Since I will be needing to stay home or at least a year starting this winter I have decided to look into options for making money online. This produces the usual anxiety that accompanies assessing your skills, desires, interests and boundaries. However, the things that people ask you to do online really stretch those boundaries, making the lines of your ethics fill in thickly. I am not talking about all of the advertisements for cam-girls, disguised thinly as “virtual assistants,” or not disguised at all. Sex-work, although something that isn’t for me these days, is something that I can respect. (Although at the price of $4 an hour I am starting to question what capitalism and globalization is really doing for the world.) No, the posts that really disgust me are the people looking for academic writers.
I am not really sure what I expected when I opened the freelancer section entitled, “academic writing.” Perhaps assistance on research projects. Maybe tutoring. Maybe even blogs and electronic publications that are trying to have a more academic approach to their content. Of course I suspected some college students trying to have their papers written for them. What I did not realize was the extent of this rampant deceit. Almost every post was seeking someone to write some sort of paper, motivational statement or entrance essay. This went all the way up for someone requesting that their 20,000 word dissertation for their MBA be written. Not edited. Not assisted. Written. This is something that I have come to expect in Buglaria and Turkey. Grades are purchased. Homework, if it is done at all, is rarely done by those who claim to have done it. But these are jobs coming from the United States, where academic integrity is supposed to mean something. I guess that degrees are purchased all over the world. I waiver in the areas of cv’s and motivational statements when the client gives you all of the information about themselves and just wants you to organize it. That seems sticky, but it has come to be acceptable in this world where presentation is everything. I draw an appalled line directly in front of plagiarism.
Of course this is hypocritical. When I was 10 I was writing essays for my older brother. Nothing complex, just book reports, with a promise of payment that I never saw. I wrote my friend’s speeches in exchange for her cleaning my room in high school. But that was different. It was stupid and inconsequential. I definitely didn’t know what I was doing and how important it is for individuals to be themselves, and how it just decays our society when we are built on never-ending lies about who we are and what we can do.
Between the terrible social consequences of labor without ethics, and the incredibly low wages associated with outsourcing writing I am thinking that becoming a freelance writer is probably not for me. For now I put in an application at one of the local language centers and I will hopefully be able to work there until December. Then, maybe I will take the encouraging offer of my husband to finish off one or two of the books that I am working on while I am home all winter while he works in a world of freelance that is at least skill based and a little less “ghostwriter.”