Ashamed to work in Silicon Valley: how techies became the new bankers

Wall Street has long been the industry people love to hate. But as big tech's reputation plummets, suddenly a job at Facebook doesn't seem so cool.

"I would never say I worked at Facebook," said one 30-year-old software engineer who left the company last year to pursue an alternative career. Instead, at dinner parties he would give purposefully vague responses and change the subject. "There's this song and dance you learn to play because people are quick to judge." [...]

"We have this habit of highlighting and celebrating brilliant assholes like Steve Jobs and Travis Kalanick, when the reality is they are awful human beings," said Greg, head of technology at e-commerce startup Brandless, adding that it is women and people of colour who tend to bear the brunt of their behaviour. [...]

Some of this behaviour stems from the hubris that positions profit-seeking corporations as benevolent forces in the world.

"You are selling ads, you're not really making the world a better place," noted the former Facebooker. "But most people drank the Kool-aid."

It's a view echoed by one current Googler in her 20s, who is embarrassed by tech companies' cluelessness about their reputation outside of the Silicon Valley bubble.

"Internally I don't think they have a good read on how they're perceived," she said, citing the backlash after it was discovered that ads were appearing around videos promoting extremist views on YouTube or the investigation into possible Russian interference in the US election, including buying ads on Google, Facebook and Twitter.

"[Googlers] will say 'why are the papers making a big deal out of this, I don't get it'. Are you fucking joking? These people don't realise the scale of what they are doing," she said.

"Some of these folks aren't the most socially gifted people and therefore suddenly having a culture encouraging this experience for them bleeds into everything, giving them a sense of self-importance and entitlement. It's effectively like dealing with children all the time," Greg said, referencing his time at Dropbox when people would "fly around the office on these stupid scooters and skateboards". [...]

All of this feeds into the perception that techies are, according to the former Facebooker, "pod people" who aren't part of the community.

"You wake up, get the shuttle bus, go to the bubble of campus and order food via an app when you get home. You are not a citizen, just a bizarre leech who makes money," he explained.

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14 Responses:

  1. Jeremy Wilson says:

    A friend of mine just started at Facebook a few weeks ago. I tried to talk him out of it but they pay so much money it's mind-boggling.

    • Chad D Altenburg says:

      And that great pay won't be that great once he realizes that the cost of living will offset his pay.

  2. robert_ says:

    The worst is when such articles appear on Hackernews and all comments are filled with libertarian nineteen year-olds saying "I can't see anything wrong with this - they are merely disrupting a broken system. Yay ethically-devoid free markets!"

    • margaret says:

      Tell the shits to read Lessig before they mash their sticky little white fingers on their keyboards.

      • k3ninho says:

        Well, if they'll read just anything, why not Mandelbrot's The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets then maybe Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste by Philip Mirowski on the road to anything Slavoj Zizek...

        K3n.

  3. anon3494 says:

    We can easily solve this by banning advertising, or at least the selling of advertising for profit. So Twitter would still be safe.

  4. I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts two days ago. Now I have to tell everyone I see, so I can rejoice in their shocked expressions, but the usual response is "what took you so long?" Facebook had become a mood organ whose only channel was "anxiety and dread."

    • Derpatron9000 says:

      So what did take you so long?

    • Bunny says:

      You only think you deleted your FB account. It never goes away. All you did was disable it. Periodically, you will receive email notifications that the account has been reinstated. Then you'll have to jump through another series of hoops to "delete" it again. It's insidious, and there's nothing you can do about it. I don't know about Twitter, but this has been my experience with Facebook, and I only had my account for five hours before "deleting" it.

      • When I first heard about Facebook, it was limited to people who had .edu email addresses, and I though "poser bullshit." So I never signed up for Facebook. Some years later I was getting annoyed that they kept sending me email saying I knew people there. The unsubscribe link didn't work, probably because I tried lynx or used NoScript, treating them like a dangerous substance.

        I printed it out and sent them a snail mail letter asking them never to contact me again. (I used the old Unix banner tool to include a big ass UNSUBSCRIBE.) They sent me another piece of email, this one apparently written by a human asking me to confirm. "It's really easier if you do this online." That was in September 2012. I only got one more email from them, also in 2012.

        Hopefully I cost them some money in the form of an overpaid minion needing to actually focus on something instead of relying on a canned response. But I'm sure it's not enough.

  5. Wil E. Coyote says:

    Okay, tech bros are bad. We all know this. Now let's look at the flip side of the coin...

    Articles like this one (and there have been plenty of them) are published by the media and written by journalists, two sectors that have been harshly "disrupted" by Big Tech. There have been lots of stories about newspapers having to jump through whatever hoops Facebook and Google put in front of them, about how Facebook, with the flick of a switch, can take away half of the traffic of any website...

    Could it be that there's some resentment among the media about this subject?

    (This is not to defend Big Tech or negate any of their accusations. But "Big Tech is bad" and "journalists are entitled navel-gazing hacks" are two independent facts; they can be both simultaneously true).

    • Nick Lamb says:

      This is funniest in British coverage of the Russia Scandal. Two significant British newspapers are directly owned and controlled by a Russian. His father was literally in the KGB. But these papers still pretend to be scandalised that the Kremlin was able to place stories in Facebook that suited its goals during the US election. How outrageous, stop these Silicon Valley techies from destroying the democracy we've bought and paid for.

      Newspapers are desperate for money, most are in serious debt - this means that a once proud tradition of editorial independence has been reduced to a thin pretence. Nobody will outright say their editorial line depends on the whim of the whoever has the money, but once you flash the cash (and more importantly, once you threaten to stop) they're absolutely clear on what they have to do to make sure they keep the lights on. And it also means that "help" writing material for the paper is more welcome than ever because they can't afford a full staff any more.

      This results in spectacles like a major newspaper famous for its financial coverage somehow "forgetting" to even mention the serious problems at a big bank which just happened to also be a major advertiser. Other papers all carried the original story and follow-ups, but readers of that one paper could be excused for not knowing anything was amiss at all since it went entirely unmentioned. The full-page adverts duly continued.

      It sort of crept in. Once upon a time these papers would have been very sternly against letting say, a property developer put together two pages that look vaguely like editorial talking about how great their new luxury flats are at the start of the property section. It hurts the brand right? Readers might not understand this is just an advert. But too late for that now, to keep the lights the Editor will wave through an four page "article" ghost written directly by Beijing, using the paper's own editorial typeface and layout without any indication that it's an advertisement, simply lacking a byline. Several British national newspapers now have established programmes putting out such "content" every week for a foreign government keen to obtain influence. It's cheaper than paying Facebook to deliver your Fake News, and the poor stupid readers will never suspect even when it's rubbed in their faces. I'd be surprised if their counterparts in New York, Washington or Los Angeles haven't been tempted by similar ideas.

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