a Zoom send off from the Zuck himself. This strategy is somewhat nicer than Twitter’s version of the fatal ‘break up text’ — removing employees’ ability to access their company laptop and letting them figure the rest out for themselves.
The field’s forever increasing linear growth posits this mass downscaling as an inevitable result. However, while layoffs are allegedly a product of overhiring and general debts that are in need of repayment, other methods could’ve objectively been explored before casually upending the lives of thousands.
Abruptly unleashing thousands of experienced tech experts into the workforce mirrors a similar result of the 2008 recession, in which corporations of all kinds were forced to layoff employees. This resulted in 40-something-year olds applying to jobs that were meant for recent college grads.
The job hunt suddenly became a Sisyphean task for naïve industry hopefuls whose two years of student government couldn’t compare to 20 at IBM.
Soon to be graduates who dreamed of sipping cucumber water as their fingers coded away under the glowing blue light of the Facebook insignia now may find themselves in the same position — a blow even harder when your main career incentive was job security and solid pay.
Though the young may struggle, this is nothing compared to the possible hardship which besets the fallen employees themselves. While experience is appreciated there are only so many jobs on the market — and many companies may prefer their new meat to be fresh, not seasoned.
Meta at least is offering a substantial severance package of 16 weeks full pay and 6 months of health insurance, but this assumes money is the only immediate problem. Employees who are here on visas face possible deportation if they are not able to find a new job within 60 days of termination.
Beyond employees, Twitter and Facebook themselves will be negatively affected by the lack of skilled experts to monitor and upkeep content.
The lack of staff — especially in the case of Twitter where a significant amount of the communications team was laid off — will be directly felt in the lack of regulation regarding misinformation.
Twitter has seemingly been the most vigilant when it comes to fact checking statements and offering additional context for posts that cut out essential information. With a decrease in the individuals who were most likely facilitating such initiatives, it’s hard to see the company’s new CEO Elon Musk committing himself to similar principles.
For the million and one reasons these layoffs should’ve undergone more consideration, one may argue the obvious rebuttal — the companies don’t have enough to sustain as many employees as they had, and therefore they did what was necessary to stay afloat.
This is fair in some regards, seeing as Facebook is $10 billion in debt, but financial troubles act as a convenient front for more sinister grounds.
Meta’s leap into virtual reality has seen the company spend $36 billion, a hole that seems impossible to get out of, especially when considering their new VR model costs a whopping $1500 — way more than any reasonable person is gonna spend for live action Mario Kart.
The downsizing therefore also acts as an aesthetic measure for investors, demonstrating the company’s return to its startup roots and encouraging innovation spawned from a smaller budget and staff (a.k.a, making sure they come up with something more interesting than live action Mario Kart so Zuckerberg makes money.)
And while Musk alleged that Twitter had too many employees and sought to cut labor costs to make up for its debt — this gap could’ve been patched in a myriad of ways. It seems Musk barely sought out any avenues besides mass layoffs considering he actually reneged on several original firings, asking back employees who were ‘accidentally’ let go.
Tech alleges to care about its employees — providing free services like workplace gyms, meals and even offering on-site health clinics. In truth, these perks only seek to make work a person’s entire world, before harshly ripping it from their hands when the profit of their labor befalls the debt of their wage.
This editorial was written by Opinion Editor Lydia Evans.