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This Is Silicon Valley (onezero.medium.com)
140 points by yirgacheffe 54 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 216 comments



I'm gonna offer a slightly different perspective: SV isn't that nice, and it's not worth the price premium. There is a distinct lack of culture, of nightlife, of arts and humanities - even in San Francisco. We're a mediocre land of strip malls and suburbs masquerading as an international destination. Go to any other city and tell me that it's not MORE vibrant (Chicago, LA, NYC, Miami, Austin, Portland, Seattle, Houston, Toronto, London, Paris, etc.)

It just isn't worth the price premium. Restaurants close at 9:30 (why do people eat so early?) - lack of beautiful modern mid-rise and hi-rise condo housing, lack of public transportation, last-call is at 1:30PM... it really sucks here. hard.


I couldn't agree more. The Bay Area was always one of the only places my wife and I could mutually agree on whenever we'd chat about places we'd like to move to. I grew up in Seattle and have family scattered throughout SF and the East Bay, and was fortunate enough to have made multiple trips per year to the area since I was a kid. Those trips fostered a love for the region, for SF as a city, and the people here. The trips, however, stopped when I moved across the country for college.

I spent over a decade not visiting the area all that much, and was excited as all hell when I had the opportunity to transfer out here for work. I'd heard bits and pieces about how the region had changed, but I didn't really have a grasp as to just how much change had taken place beyond the cost of living. I'm sure you can imagine the disappointment my wife and I had when we realized the reality of the place we'd just moved to. There are people from all walks of life and countries and cultures out here, but despite that, you're absolutely right when you say that SF and SV both lack culture. It's terribly homogeneous and downright bland.

There are still reasons we have for living here, but we've been having more conversations lately about living places we never thought we'd agree on. Paying such a premium to live in an area that feels so bland, homogeneous and nestled within its own little bubble just doesn't seem worth it to us.


I have a somewhat similar perspective, having moved to Colorado about four years ago. There are clearly a lot of transplants here, but if you go for a walk around Denver, it's A LOT of affluent white people. Go to Boulder and it's even more pronounced (similar to a miniature Silicon Valley). I'm very conflicted because there is a lot to like about Colorado, but I sometimes wish I moved to an area that was not so white.

The article's mention about Patagonia made me laugh and cringe, because sometimes it feels like Colorado is sponsored by Patagonia. That being said, I'm "guilty" too, because I wear Patagonia. But part of that is because they make solid items and they are generally environmentally conscious about their production (I still wear a jacket of theirs from 2013 that looks brand new).

On the more perverse end of consumption, I am now starting to see Canada Goose jackets all over Colorado; they are about 2x or 3x what Patagonia costs, which I believe is already quite expensive. I remember seeing something similar happen with North Face jackets years ago; once they became ubiquitous, the wealthy find something more expensive to show off.

Seeing all of this happen while the homeless population increases and more people that grew up in Colorado get pushed out due to rising housing costs, it's enough to make me feel hopeless that this situation can improve and overall disgusted about my part in it, as well. So I can definitely understand this feeling of "wanting to get out" due to hopelessness.

That being said, states like Colorado and California are some of the few areas with solid protections for LGBTQ people. There is a certain amount of unacknowledged privilege in seeing other posts on this site, mostly by straight, mostly white, men who talk about moving to "the middle of the country" to get out the bubble. But I think that a lot of people forget that many marginalized people move to these areas precisely because they provide legal and cultural protections and generally more openness.


>That being said, states like Colorado and California are some of the few areas with solid protections for LGBTQ people.

For sure. That, and similar aspects, are what we really enjoy about living here.


Full admission - my hetero/cisgendered worldview made me ignore this side of reasoning for living here. But doesn’t NYC, Seattle, Portland, LA, Miami offer similar protections?

Great point none the less!


They do! Though one could argue that Seattle is (and has been) moving in the direction of SF/SV in terms of cultural homogeneity, while my brother-in-law has been living in PDX for a while now and says that he loves it but complains about the strong level of "group-think". I can't speak to NYC or Miami as I've only visited twice and once, respectively, though I love how diverse the culture of NYC is.

Edit: That's not to say that they're anywhere near as homogeneous as SF/SV have become, though. I just think it's worth mentioning as it relates to the broader topic.


Don't stall too long. This area takes a toll on relationships and mental health (unless you're fabulously wealthy)

The extreme costs of everything pushes out creatives, which leads to a lack of culture.


Completely agree! Our relationship has stayed strong for the few years we've been here, but the mental aspect around trying to afford the cost of living here when we're both making good money just blows my mind. I can't imagine adding a child into the mix while also trying to save for a down payment on a house in the area. I think we'll be here for a bit longer as we work to figure out what our long-term plans look like, but I don't think we'll be settling down properly out here.

Also, as a creative, I couldn't agree more. They're the heart and soul of a community. They've been priced out of SF, now they're being priced out of Oakland. I want to raise my children around a strong artistic culture, and I've struggled to find more than a few small pockets of that out here.


Also, I'd like to point out that if you have a family, and have settled into a sort of more standard family life, SV is great - if you can afford it. If you're a young(er) single person, my god literally anywhere else is better to live.

For example - if you're on Tinder, use the "passport" feature to set your profile to NYC for two days. Let me know the number of matches you get.


I was living in Zurich and before Tinder I had no idea how much difference can my sexual value be between cities.

I really wish I knew that my dating life would have been so much easier if I move to NYC.


Dating in Silicon Valley is legitimately awful. It's staggeringly bad.


I often think back to this obviously first coffee date I came across one weekend at Red Rock in Mountain View. The woman came in, she's dressed nice, walks in with confidence, and finds her date, who is dressed like a schlub wearing a faded free company t-shirt, and couldn't even bother to comb his hair.

If I was her, there wouldn't have been a second date.


Oh. My. God.

I thought I was the only one. This will probably go over most heads here, but man - the way people DRESS, particularly men, is staggeringly bad. Hysterically awful.

I've seen this same situation before as well.

Here's a hint - don't wear anything with your company logo on it unless you're at a company event. You're welcome.


You're not necessarily wrong, just condescending.

I'm still going to wear sneakers, t-shirts, and a puffy because it's dramatically more comfortable than dress shirts and leather shoes. I can know I'm dressing poorly and still choose to do it...

company logo is another story - that one escapes me


Nothing wrong with sneakers and jeans + a tee provided they fit and the sneakers aren’t “dad sneakers” read: White new balances or god forbid saucony or brooks running shoes.


That seems a bit superficial. Both Saucony and Brooks make very good running shoes. It's not great to wear good running shoes during the day, but I'd look more askance at people wearing faux-athletic shoes that aren't really good for anything other than sitting in an office.


Can somebody give some additional perspective on this? I'm flabbergasted by how snobbish and shallow this post appears to be - but perhaps I just can't picture what kind of clothing a person has to wear to deserve such treatment?

*Disclaimer: I have no experience with silicon valley.


Deserve what treatment? No one was being rude, quite the contrary. But impressions matter, and no one deserves a second date. Or conversely, no one deserves a bad date, let alone a second.


I feel like that problem is hardly unique to SV, though it also seems likely that interpersonal relationships and the SV cultural mindset are fundamentally incompatible.


Article seems to suggest SV does not work well for families and children.


The price premium you are paying, especially for housing, is really all about raising kids e.g. sending them to some of the best (albeit pressure-filled) public schools in the country all while keeping your high paying SV jobs.

Basically assume that the quality of public SV schools are high enough that high earning parents are "OK" sending their kids to those schools rather than paying for private school. If you have 2 kids and would otherwise spend $20k/year for ~14 years of PreK-12 then living in your preferred public school district will save you over $500k+ in tuition.

If you are single or have no plans to have kids (thus shifting more free time toward cultural activities vs raising kids) then agreed living in SV is really boring and uninspiring and not worth it.


> sending them to some of the best (albeit pressure-filled) public schools in the country

Nope.

https://www.niche.com/k12/search/best-public-high-schools/

Gunn just misses the top 20, PA just misses the top 50. Everything else is further down, and those are expensive places to live even by SV standards. Several states/areas, notably IL, do much better for a fraction of the cost. My daughter attends #56, in what is considered an expensive town hereabouts, and that's still about 1/3 what I'd pay to live in SV.

