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Is stream shame the new flight shame?

Flight shame among millennials had a marked impact on global carbon emissions. Will stream shame among zoomers do the same?

At the end of the 20th century, cigarette smoking went from being a socially acceptable, even prestigious, activity, to generally seen as an unhealthy and socially stigmatised habit. As the world has moved closer to imminent climate catastrophe in recent years, the once prestigious activity of flight travel has been under pressure from environmentally conscious millennials. Emerging in Sweden in 2017, the “flygskam” (Swedish for flight shame) movement has since spread widely across the globe, like the wildfires whose frequency and severity has increased with climate change. Airline companies have seen their profits take a hit and while air travel options based on renewable energy are still very far from reality, significant investment is being poured into dirigibles research and development as the promising option for slow air travel in the future.

Strömskamsrörelsen

As the latest of the zoomers and the first of generation alpha has come of age, a new form of digital climate consciousness is making its mark on the global economy. Realising that the carbon footprint of binge watching tv shows, video influencers, and porn, rivals the global emissions of the airline industry, young people are building a movement to end the stream of otherwise endless entertainment. “Most of the stuff you can stream online is rubbish anyways, it’s just a way to pass time alone and not get bored. Knowing that it also destroys the climate made it easy for me to make the choice to stop,” says Hannah, the 17 year old Swedish data climate activist spearheading Strömskamsrörelsen — Swedish for the stream shame movement.

Instead of streaming videos on their own, young people have begun meeting up in person to enjoy communal culture, such as playing folk tunes together on quirky instruments like the mandolin, and performing amateur theatre. For otherwise introvert zoomers and alphas, tabletop roleplaying games have seen a sudden boom, as gamers turned off their computers to go on new kinds of fantasy adventures. “I like how we didn’t have to invent a lot of new things to have fun away from screens. It’s like there’s already all this stuff just lying around in the library, and you can take it out for free and just enjoy it together,” says Hannah.

Music hits a new groove

Vinyl records had already seen a massive comeback since the music streaming revolution in the beginning of the 21st century. Today, with the rise of stream shame, there has also been hockey stick growth in the amount of music sold on this time tested physical medium. This boom in sales has invigorated a music business that only a decade prior referred to young people not paying for the music they listened to online as streaming millennial criminals, or “striminals”.

Today, the record labels are arming themselves for another legal fight over copyright. The resurgence of vinyl music has been followed by a new form of piracy, where young people illegally share music recorded from vinyl on magnetic cassette tapes. One of the measures that the labels are lobbying governments for is outlawing the sale of recordable cassettes. “Cassette tapes have only one use case, and that is illegally recording and distributing copyrighted music. With streaming, the musicians get paid every time someone listens to their music, but with pirated cassettes, no one gets paid. Home taping is killing music, and it’s illegal,” says Brittany Isles, CEO of IFPI, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.