Signaling in tech
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I am exactly as cool as I was before I started writing clojure.
I’ve had a short, short life as a programmer and I’ve spent a lot of it making websites. Back in the day (as in a couple years ago) when I told other software people I’m a web developer, I got treated like shit. I was a lower class of coder because I wasn’t “solving cool problems” because making web sites is easy. It was sad and confusing to receive unjustified hatred but I loved the internet and I thought it’s pretty neat to make things that everyone can use and I like the visual component to my projects so I’d just go secretly cry in the bathroom (cool tricked I learned in college) like an ordinary functioning adult.
Somewhere along the way there was a massive rebranding so then I was doing literally the same things but now I’m a Frontend Engineer or UI Engineer. Occasionally I’d still get trashed by other coders but that’s ok, I even get to sit with the other software folks sometimes!
I found web and design communities where people do good web things and encourage each other to be better. It’s cool. Love is out there.
A month or two ago I started picking up clojure. I don’t know why other people learn new programming languages, but I didn’t know anything about clojure’s rich history and I wasn’t chasing the Beauty of Lisp or the superior mindset it would teach me or hoping to harness the performance or flexibility. I had no fucking clue about any of that. I’d just started reading SICP because I missed computer science after bumping around in industryland, and it seemed trivial to swap scheme for clojure while doing the exercises in the book and end up being competent at a language I heard rumours that people use sometimes rather than a language I knew people used never.
I mentioned to some people I was learning clojure. Everyone was super into this. People started telling me I was really cool. I noticed people making all these wildly positive assumptions about my programming ability despite not having read a single line of code I’ve written ever. I instantly get elevated to a respect-worthy status for free and maybe for people who are used to being treated well that’s not a big deal, but coming from being treated like trash after telling people I am a web person the contrast was super intense and really obvious. I felt like I stumbled into a mystery bizarro-verse where you get dignity by default. It was SO WEIRD.
It’s fucked up that being interested in this random programming language, not even for the reasons the fangirls love it, suddenly caused everyone to start being nice to me when I’m in fact the same trash can that I’ve been all along. Coming upon the Correct Signal by accident made it all feel extra wrong and extra strange, like I killed a man and wore his skin for a suit and suddenly inherited all the achievements ever made in that body.
I know railing against signaling is itself a signal that I am a naive member of society who has yet to smash out of my youthful optimism chrysalis into the apathetic reality machine. Signaling is going to be there no matter what, because human nature. All I can do is reflect in stupid amazement at this experience and compel you to treat others with respect by default. Seriously.
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