Those are fine schools, but if you're paying SV prices for the sake of your kids' education, you're making a bad choice.


You're paying SV prices because you're getting paid more than you could otherwise anywhere else.

Yes, for the average rank-and-file it's probably a worse deal than elsewhere, but if you are mid-level and have a chance at upper mgmt role then what you make is wayyy more than what you could elsewhere, even with the CoL.


That's funny, because I happen to work for a Silicon Valley company, I'm on the same pay scale as my colleagues there, but I work from my own home on the east coast. Perhaps even more pertinently, my team-mates often express despair about being able to afford a house even on what they're making at one of (according to most sources) the top three highest-paying companies out there. So no, I don't believe that the pay scales are sufficient to achieve parity with other parts of the country in terms of what school districts they could live in elsewhere based on their skills.

Here's another way to look at it. There are a lot of people earning big money in Silicon Valley, but there are only a few thousand students at the local top-100 schools. To buy a home in one of those few towns, you need an income that's high end even by local developer standards. By contrast, not only is the cost of living lower in Illinois (for example) but the ratio of demand for their skills to demand for slots in top-100 schools also works in their favor. Those add up to a cost reduction even greater than any likely pay cut.

The only way those high Silicon Valley salaries help in terms of getting your kid into a top-100 school is if you take the money and run. Earn all that dough, save it, then use it to buy a house in another part of the country before your kids hit high school. Don't get into an auction with people who are even richer than you are.


As a 6 figure salary worker in SV, you get fleeced. You have worse housing options, worse schooling options, worse public transportations and highest tax rates in the country.

SV is not expensive because "public schools are good". Its expensive because both the government and the landlords, that have a huge intersectino of people, capture the largest chunk of the surplus tech workers get.


I'm specifically referring to housing prices. Parents raising kids put an even higher premium on SFHs because they want to live in places that are within a preferred school district. It's just one of many factors.


Landlords don't get it either. I'm a landlord and most of that money goes to the banks and property taxes. I might see profits in 10-20 years if I'm lucky but even that's a gamble.


I would've been ready to disagree with you 2 months ago, until I looked at the SF budget and saw they spend 2600U$S per household every month. Landlords cant be getting too much of that: but they do get a piece, particularly old time landlords.


The landlords making money hand over fist are the ones that bought long ago AND had the tenants turn over (reset rent control).

Right now it’s cheaper to rent a place than buy in SF (rent to home price ratio is almost 1:30 where 1:15 means it’s equal).

Most landlords are betting on property appreciation, but even that isn’t guaranteed if you have tenants as they lower the value of the home.


Who wants their kids to go to school in a place where so many kids kill themselves that there are suicide patrols and no one knows how to stop it? Maybe there is some truth to the necessity of struggle for humans to learn how to appreciate life. These kids grow up with a silver spoon, needing for nothing, and we wonder why they're jumping in front of trains? And on top of that, it costs $1 million or more to buy a house just to give them a chance at this amazing location so they can kill themselves? I'm sure that's a premium all parents want to pay to experience the worst imaginable outcome.


>... sending them to some of the best (albeit pressure-filled) public schools in the country...

Are they really the best if they're putting that much pressure on kids? Surely there's an argument that can be made that schools that are one tier down from the quality of these public schools (read: still good schools overall) while putting less pressure on children might be better than high-pressure public schools in the long-run, no?


A lot of it is a function of economics. The schools are built to get kids into college so they can get 6 figure incomes immediately out of it so they can scrape by living in the area around the schools. If you aren't on that path, or don't want to be on that path, you basically move from your parents decent->really nice house into the slums with 5 other people. Especially if your parents want you out of the nest and "independent" as soon as possible. Its like walking a tightrope - mediocrity is not an option, because its ever increasingly hard to get by and live on what most people in the country would call average.

I've had several friends in the bay who grew up there struggle coming out high school - one wasn't really up for college at the time, and the only option to move out on the $16-ish an hour service job into a doubled-up apartment in a bad part of town. Surprise surprise, extreme depression. The other had their parents just paying for their rent - they got to mostly sit around and play video games, but mental health was fine other than just general lethargy.


100% Agree. I'm leaving in 6 months. Buying two pied-a-terres in cool cities for the cost of a down payment in SV. Can't wait!


Where?


Miami and Montreal!


Looks like you're covered for both summer and winter. Smart move.


Thanks. Montreal I don't like to talk about because (I believe) it's the most underrated city in North America.

Don't go - you'll fall in love!


Don't go now or you'll fall flat on your face walking on the sidewalk. So much ice. SO MUCH.

But yeah, cool city.


Oh nice. I looked into Miami and surprised by how affordable housing was, even in South Beach. Similar reaction when I looked into Palm Springs too.


It's not, but I'm curious if you grew up there? I did and it used to be a fine place, not overhyped, not overcrowded, just a fine place. It even used to make sense to work there if you were involved in tech, because tech wasn't huge. Now that tech is huge, SV is huge and it doesn't make sense when we should have distributed workplaces. The roads are falling apart and there's nowhere to live, high-rises sink, but people talk about 'sustainability' without doing anything about it.

This author has the right attitude, leave, because it's not the same place it used to be. Unless you surf in the ocean, I don't know why anyone needs to live there, even then, the water's warmer lots of other places.


I did grow up here - you're spot on about the Ocean. I realized a lot of people love it here because they're truly outdoorsy.

They ski, they surf, they hike and mountain bike. I do none of those things (anymore) - so there's no reason for me to be here anymore.


I agree about the lack of culture, but I'm not sure it's much better anywhere else in the US. I used to love NYC for its out-there, underground cultural options, but now it just feels like a mall geared for tourists.


Have you lived in NYC? I don’t get this sense at all, as long as I stay away from the touristy parts of Manhattan.


No, but I've visited many times since the 80s.

The NYC I remember, and love, from then was dirty, smelly, and culturally adventuresome. It was also diverse ethnically and socio-economically in a not so segregated way.

Today, when I visit NYC, and even Brooklyn for that matter, it feels like a city for the wealthy, and it feels much less ethnically diverse than it used to.


It’s still dirty and smelly :-) I’d also argue that it’s still much more ethnically and culturally diverse than SF, but yeah, it’s definitely gentrified compared to what I remember it being in the 90s.


Touche!


Which parts of Manhattan aren't touristy?

I lived there for a little over a year...agree that Manhattan is not necessarily that inspiring.

I could never figure out what to do on the weekends. It felt like I was always stepping outside into a financial district and all anyone did was go to mediocre & expensive brunches.


Most parts that aren't near Times Square, IMO, aren't very touristy. Did you live in the financial district?

Do you enjoy nightlife? If not, you may not enjoy the city as much.

But there are frequent live music shows, good bars of all types, great late night food options (food trucks, pizza spots, Japanese izakayas), beautiful parks (I liked Prospect Park especially, but Central is gorgeous too). And if you're a single heterosexual guy in your 20s, the dating scene is pretty incredible. It seemed at least decent for other orientations too.

But yeah, there are overpriced brunches too. I tended not to do that as much because I'm not really a fan either.


Sounds like NYC = SoHo (which still has more culture in a single block than the entirety of the South Bay.)


Ha no argument there. The South Bay downtowns are pretty sad. Never liked SoHo much but I’d trade for it in a second if it wasn’t for the huge difference in opportunity.


This is happening to all cities. Silicon Valleyification is an aggressive strain of gentrification.


Chicago has much better culture; it feels like a diverse city that is actually alive, not just a cookie cutter promenade trying to sell you things. That being said, the politics are pretty messed up and the weather is atrociously bad.


Brooklyn, Miami (wynwood), Chicago, Austin, Portland (WEIRD!), Seattle, LA (creative as all hell) - it is better elsewhere. Even midwestern cities (Pittsburg, Cleveland, etc - really great!)


I'm seriously interested. What do you think makes Pittsburg, Cleveland, etc a "better" cultural destination than NYC. Examples would be great.

