The Estranged Labour of Online Surveys

Money is burdensome. As Karl Marx lectured, “wage is but a necessary consequence of labor’s estrangement”. Money is what we deserve for hours x hours of unsatisfying work. But extra money is different. Extra money is a bonus we are not entitled to receive. Extra money is a guilty pleasure we derive for getting more than our effort’s worth. That’s why we try lotteries. That’s why we fall for scams. That’s why we lunge for coins on the pavement.

Besides the coins, there is a reliable alternative: Online surveys. There must be dozens of survey sites out there these days, but I have tried three of the more credible: MySurvey, Toluna, YouGov. I discovered this moneymaking option 2 years back. It felt exciting. No commute. No fixed hours. No pointy-haired bosses. Just me and the extra money. Whoosh!

The thrill didn’t last. I got a $10 or $20 Popular voucher from MySurvey. I got a $10 Takashimaya voucher from Toluna. I quit both when I found out about YouGov. The reason: boredom. It took many surveys to accrue the points needed for the smallest redemptions. By the nth survey, I got fed up with the repetitive nature of market surveys. It seems, to extend Marx’s dictum, that vouchers are but a necessary consequence of labor’s estrangement.

Karl Marx Estranged Labor

I don’t wanna know what Marx is reaching for. [Source]

YouGov is different, because it solicits opinions relating to society (rather than business), including public figures and policies. Surveys on YouGov can actually make you think, a little bit each time. And enjoy the thinking. Recently, I claimed $25 via PayPal.

Yet, I haven’t done a survey for the past 2 months. The costs have outweighed the marginal benefits. It’s just too much work.

Let’s put this in perspective. I am a full-time university student, concerned about money but not enough to work part-time. I don’t stay on campus, meaning plenty of commute time. I’m also a Sociology student, someone keen on social issues. Hmm, perhaps this is the problem. After 2 years of relentless readings, even YouGov surveys feel unsatisfying now. I’d rather rest my brain on the train.

Tired Puppy

I want t… (zzz) [Source: Flickr]

The biggest issue, though, is the rate of returns. A 15-minute survey takes over 30 minutes to complete. A $25 reward takes hours to accrue. A part-time job pays more for the time put in. The extra money is now just extra, without the unexpected glee. Like formal paid work, doing surveys can also turn into a form of estranged labour. I think I’m off.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially on the commute. Let the others do the surveys. Let the others catch the Pokemons. Let the others plug in the headphones. We should keep the devices in our bags and deal with far more important matters. Such as enjoying the scenery. Such as speaking with strangers. Such as looking for coins. There must be some coins somewhere.

And if you have been chasing pavements for coins, use them to sign up for a foundational course in civics education. Then place the remaining in the tin can of the nearest busker, even if s/he is no Adele. You will feel a guilty pleasure from letting go of the burden. Say ‘hello’ from the other side… if anyone’s even listening.

Coins, Buskers, Street Life

Thou shalt not pick coins from the guitar case. [Source]

Marx, K. (1970). Estranged Labour. In Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (pp. 106-119). (M. Mulligan, Trans.). London: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd.

Socio Empath

Hi, my name is Eugene. I am a Sociology graduate from the National University of Singapore. This blog is an invitation: To see our selves as colored by cultures, and to brighten the colors of our society. I seek to help you create freedom in everyday life, with empathy and the sociological imagination.

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