It was five years ago that I discovered Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT.) A chaotic set of events led me to find it and as I’ve become part of the turker community I have learned that everyone has a story. This is mine.
When I was 30 years old I decided to go back to school and make a career change. I had previously worked in politics and enrolled at a university to pursue my degree in geology. At the time I was living off of a part-time job and student loans. I lived in a studio apartment for my first two years and then moved into a small house. Times were lean but I always made it.
I had not been feeling “right” for many years and was written off by doctors as being anxious. I kept plugging along the best I could. I figured the doctors must be correct. After all, I was what they called a “non-traditional college student” which, in my case, simply meant old.
In 2015 I began to have a lot of health problems. I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without being totally out of breath with a high heart rate. I felt dizzy when I had to stand for more than a minute. I was losing weight and at times I resembled a walking skeleton. My resting heart rates starting climbing. It became common to have heart rates between 150-190bpm. My joints started dislocating from simple movements. I was weak, scared, and felt physically ill all the time. The emergency room became a second home to me. I was getting so close to finishing my degree. By the time my field work requirements came up, no doctor would clear me to go. Just like that I was forced to stop my schooling and my job. I suddenly found myself sick and struggling to pay bills. My nearest family member was a six-hour drive away. I couldn’t find a traditional job in which I would be accommodated in the ways I needed. My town was small and there weren’t a lot of options. I became unable to drive and I started doing research about work-from-home opportunities. That is how I stumbled upon AMT. I applied with hopes that this would be the answer to my troubles. It was here that I found that there were so many people with stories like mine. I don’t think that Amazon, or anyone for that matter, realizes how many people use this platform because of illness and/or disability. While flexibility is often decided between employee and employer, not all of us have had luck finding that in the job market. AMT allows for the flexibility that many of us need and I am thankful for that. While AMT sounds like a great solution to a problem many people face, there are downsides to having health issues and doing this work. There are areas that both Amazon and individual requesters could improve upon and I will touch on those in part two of this article which will be published in the next newsletter. I plan on talking about the number of hours it takes to pay the bills, requesters paying low wages for your most traumatic experiences, and the toll turking takes on the body. In the meantime, I would love to hear YOUR story. Please feel free to send them in via our Facebook page or to firstname.lastname@example.org. We might contact you for permission to use part of your story for the newsletter in the future! -K, Turkopticon