BTW, I live near Portland, and while I do love it and its weirdness, I wouldn't call it the most culturally sophisticated city I've lived in, at least in some respects. For example, the Oregon Symphony has this concert listed in its calendar: https://www.orsymphony.org/concerts-tickets/1819/sci-fi-at-t.... While cool, I wouldn't call it "better" culturally.


Sorry, not better than NYC, but better than the Bay Area :)

NYC is still the epicenter of culture. Period.


It really isn't though, it's still miles ahead of SV (I have lived and worked in both areas)


Heh, plus one from me. There are 3 things you can do well in SV - work, sleep, and sit in traffic jams. You can escape to SF, but then you are basically in an ordinary US city (maybe slightly better than Austin or Denver, maybe slightly worse than Portland or Seattle, but really not very different) but at twice the price; and to get anywhere (work, mountains, doesn't matter) you still have to drive forever to/thru SV or East Bay sprawl. Ugh.


Fair enough. Keep in mind, the appeal of San Francisco before all of this happened wasn't that it is vibrant. Different cities can appeal for different reasons.

San Francisco, when people spoke of it affectionately, was the cool grey city of love. It wasn't only that, or always as good as that, but that was the appeal. The appeal of San Francisco is that it was an urban place with a notably less frenetic vibe. I'd also say that San Francisco is actually considerably more urban than almost every other city outside NY in the United States, even though, somewhat paradoxically, it has less of the urban vibrancy you describe.

Here's a link to some urban density maps from a discussion forum.

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=204523

The first thing you'll see is that in the US, it's New York and everywhere else. But of everywhere else, San Francisco has notably more widespread high urban density than the other US cities you mentioned. It's enough that you actually can live that life in SF, even if it is somewhat limited.

This appealed to a lot of people. It actually still does - or would, if people could afford it. Something odd happened to San Francisco. I grew up here in the 70s and 80s, and San Francisco wasn't ever really known as an alpha city for a career. Living here was a softer version of living in, say, New Orleans. Nobody says "I hate living in New Orleans, but I have to be here because of the amazing career options in finance/tech/entertainment." It's not that you can't pursue a profession with ambition in New Orleans, but the main reason people who make the choice to live in New Orleans do so, in spite the problems, is that they love New Orleans.

So it goes, or went, for San Francisco - though San Francisco was a strong beta-plus, perhaps even alpha minus, city for careers. As late as the mid 90s, parents in SF were encouraging the younger set to consider leaving SF for career options, considering SF to be somewhat limited for career advancement. I explained to them, at the time, that tech really was bigger here...

Wow have things changed. Gayle Laackman McDowell wrote a post:

http://www.gayle.com/blog/2015/11/if-you-want-an-a-career-in...

It's hard to explain how unlike the San Francisco I grew up in this post really is. It is the opposite of how SF perceived itself. SF was where you lived because you liked it so much here that you were willing to give up on the career options available in New York, London, even Chicago or Los Angeles. The idea that SF is something you put up with for the career options, but leave if you want an alpha minus career but a better quality of life, is a 180 degree change, and it happened with light speed.

I think this accounts for a lot of the "10 reasons why I hate SF" posts of the lament about SF you see on places like HN so often. Until quite recently, you wouldn't have seen a post on why people like NY so much better than SF that because person would't be living in SF. They'd visit for a conference, say "huh, things sure close early here", and go back home to NY. Any sort of complaining about needing to live here for career advancement would have met with general puzzlement. Even tech, which was bigger here, but not nearly as big a deal as it is now, and mainly concentrated in the South Bay anyway.

I get it, you hate SF but choose to live here because you put career above living in a city you enjoy - a tradeoff that came into existence so quickly it has a lot of long time San Franciscans blinking like deer in the headlights. And SF has largely lost the qualities that people enjoyed about it, even though it sounds like those are qualities you wouldn't have valued much anyway.


I live here and agree. For me, all of the nice parts are the access to beautiful outdoor opportunities. The arts, restaurants, culture, nightlife, and other aspects are sub-par given the cost of living. The trajectory is also poor, as every year feels like paying more for getting much less, particularly for the mediocre food options.


This is actually the part I don't understand when people mention it. I mean, it's better than Ohio, but outdoors anywhere near SFBA is sub-par; the closest skiing (I don't ski) is 3+ hours away, the closest decent rock climbing is 2 (St Helena and Pinnacles I guess?) and good rock climbing is 4+ (Tahoe, Yosemite, Bishop, etc.), the closest decent hiking is 3-4+ (Tahoe-ish), mountaineering 5-7 (Shasta, Sierras); and all these times are with no traffic. It's much worse in traffic, and the traffic just never ends on Friday night, it's all the way to effing Merced. In many lesser tech hubs, all/many of these things are one hour away, and 3 hours is considered a long drive; plus sprawl ends 25 exits away from town so you get there much faster traffic or not.


> SV isn't that nice, and it's not worth the price premium.

For lifestyle, yes. For the opportunities in tech, there's no place like it. Before you name the other not quite as good tech hubs, yes there is opportunity but not like there is here.


Agreed with you on this, but I'm in Marketing so I can go anywhere I'd like for similar opportunities. But 100% agreed that if you're an engineer or programmer, you need to be here.


> if you're an engineer or programmer, you need to be here.

This is what people unhappy that they live in a dystopian hellscape tell themselves to try to justify why they live in a dystopian hellscape.

An extreme tiny minority of "engineers and programmers" live in SF. You absolutely do not "need" to be there.


> if you're an engineer or programmer, you need to be here

no you don't, this is completely inaccurate


>I just started working at Google and it wasn't everything I had hoped

This person just graduated college. This is a wildly unremarkable piece of writing about a widely discussed issue, and the author has no unique insight into the problem. The sanctimony of repeating "This is Silicon Valley" over and over as if this pedestrian blogpost carries the weight of an MLK speech is just silly. Yes, life can be disappointing in these ways. No, discussing Google's use of plastic straws is not deep. Yes, our whole culture has a problem with isolation. No, your "I'm quitting facebook" post is not an incisive expose of that problem.

I'm actually not trying to be mean, because I know part of growing up is clarifying these thoughts to yourself and trying to make sense of it all. And I don't mean to diminish her experience - I'm sure it's sincerely felt. We can probably all agree that it's a frightening and disorienting experience entering the "real world" and discovering that you have to find your own meaning.

So the problem isn't the author - everybody thinks or writes these self-righteous, disillusioned screeds from time to time, even if we don't put them on a blog. The issue is - can't we, the readers of hackernews, find a better object of discussion? There have to be a million better words written on this topic. Seeing this on the frontpage makes me feel like people are really nodding their heads to this and thinking "Thank God somebody has said it!" But... we're better than that right? We all understand this for what it is, right? Please?

EDIT: As I'm reading through the replies, I feel a little better. At least there's some level of consensus that this is a pretty juvenile hot-take. It'd be better if the snark was directed at ourselves rather than the author though. The world is full of 22 year olds' opinions, it's our fault for putting it on the front page like it's some great piece of writing


While it may not live up to your editorial standards, it's clearly resonating with this audience.

Maybe attack the ideas and not the structure / style of the piece?

It has nothing to do with the author "finding meaning." It's critiquing an overpriced, socially bankrupt culture and area, and the toll that can take on mental health and happiness.


I mean, I could do that, but that's kind of missing the point. In fact, I don't particularly disagree with the ideas. I think it would be pretty hard to find people who do! That's what makes the piece so banal - it's saying things that everyone will agree with in a very fluffy, very unexamined way.

>It's critiquing an overpriced, socially bankrupt culture and area, and the toll that can take on mental health and happiness.

This is what the piece _thinks_ it's critiquing. That's what it wants us to think too. But I'm arguing that it's very obvious where the author is coming from. You can tell from the examples she picks that she's just basically a new Google hire who's not really fitting in, and feeling disillusioned with her cohort. "Everybody goes to Lake Tahoe for the weekend"? Tell me that's not coming directly from somebody who's feeling bored and unfulfilled and surrounded by people she hasn't bonded with. And so my point is that this is something that a lot of people go through, and it doesn't have much to do with the monotony of Silicon Valley or the moral decay of our society (which, as a reminder, I don't really deny as real phenomena!). This is basically a diary entry of someone walking through a tough time in their life, but it's trying to bring the weight of society's problems along with it to make you feel like it's a deep insight. But it ain't. And we, as adults, should be able to understand what's going on there, and call it like it is.


Does that make what the author is trying to convey any more right/wrong? Doesn't matter if you have experience/insight through years of trial or turmoil. If you get to an enlightened state faster, more power to you. Don't discredit the author for missing whatever steps you had in mind


> It has nothing to do with the author "finding meaning."

I think it has a whole lot (if not entirely) to do with the author finding meaning. In particular, the reason this "bankrupt" culture takes a toll on the author's happiness is because she doesn't find Silicon Valley's value structure to be meaningful. In other words, surrounding yourself with people who have a different value structure than yourself can cause mental health problems (especially when you haven't taken the time to explicitly inspect your values bc you either feel like there's something wrong with you or everyone around you is a horrible person).


I'm sure the people who live their wouldn't call their culture "bankrupt"

Such a critique shows more about you and your inflated sense of yourself than anything else.


So much this. It's ironic that the article is guilty of the very thing it bemoans: status-seeking and all kinds of distanced virtue signaling.


I liked it for the perspective of someone who grew up here, went to Silicon Valley elementary and high schools, saw the toll the culture took on her peers. Then left for college and came back for work. I think that perspective: "I should love this place, it's home, but damn is it broken" is valuable. Maybe more for me than you- I'm raising 2 daughters here.


I totally bought into the Silicon Valley dream. I moved to the bay area to work at Netflix and launch a startup. I bootstrapped my first company because I didn't know how to raise VC money. That was pretty great. For my second company I raised millions of dollars from VCs. I went to exclusive parties, did press interviews and had a huge net-worth (on paper). I became the person I always envied. It was HUGELY disappointing.

I remember being at the company party after we closed our series A and thinking, "Is this it?". I was expecting a much stronger sense of accomplishment.

I'm curious what the experience was like for other founders. For me, I realized that what I thought was going to make me happy, didn't. Not only did it not give me the happiness and satisfaction I was hoping for, it ate up some many other parts of my life that do bring me real happiness - family life, friends, traveling, adventure.

The deeper I dig into the world of startups and VC the more I realize that it's very much not what it seems.


I had a mild exit and bought a sports car. I thought it would make me happy, it didn't.

Good luck on your quest for true meaning. You won't find it here.


The disappointment you describe is either because your achievements don't actually contribute to your core values or the benefits are short lived.

I recommend taking some time to figure out what your core values are.

Why did you want to start a successful startup? What were you really chasing after? Some superficial answers might be financial security or social status, but you should keep asking why these things are important until you arrive at something that is important just because you feel it is. These are your core values.

Once you figure out your core values, you'll find that:

1) The event that resulted in disappointment either didn't contribute to one of your core values

2) The core value that you've identified is partially out of your control, and so, your achievement made you feel good, but it was only temporary.

To me, values are the measuring sticks by which people quantify success in life. Whether or not we realize it, we constantly measure our actions against our values, and how we 'measure up' determines our self-worth.

Once we actually know what we value, we can either change those values (bc they are too extrinsic), or design our life to optimally fulfill them.


If anyone's interested in reading something along these lines from the literature. One of my professors in college who I greatly admired has written a tremendous amount around PPA (personal project analysis) a framework for interpreting motivation and happiness in relation to your core life projects.

http://www.brianrlittle.com/articles/%EF%BF%BCpersonal-proje...

I find this to be a very helpful framework for engaging in a more scientifically rigorous discussions around happiness and life satisfaction.


I think going about it while still retaining this concept that you have to min/max for some singular goal will ultimately defeat the purpose.


The best things in life are free. Sometimes old aphorisms are right on the money, no pun intended.


To me it seems like taking huge sums of money from investors isn't as satisfying as bootstrapping just from the perspective of survival. VC startups burn money all the time, they aren't fighting for survival. You can't burn money if you bootstrap because then your company just dies.


Its a rant but I'm also surprised at how she writes "people's perfect life". Whats perfect about San Francisco, that has such a low demographic representation of family, the city is super dirty, people live with 6 figure salaries live in terrible housing conditions.

Maybe google gets to shelter their employees from a lot of the cruft of SF, but walk 2 blocks away from the google offices in SF and you'll get yelled at by homeless people.

Also sad that the writer does not see a correlation between homelessness and public policy, but blames it to income inequality due to the tech companies. Without tech companies SF as a dump would not be masked by 6 dollar coffee.


I also look at this as - individuals have so much wealth, along with these companies, yet no one is doing a single fucking thing to help the homeless.

Facebook and Google could reverse their negative PR so quickly if they actually put some money meaningfully toward the problem, not into fake tax shelters for their founders.


How would you solve it? I think it's a really tough problem and a significant fraction of the homeless population has serious mental health problems. I live in a city (Salt Lake City) that did a great job fixing its homelessness problem... for a couple of years. Now it's worse than it has ever been. Partly this is because more homeless people are coming to the area because they've heard about how great the resources here are. The problem with trying to solve homelessness is that most things that work to solve it incentivize more homeless people to move to the area that is solving the problem. At least that's what it seems like to me.


It's simple.

We need more fucking housing. Period. End of story. We need condo towers. We need townhomes. We need mid-rises.

And secondly, we need free and low cost mental health services.

That's it. Problem solved. The problem is we're 20 years behind.


Nope, your just indentfied the problem that needs to be solved. You haven't "solved" the problem, which is massively more complex.


More affordable housing only solves a problem for those with moderate incomes. Evidence: every other city in the US that has cheaper housing but also still plenty of homeless. Free and low-cost mental health services are closer to the mark, but still far from a simple problem. Many homeless people have complex, multi-faceted problems. Many resist initial contact. Many have trouble with maintaining any kind of regular schedule for either medication or counseling. Funding that many therapists (not just head-counters) and ensuring their security is a challenge unto itself. Not a simple problem at all.

If there's one thing that makes Silicon Valley unpleasant to me, it's the "simple, just do X" hand-wave that so many there indulge in regarding every damn topic. I'm sure your job isn't so simple a child could do it. Why act like everybody else's is?


Really I think that hints that homelessness should be addressed federally just to stop the buck passing. Not helping matters is the electoral college biasing against urban areas where homelessness is more of a problem.


The buck-passing however is from San Francisco to other cities. Guardian published a piece estimating San Francisco would double its homeless population if it hadnt exported it.


The point is that it is multi-lateral circular shipping as a result of incentives - following them doesn't speak well to their character but it is a systemic problem.


How many homeless people could one even very wealthy person help in San Fransisco or Silicon Valley? Even just building a homeless shelter, which I think are still uniformly pretty terrible places, is probably near-impossible; and not just because of the opposition from residents to them being built in their areas or neighborhoods, but also the regular, general opposition to any new development.

And just giving homeless people a better place to live is only one, tho extremely important, dimension along which homeless people can be helped.

And then of course one should expect side-effects to any help one would give, e.g. increasing 'demand' for help for homeless people. I'd imagine one reason why there's so many homeless people in San Fransisco is that it's already one of the best places to be homeless.


Does SFO homelessness really have a shortage of money being thrown at the problem?


Its true private could solve it, but there is a crowding out effect as well as a double-charging effect. The city announces it spends 400 million on homelessness and fails, while it spends 2600U$S a month per household.

If you are a private worker you pay a monopoly surplus to the landlord and then get taxed to hell, and then you would give charity to help the homelessness the previous two mostly provoke?

Hell no.


define "meaningfully", keeping in mind the city spends hundreds of millions on homelessness already (kind of insulting and ignorant to say "no one is doing a single fucking thing")


It would probably be illegal for facebook and google to run a homeless shelter in san francisco. The city would never allow such a thing to happen, because they want first-right to spend.


You have to yell back at homeless people, keeps you energized. Someone I know working a very good (esp. by Russian standards) tech job in Russia told me that he wouldn't want to live in the US or especially Europe, because the everyday struggle in Russia is what makes one feel alive. Only half-joking ;)


People need to seriously get over themselves. The world is not fair. Life is not fair. Neither of them ever have been and neither of them ever will be. Every city has major problems. Every person experiences tragedy. Up and moving to a new city is just a band-aid. You'll see that new city through rose colored glasses at first. But after a few years those rose colored glasses will become a lot clearer and you'll see a lot of the same problems from SF with some new ones mixed in. Life is a struggle, not an endless search for some perfect city or perfect life. No one owes you anything. Your coworkers don't owe you a conversation about politics or art. The wealthy don't owe you a pristine city. Death doesn't owe you the guarantee it won't take your loved ones before their time. The struggle is real, and it is real for everyone. It doesn't discriminate based on age, gender, race, wealth or any other dimension. The people who have it the best in life are those who have accepted this fact and dedicated themselves to working within the struggle to achieve the most they can for the people and causes they care about in the short time they have.


The first part contradicts the rest. World isn't fair, life isn't fair. That means there's no universal law declaring that every city has problems or that everyone has to struggle. Some cities (and countries) have much fewer and smaller problems than others, and life can be much more, or much less, of a struggle; regardless of you (in)action(s).

It is in fact exactly what it should be - a search for better life until you are satisfied with what you have, whether you are escaping war-torn Syria and hoping to run a barbershop in Beirut, or escaping boredom-torn SF and hoping to run a hedge fund in NYC. Nobody owes you either, therefore you have to make if happen all by yourself.


This blog post is certainly a glass-half-full perspective.


My biggest issue with SF tech scene (after having worked in it for several years now) is that in order to be successful you really need to drink the Koolaid, which requires extreme emotional investment in your work.

I've come to realize that I am not programmed that way at all, and it has made it difficult for me to really be happy working in that kind of environment.


Did some of y'all stop reading at half of the first sentence?

The article isn't a parody, and is expressly saying that SF/Silicon Valley can be a pretty bad place to live, specifically with regards to the author mental health.

I'm not sure how people are getting from this piece that SF is a great place with no problems


I applaud bringing up some of the unseen issues, especially regarding mental health, of the area.

But if you walk down a street in SF you risk stepping on a needle or human feces. It's a catastrophe and some of the issues raised here seem to pale in comparison.


Weird flex, but okay.

But seriously, it’s hard to read “look how tough we have it” about getting a 6 figure job out of school. You didn’t get into Harvard. That’s not a life defining tragedy... hoping this is parody. The vast vast vast majority of the world works harder for less. We should be thankful, not weirdly bragging about how hard our childhoods were. Try Detroit or Bangladesh....


>We should be thankful, not weirdly bragging about how hard our childhoods were.

The kids that ended their lives aren't bragging or complaining anymore.

This author speaks on their behalf.

It is not a life-defining tragedy until it becomes a life-ending one. And saying "you should be happy" doesn't help a bit to those who are getting tired of living.

Some people have it better, some have it worse. The kids who killed themselves don't have it any way. The kids who are writing these posts could have been next in line.

Mental health is a serious issue, and collectively, the successful part of the Valley seems to be very, very broken.

A rich person with cancer is still a person with cancer. A successful kid with depression is still a kid with depression.

So I'd ask y'all to show some empathy, as withiut empathy there is no understanding, and without understanding, there's no fixing the problem. And there is a problem. Something is rotten.

And have some empathy for yourself too (yes, that's you, parent commenter!). If you grew up like this kid did, yes, you grew up in a fucked-up environment, it probably fucked you up, and it's not right. If you feel obligated to be happy, you are broken.

What you have doesn't define who you are. And a well-paying job doesn't give you all you need. Being poor sucks, but that's just one way life can suck. There are many, many others. And the only way to get to a happy life is to understand what makes you happy and thankful rather than what you feel you should be happy and thankful for.

The disconnect between the two -- well, that's a part of how those kids ended up on the tracks.

I didn't grow up in the Valley (or anything remotely similar), but I live here now. It's a silly place. Take care of yourself, y'all.


You've missed what they're saying in their comment.

Mental health is a serious issue, but the author isn't bringing up these suicides to talk about how she's going to help prevent them, or even bring attention to suicide in high schools - she's using it in a social media-esque post about why she's out. She's done.

Goodbye Silicon Valley, you're not the utopia I expected right out of college with my cushy job and free lunches. People around me are suffering and I'm not, so I'm not going to help you, I'm just going to leave because of a false trichotomy. It's not me, it's you.

If people complain about this post rubbing them the wrong way, it's not because the people complaining are insensitive to the issues like mental health, it's because of the narcissistic tone of using these issues in a break up letter with the place you grew up in.


I didn't take the original article the way you described it, and I don't think there's anything wrong with the "I'm done" attitude. Nobody is obligated to fight all the battles all the time to begin with, and beyond that, speaking out and voting with one's feet is an effective way to cause change.

To gauge effectiveness, think this way: what would happen if everyone in her position did the same thing? Most certainly the area would experience a drastic change.

You know what's not effective? Shaming people into silence by calling them narcissistic. Sure, you can write off her experience as whining - and how's that going to help anyone?

The kids who committed suicide were going through what the author was going through, more or less, and committed suicide for the same reasons the author does not feel happy in the Bay Area. I don't know what else to say except that what she says matters. Listen to it.

In any case, my main take-away from the post was this: the Bay Area is not a healthy environment even for the well-off kids to grow up in, and to live in. The damage of the competitive rat-race is not offset by the prize of getting a FAANG job even for those who get there.

In the end, people like her make are representative of what drives the culture here, and this culture sucks. And again: act to change, understand to act, empathize to understand. This starts with you.


You accused GP of taking mental health issues too lightly. I reiterated their point of how the tone of this article rubs people the wrong way.

I'm not shaming anyone, just as the GP here isn't taking mental health issues lightly either. Again, nobody is saying these issues are to be taken lightly, or that anyone is obligated to solve them (that's part of the false trichotomy I talked about). Please stop accusing people and projecting these straw men.


>You accused GP of taking mental health issues too lightly.

Excuse me, but I did not make that accusation anywhere.I asked them to exhibit some empathy, as I do you.

>Please stop accusing people and projecting these straw men.

Indeed.

>I'm not shaming anyone

You mocked and called the author narcissistic for saying what she did. That is shaming.

>(that's part of the false trichotomy I talked about).

Well, could you at least tell what the three parts that make it are?


But the article doesn't say "look how tough we have it" it says "look how broken we all are." And not many people want to look, instead we want to do the endless phone upgrade cycle except with our lives.


A problem we have in the world today is just an overall lack of empathy. Just because people have material things better than people in other parts of the world doesn't mean they don't experience problems and struggles. Your comment implies money (or being well off) = happiness. We all know that isn't true. Have some empathy and just be happy you might be able to handle problems living in SV better then others


I think the author is making the opposite point: that having a 6-figure job out of school is cushy and anomalous outside of Silicon Valley


I would suggest you try to read the article again. That is not what the author is trying to say at all.

It’s about how all this “prosperity” is somewhat fake and doesn’t ultimately bring happiness. On top of that, it’s leaving a lot of people behind who cannot even obtain basic necessities (homeless). And she is coming to terms with her role in it, as more people in the Bay Area should be.


She's not saying it's hard, she's asking why we need to be killing ourselves over squeezing out every last drop of opportunity when others have nothing.


this is not parody. Perhaps you would be more sympathetic to the perspective of the OP if you were raising children here.


I don't think raising kids has anything to do with. If you're a parent and your main hope and dream is your kids go to harvard, you're doing something wrong.


Bay Area student here. I'm certainly not going to Harvard for my undergrad (and not like I care), but unfortunately the mindset within parents here (and students, to an extent) is that the arbiter of success is an elite institution like Harvard.


Now, if you are a parent and your kids friend commited suicide ... or have to deal with mental health crisis in your kids school ... or cheating culture in school ... or your kids being frustrated cause other kids parents pressured teachers into better grades succesfully ...

Less importantly, if you are a parent and your work success depends on late night drinking and smoking sessions ... .


I agree with the Harvard thing, in the grand scheme of things, hopefully that floats to the bottom


[flagged]


I think it's a little invasive to go out of your way to find someone's social media profiles to help prove a point in a thread on a hacker news post


I didn't go out of my way, I clicked his profile here, which has a link to his website, which has all of his social media on it.

I made an honest attempt to understand someone before engaging with them, next time I'll just spew some uninformed BS if that's better?


I didn't see your post before it was deleted, but i'm genuinely curious. I live in SF, and I'm doing well, but I was not born into this world. A good chunk of my friend group has died of heroin overdoses, and the rest fled to Texas to work on oil fields because there was no other escape from painkiller addiction.

I _hate_ having to bring up my sadness credentials in this area. Everyone is always trying to prove how hard they work and how broken they are. Try going to Modesto. Try talking to an Uber driver. We're not "all broken", its just most of us have never had to struggle, ever. The appeal to culture destitution is just silly - no, not everyone here talks only about startups and blockchain. Yes, we all want to go back to our home towns with some savings. No, there is no humanitarian crisis in the bay area tech scene.

I assume you came after me for being white male from California? Remember, my point is that our lives _are NOT_ so difficult... I should not have to justify my perspective with my own personal tragic history, and that's _exactly_ what my problem with this article is.


> I didn't see your post before it was deleted

It wasn't deleted. There's a setting in your profile called "showdead" which will allow you to see all the flag-killed comments.


Ah, thank you. Didn't expect to be attacked for being a programmer on Hacker News. Nor did I expect that being a programmer somehow means I can't understand stress or hard work. How crazily insulting and how dim that persons view of others must be.

Never meant to imply no one should complain. Life is hard for everyone. But a 6 figure job out of college after getting rejected from Harvard _is not tragedy_, and I don't really care who says otherwise.


No, you made personal attacks. This is not appropriate on Hacker News so please don't do it.


The problem is that there's so many people like the commenter you're replying to, I'm convinced it's why this area feels completely and utterly culturally broken.


Agreed. I think the worst part is that I'm a long ways from SF, but it leaks all over the tech communities everywhere. I know enough people who've lived there, pass through, visit friends, etc and even I understand from the other side of the country having never been.


I think it's more professional not to encourage talking about politics at work. It is unrelated to your job and is more likely to divide people than bring everyone together, unless the author would be happy if someone said they didn't care or disagreed with whatever issues they are passionate about.


Obviously there is a plethora of reasons to not talk politics at work, but is "unrelated to your job" really one of them? I can't think of a single major startup who's success and direction are not directly influenced by the political landscape. Perhaps your mindset is employees should just do tasks assigned and not be interested or vested in their work and companies raison d'etre (assuming it's more then just making $$$$). IMO that attitude is how we get to what the author is explaining in this article.


No, I don’t want to talk about politics. If there is a specific issue or bill that will affect our business directly, then sure. But I don’t want to get worked up about politics when what we need to do is succeed as a business.


>> IMO that attitude is how we get to what the author is explaining in this article.

clap emoji


It doesn't sound like the author is just referring to work conversations, but in her whole social life.


>The lack of diversity doesn’t stop at work — it permeates every aspect of life. Everyone wears Patagonia and North Face, everyone has AirPods hanging from their ears, and everyone goes to Lake Tahoe on weekends. And everyone talks about the same things: startups, blockchain, machine learning, and startups with blockchain and machine learning.

Superficial, much? This entire article sounds like a parody.


The author is in a bubble of her own makng and thinks it's being imposed upon her.


It actually isn't superficial at all. It's startlingly accurate.


HN, where wishing you could talk to your neighbors and co-workers about something other than blockchain makes you superficial.


Exactly. The problem isn't the writer of this piece, it's the person you're replying to.

pot/kettle/black/etc


It's mind boggling that a criticism of the narrowness of a monoculture is being called superficial.


But, it's not monoculture. At all. You are making a judgement call with that. An extremely wrong one at that.


> But, it's not monoculture. At all.

Then this part from the article didn't happen.

>The lack of diversity doesn’t stop at work — it permeates every aspect of life. Everyone wears Patagonia and North Face, everyone has AirPods hanging from their ears, and everyone goes to Lake Tahoe on weekends. And everyone talks about the same things: startups, blockchain, machine learning, and startups with blockchain and machine learning.


That's... not a monoculture. Why? Because someone's identity is not defined by what they wear or where they travel too. It's myopic and childish to think so.


You conveniently neglected the last part of the quote where it also describe the narrow and unified interests as well. Are you now going to say someone's identity isn't defined by what interests them? Now that's myopic and childish.


Let's be honest here and admit that that piece was probably tacked on just to make it sound better. Try again.


"Let's be honest and say we know better about the primary source's experience than the primary source." Bravo.


Yup, I will. Because the entire piece is disingenuous and self congratulatory.


Welcome to HN!


Please look up superficial in the dictionary.


It does. Those are things people like. If you don't like, too bad.


San Francisco definitely feels like that to me. Everyone and everything just seem like they are part of a cult and worshipping at altar of startups. I can't explain it.


It's an industry town now. I personally worry how sustainable it is to have a city that's just "high paid white startup workers and fancy restaurants." I think a more diverse and affordable San Francisco would benefit all its residents.


It's interesting how Chinese and Indian people are hated for being "white" now, not long after they were hated for being non-white.


They are still hated for being not-white, regardless of the fact (if it is one) that their not-whiteness is discounted by some other not-white people leaving them lumped in with white people in resentment of the visible, economically advantaged (from the perspective of other non-whites) groups.

White America is hardly free of racism targeting East and South Asians (or Central or Southwest or any other Asians, for that matter.)


Is that happening? I used "white" as a stereotype to make a point, but maybe that was a bad choice.


Whenever I visit, SF still feels more human scale, relaxed, less anonymous, and more friendly to me than the shrine to global commerce that is most of Manhattan. But I trust people who live there who say its getting worse and its a lot smaller so I guess its more at risk of being colonized by a tech monoculture.


Interesting, I’d say Manhattan is much more human scale - it’s so much more walkable than most of SF. Unless you just mean the scale of the buildings?


Hmm I guess the distances are similar but I'm thinking the corridors of midtown and downtown NYC where a pedestrian or cyclist is trapped between giant skyscrapers and 2-3 lanes of fast moving traffic (or worse a Robert Moses highway project cutting through the neighborhood) compared to SF's low neighborhoods and slower more restricted traffic patterns. Certainly depends on the neighborhood in either case and NYC has the subway almost everywhere which add to walkability of course.


> So, I’m leaving. But I do hope to come back someday.

You've made what I think is a good choice. Don't turn it into a bad one by just going to some different urban center. You will learn that there are hard-working, good-natured, intelligent people all over the country living in very diverse neighborhoods.

They understand math and engineering just as well as you do, yet they are constantly told they are flyover hicks whose opinions don't matter, since "talent" wants to ride on trains to work.


I live and co-founded my current company in a colder northern Canadian city. Often we get derided by larger urban centres in Canada, similar to being labeled "flyover" country. But what I've found is that there is a sweet spot in terms of city size (mine is about 1 million) where the community feels small enough that people seem to legitimately care about each other, and champion each other's successes, but the benefits of an urban lifestyle are still available. It's a good life, filled with diversity and genuine people, but the choice is still there to ride trains to work.


Austin is still like this (pop 1M). You can be anywhere in town and still run into people you know.

People can still work 9 to 5 and comfortably raise a family. While it is becoming more pretentious with tech money, it isn't too bad.

Austin is a tier 4 city that can at times still feel like a small town with some bigger city amenities.


What city is this?


Most likely Edmonton, unless parent was loose with his 1M pop estimate.


I grew up and went to school in Silicon Valley ('02 - '08), and remember one of the most stark contrasts was the difference in sociodemographics when you crossed from Palo Alto to EPA. Crazy difference in school quality, poverty, etc; it was unimaginable that people could live so close to one another and have such a different experience. I don't remember the really extreme academic pressures in high school that OP mentioned in Mountain View/Los Altos area, though.

After recently being back, one of the things that really hit me was what a monoculture it seemed. Of course in the 2000s a lot of people worked in tech, but it had a really different vibe to it now; it was never that obvious before when you spoke to them, and peoples' parents had a wide variety of jobs. SF seemed more like a normal city. When I spend time there now, after living in London, it does seem really, really homogenous. This is quite possibly a huge bias on my part as I was a teenager.


I pitched VICE media to do a story on the 101 Exit going North that has a split - Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. The redlining and pure racism that Palo Alto was founded on is astounding. The bulldozing of whiskey row/gultch to build the (hideous!) Four Seasons tower there.

Really terrible history around here.


People that enjoy living in Silicon Valley are either delusional, have never lived anywhere else in their life, or moved here from the middle of nowhere. The only thing this soul-less valley is good for is tech and money. If that's not what you base your life on (most normal people with a life), then you're not going to like it. Most people I've talked with (excluding new college grads and people in their 1-2 year Valley honeymoon phase) don't plan on staying here permanently.


Listing the middle of nowhere as a dismissive qualifier seems ironic in contrast with lived their their whole life. Perhaps you are taking things for granted about it or your preferred location.


It seems to me that the author is having a fairly common experience: a sense of disillusion as one enters early adulthood. The realization that some expectations of adulthood are not in fact true, and doubly so in the corporate working world. The suspicion that some of the striving done during adolescence was in vain, or towards goals whose ultimate value is limited.

I'm actually happy for the author, because she's realized these things early on, rather than having to look back at her 20's and 30's with a profound sense of regret. I hope she'll find a new path with which she can have long-term satisfaction.


Personally I find discussing machine learning and blockchain more interesting than discussing diversity (yet again).

Also, perhaps she could have a bigger impact in SV where few people are woke, than in some place where everybody is woke.


I don't think she was focusing on the relative interesting-ness of diversity vs. {ML, blockchain}. Rather, it was about the narrow focus on such a small set of discussion topics.


I find it difficult to believe that even in SV people have no other things to talk about.


>In my liberal arts college, conversations varied dramatically, from British literature to public policy to moral philosophy to socioeconomic inequality. Compare this to my product management program filled with new grads, where even social conversations revolve around tech — whether it’s spilling the hottest gossip on the new VP, plotting how to get “double promoted” from a Level 3 to a Level 5 product manager in exactly 22 months, or debriefing where the top angel investors get drinks on Thursday nights. (And yes, Silicon Valley has an alcohol and drug problem, too). Attempts to hold discussions about social issues are often met with bored faces and are quickly terminated. For example, a friend in the program and I have brought up climate change on many occasions, since it’s an issue we’re particularly passionate about. We’ve mentioned the worsening air quality in light of the Camp Fire that devastated more than 150,000 acres of Northern California, lamented the fact that Google still uses plastic water bottles and straws, and encouraged others to donate to environmental organizations during our company’s giving week. Each time, we were met with silence.

Unless you embrace the orthodoxy on these positions, you would be a fool to talk about them at work. Basically, these "discussions" are met with bored faces because either 1) people agree with the position and it feels like "preaching to the choir", or 2) people disagree with the position, but don't want to endanger their nice job by taking a position against the orthodoxy.

Given the above, people talk about safe topics like tech, investing, and insider gossip.


Politics became the new religion for a lot of people and they act a lot like religious zealots - they feel very strongly about their worldview and will defend it, and at the same time, they're not interested in other points of view. So, just as it was never wise to discuss religion in a work environment, now it's better to not talk politics.


This is the bubble we should be talking about.


Hi Gloria, yes this is the real world, where -- if we fixate on negativity -- everything is worse than we'd like it to be. Running away from the problems you see is a sure way NOT to fix them, and if everyone thought the way you did (or never grew out of that mindset) then problems would not be solved. Unfortunately, you seemed to focus on how bad YOUR city was and criticize the people YOU associate with and ultimately did little to reflect on anything but YOUR experience.

Did you ever attend a city planning meeting? Did you speak and argue a point? Did you listen to their counterarguments and amend your position? Volunteer at a nonprofit which helps minorities become qualified for STEM jobs? Give a homeless person food or supplies? Or even talk at length with one?

I'll be frank; this mindset is juvenile. When I find myself thinking with a similar perspective, I do my best to rationalize the best plan to solve the problems I'm reflecting on and commit the actions necessary to manifest it. The world won't get better if the status quo is recognizing problems and despairing at them; it will get better if we recognize, confront, and attempt to solve them.


Your comment is basically just pure FUD and name calling. The author's entire point is that the culture of SV is one that she does not find to be good for her. You're not even asking what did she do to work to change it, your cherry picking random strawman and attacking it. A city planning meeting isn't going to change the culture of an entire area. Her giving resources to a homeless person doesn't change the fact that the area has a homeless epidemic or the fundamental inequalities that exist in SV as a result of high tech salaries, and NIMBY politics inflating housing prices out of the reach of well pretty much everyone. Volunteering at a non profit to get minorities qualified for STEM jobs might (emphasis might) get more minorities jobs at tech companies but again does nothing to combat the culture she describes. SV in her eyes is a place that lacks diversity, both racially and economically as well as in peoples lifestyles, conversations, and interests.

I don't live there. I can't comment on whether this is an accurate representation of the area or not but certainly I can say a viable answer to things you don't like is to leave. It's perfectly fine to try to be the change you want to see but it's absurd to state that leaving any situation that feeds into your depression and anxiety makes you juvenile. You wouldn't stay in a relationship that made you feel that way. Why would you stay in a city that made you feel that way?


Interesting, you say my argument has no substance, then you immediately go on and address all the substance within it. "She does not find to be good to her". What was the process by which she found it not to be good? "You're not asking what did she do". Seriously? I read her entire post; if she had discussed her attempts to change the culture which was more than "hold discussions about social issues" with her peers at Google who she describes as "fake, self-serving, status-seeking" then I would have a different opinion.

Every productive suggestion I make to change the culture -- which me and some of my friends do (rarely, we're not perfect or close to it) -- you argue against with a resigned fatalism.

"Would you stay in a city that made you feel that way." And here's where we differ. There's a process, a reason why something makes you feel a certain way. And if you short-circuit personal responsibility, if you never act out or different in the world (or in your relationship) to see whether your nihilistic despair matches reality, that is juvenile. Maybe you don't have the bandwidth to tackle the problem. Fine. But you still take an L for never confronting the world, for never breaking through your inward solipsistic perceptions.


> The weather is lovely, the crime rate is low, and the schools are well funded.

Low crime… do we live in the same bay area?


I laughed at that too. And "well-funded schools" very much depends on where you live.


I did badly in high school and ok in college, and still got a six figure job because I had natural programming talent. I had an enormous amount of fun in High School though. There are things you can do and get away with when you are a teenager that you will not be able to do for the rest of your life, so have a good time! Don't break your brain with sketchy drugs though. As the movie "The Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down"[1] states. There are "fun" drugs and there are "sketchy" drugs. Stay away from Sketchy drugs.

Besides, going to a good school doesn't matter if you have no talent. You'll just burn out and get crap grades. Life at that stage is about figuring out the nexus of what your good at, what you like, and what you can get paid for. Trying to fit a square peg in a round hole is not a good strategy for this.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boys_%26_Girls_Guide_to_Ge...


The author graduated from college last year.


Ah, now I understand the "four year hiatus". And the lack of perspective. In another comment I suggested she move to Sacto. I'm thinking instead she should spend a year abroad.


Somber, sobering truth. It is discouraging that young people are giving up and leaving because of the lack of critical mass of caring people who "don't have the time" to roll up sleeves and help make change. They're too busy pursuing that "perfect life" to see that life is never perfect, but can be perfectly fulfilling when helping others.


Love how the map doesn't even show the actual "Silicon Valley". Anyways this is also why I now prefer to live with "non-techies". It's a great way to separate work life from home/personal life. Just hard to find roommates who can afford to live here and are also not engineers/techies.


I grew up in a church. I know churches aren't perfect but man I miss that community. OK so I actually grew up in 2 churches, Mormon and Catholic on alternating weekends.

A friend of mine suggested (also previously Mormon) that we create a church called, "Good without God". I love the idea because I have seen the good that having a community can do for many (not all) and for the community.

I miss going to a place that pushed people to be "good" (air quotes because different people and even religions define this differently). Anyway, this is something I think we're missing from our culture right now. I'm finding it for myself in other places right now, but it's not quite the same.

This is one of my more rambling comments, sorry about that.


Meh. Extreme circumstances result in extreme behaviors. It's a story as old at time.


The start of the story is. This one has a different ending though w/ climate change. We'll optimize our ad spend right up until the end.


> So, I’m leaving.

Implied: in the hopes of finding a place/community where her penchant for social and larger scale issues are top of mind.

I understand her complaint, which comes from being a well-off Upper Middle Class person with liberal values, but frustrated by inability to move the needle. Yes, this is Silicon Valley. But this is every liberal city. (minus the high school pressure tho.)

I wish she would tell us where she is moving to. She should move to Sacramento. Close enough to SV, and she can hate on all the weekend Tahoe traffic. But where she can find a group of soulmates that care about and are actually doing something about the social issues she cares about.


As someone not in the valley (Michigan resident here), do other jobs not exist? I'm sure nurses, financial analysts, and auto mechanics love to go to Lake Tahoe and talk about their professions.

It sounds to me like the OP doesn't like spending 100% of her time in the tech sphere. And that's fine. Find people who are in completely unrelated fields, and become friends with them. Spend 50% of your time at work, in the tech world. Then leave work and spend the other 50% talking to different people about more diverse problems.


Let me explain the monotone.

In Michigan, if you go knock on the door of your neighbors, what is the probability that they work in the same industry as you?

In SV, the probability that they work in tech is very very high (99% in my case, the 1% is an old retired engineer).

SV's monotone is a bubble of gigantic proportions. Everyone is in tech. There are no auto-mechanics living nearby (they drive in from 1.5 hours away)


It's funny, living in Boise (Idaho), I have the opposite view of California and especially Silicon Valley than almost everyone I've met who lived there.

They tend to complain about fakeness, or the high cost of living, or too much government.

But to me, San Francisco has the best aura of any place I've ever been, other than possibly Costa Rica. It's like some kind of Mecca.

It seems like part of the reason San Francisco is so hyper-competitive is that everyone wants to live there. Which is understandable, because if it was any cheaper, everyone WOULD live there. An acre of land where I live can be as cheap as $10,000. The catch is that it's desert so you have to drill your own well, which may not be available. Also the social scene is essentially nonexistent, so you will likely be single for months, possibly years. And you'll be surrounded by half a million people who are more influenced by religion, football and having a large family than anything else.

I'm disappointed that the big tech companies don't get (and likely will never get) issues like wealth inequality and how they directly diminish the quality of life of all people who are not part of the illuminati. But I think conflating that central problem with the symptoms of it like homelessness, poor mental health and high taxes on low income earners is a fallacy.


I think I can see why the teenagers are so angsty.

The problem when you grow up surrounded by an elite is you really want to join the elite. This is what everyone mentions about the bay area: there's lots of 6 figure jobs, but everything is expensive even if you have one.

And how do you get these jobs? The standard path, and that's just about all you'll hear as a kid, is get good grades, get into a good school, do internships, interview well and then you're on the ladder.

If you fall off the ladder, you'll know just enough friends to go green with envy, and you won't be able to afford anything.

The thing is teenagers who are going to be part of the elite tend to be clumped together in their affluent schools. They see disproportionately many other success stories, and they see other kids pushing themselves as well.

All I can say is when you get a little older, your circles widen. Or they CAN widen, it's up to you who you hang out with. Also, you tend to get a bit less intense, nothing really bothers you as much as when you were young.


"This is Silicon Valley. Who wouldn’t want to live here?"

I wouldn't! I find Silicon Valley to be a very creepy, disturbing, and depressing place. I don't live there (but I go there fairly regularly), and so have no comment on the experience of people who do, but the author's description does dovetail nicely into my own outsider's perception of the place.


People living in Silicon Valley writing shits about Silicon Valley is so typical Silicon Valley.


> So, I’m leaving. But I do hope to come back someday

I hope this person moves to, like, Tokyo or London or something super expensive. If they move to a low cost of living area, trying to move back later isn't a great plan.


"It’s where everyone wants something from you, and you never know when someone will betray you because they want something from someone else more."

This is the part I really hated about SV and the bay area.


Funny how the lack of diversity (% of people employed from each race) exactly mirrors this graph of wealth by race in America: https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2015/03/26/the-racial...

Who'd have thought?


My brief experience of Silicon Valley in the 90s was that people there didn't give an inch or a damn. Now 25 years later I guess those people have been raising kids.


How much of the author's early childhood stress is the result not of SV, but of tiger mom/dad competitiveness? Kids crying over getting an A- and being loaded up with 7 after school classes and college prep activities usually indicates parental pressure more than peer pressure.

So some of her commentary is transferring blame to SV culture as a whole for what is probably a result of the culture of the parents.


Tiger mom parenting has become a part of SV culture, or at least many schools in SV.


True but it’s much more prevalent in first generation immigrant families especially from Asia, so there’s some selection bias.

Yes, some areas can be 30-90% this demographic makeup (eg cupertino schools) but it is not the norm for the entire Bay Area.


Right, but since the article is talking about the SV elite (both in terms of educational and economic attainment, and one follows the other), it seems pertinent.


So moving away in the hopes that SV will magically get better while you're away?

Doesn't sound like a practical plan.


The only alternative is the one Mario Savio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Savio) famously described at Berkeley in 1964:

> There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels... upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

The only way change happens is when people go that way instead. But putting your body "upon the gears" is a really hard thing to do; it means a life spent fighting mostly losing battles and foregoing most of the conventional consolations life offers, like family and social acceptance and material comfort.

In other words it's asking someone to be a hero, and while I wish we had more heroes, I can't blame anyone for not leaping up to volunteer for the job.


I had the same feelings.

"I care so much about these things that I'm going to leave and hope it works out!".

Let's add another piece to the article:

"Well paid tech employees would rather look the other way, some even leaving, instead of putting in the tough effort of making change. But tech employees are used to other people doing things for them. They hire dog walkers to walk their dog, cleaners for their homes, and laundry services to do their laundry. This is silicon valley."


Wow. I'm shocked by the comments here. If the author reads these I am sure she will give up all hope for the area. Of course a number of commenters didn't actually finish the article.


The map doesn't show Silicon Valley


It's definitely migrating north over the years. Some would argue it's centered in SF now, which I'd disagree with, but I have to admit it's moving that way.


How the fuck is this on the third page with 110 points in 2 hours? I have a conspiracy theory.


Curious for anyone living in SF/SV and thinking about moving - what are your top choices?


NY/CHI/PDX


Thanks for writing this.


[flagged]


Did... you read the same article I did? The author describes a hyper competitive childhood that explicit took a mental and physical toll on the student body


It seems a lot of people commenting here basically just see money == happiness.

Basically, these commenters are proving the article’s point. Why be depressed when you have money? Who needs empathy for the homeless when you live in a gated community away from them?


It is a lack of scope for the problems - people would understand "even being rich being stuck in a wheelchair/an orphan/etc. still sucks it beats being poor and x".

Given that they are in a better situation than most and no experience with the problems it gets triaged as "not really a problem".


Yes. I grew up in a lower middle class family with uneducated parents. Then I was enlisted in the military. Now I'm a resident physician working primarily in a county hospital. So when I say someone is a narcissist it's backed up by current DSM knowledge. And when I say despicable, I say it knowing that this spoiled author has no idea how the majority of America lives.

SV types seem to not understand that a "hyper competitive" educational environment is not a pitiable condition.


Interesting juxtaposition of non-PC "black" and PC "latinx" in the same sentence! Surely that says something about the author although I'm not quite sure what.


Is "black" really not considered PC?


I think black is the "PC" term. Poc is more broad, and african-american is seen as outdated to some. It certainly reflects different ideas of one's identity.


Black is certainly the most correct term, but african-american still dominates. My comment is not about how one views one's own identity, which yes, these are different reflections, it's about how others want to tread lightly to avoid any perceived slight. IOW, PC for PC sake.


Black is not non-PC.




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