What I Learned from Complaining on the Internet

It’s been a week since I wrote My Life in Silicon Valley and it’s still getting hits. Before that, my most popular blog post was the intentionally clickbaity Fantasy Quidditch is Dead. It got just under three hundred hits in two days, with the occasional reader or two later on. It was a very exciting time; I learned that being provocative but backing it up with good content could work for me with the right audience.

#MyLifeInSiliconValley, on the other hand, is still getting eyeballs on it. Over sixteen hundred pairs and counting:

Silicon Valley Stats

Am I posting this to brag? Maybe a little, but mostly I’m just floored by the volume and variety of responses I got. It gave me a lot of food for thought, especially as I’m still trying to make a living with my big words and even bigger mouth. Let me share with you all what I’ve learned this week:

  • There is no such thing as 100% approval.

The initial responses to #MyLifeInSiliconValley were positive because they were mostly from my friends, many of them English majors like me, struggling to make their way in this valley. Nothing feels as great as being told I wrote something good. It gave me the nerve to share it in more public forums than my personal Facebook and Twitter. That’s when I started getting pushback.

I was told that I was lazy. (Have you been talking to my father? I kid. A little.) I was told I was an entitled millennial. (Glad I didn’t mention that I’m 31 and not 22.) I was told that I thought I was too good to be a teacher. (I love teaching. I’m going back to teaching Portuguese school this fall.) I was told that plenty of teachers work a second job anyway. (Where do they find the time?!) I was told to check my privilege. (And here I thought I did a decent job of pointing that out.) I was told that I should be happy that someone I love is employed by a tech company. (Technically, he’s employed by a contracting company. He’s not allowed to misrepresent himself as a Google employee.) I was told to move if I couldn’t it stand it. (Do you have any idea what kind of upfront cost that would entail?)

All my responses in the last paragraph belong in parentheses because they’re not important. While I first felt a need to defend myself in comment threads against anyone who had a problem with my writing, I soon stopped. If my writing couldn’t stand on it’s own, it wasn’t good writing. I needed to let it speak for itself. More importantly, I needed to not take criticism personally.

That being said, if anyone who had a problem with my last post is reading this: I wrote out of frustration, not a desire to attack a whole industry. My problem was and is with the tiny strata of the society that we live in that thinks they represent all of us. They certainly impact the lives of everyone that lives here, but they don’t represent the mosaic of people that live here and depend on one another. Service industry workers need to be able to afford to live here and serve you your cold brew. Teachers need to be able to afford to live here and teach your children. Non-tech industry workers (like my parents) who are staring down retirement need to be able to afford to live here. The homeless that we see (and in my case, often hear) only to quickly ignore them need to be able to afford to live here if we ever want places like Saint James Park to be parks and not homeless encampments.

So if you felt attacked, maybe you’re more culpable than you realize?

  • I have an amazing support network.

I asked for shares and you guys game through. The vast majority of traffic to my article came from Facebook. Some of your friends ended up resharing, sending my writing to places I could no longer follow. Then there were unexpected retweets. If you did any of those things: thank you, thank you, thank you. A story like mine is only as impactful as the size of its audience.

While I promised myself I couldn’t comment on my own story anymore, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t peeking as links to #MyLifeInSiliconValley spread across Facebook and beyond. In sharing my story, some of my friends had to end up defending both it and me. My brother, who at first was hesitant to be mentioned at all when I asked for permission, ended up valiantly coming to my defense.

Also, a quick shoutout to everyone who caught the dumb grammatical errors I missed because I made the mistake of writing drunk on emotions and not even bothering to edit sober before posting. Thanks for keeping the big bad Internet from questioning how much I deserve my English degree, friends.

  • Ask the Internet and sometimes the internet answers.

While I wrote #MyLifeInSiliconValley explicitly for the sake of creating a counternarrative, there was also an implicit purpose to me spreading it around: I wanted someone hiring a writer to read it. As many someones as I could reach. Getting my foot in the door has been the hardest thing for me. (I got another rejection email today.) By writing something like this, I hoped to kick down some doors.

It worked. I was contacted about a few writing positions and I made damn sure that I followed up. I also was told about other opportunities that would fit my skill set. I took those seriously, too.

  • The hustle is harder once it’s truly a side hustle.

I guess now is as good a time as any to confirm that my funemployment is indeed over. I started on Monday as a contract minion at a satellite office in San Jose for other contract minions doing work for Google.

The snacks are nice, having my boyfriend in the office is an unexpected treat, but the pay and the work are both motivating me to keep looking. job is what I needed to pay my bills and move out like the adult I should be by now. The job isn’t just gonna show up, though. I’m going to keep working towards it.

That being said, writing after putting in eight hours of staring at spreadsheets is hard. It’s easy to see how someone can get so exhausted by a job that they get complacent about finding the job. It happens every day; we just never hear about it.

I was supposed to post this on Wednesday; instead, I ended up finishing the first draft Thursday morning on the light rail to work. It’s Thursday night now, I did some housework, and I am finally finishing this damn thing.

Writing is work. I love it, but it’s still work. I need to find what will keep me working and not waiting for inspiration to come from on high.

  • I’m not alone.

I can’t tell you how hard it was to admit in such a public way just how pathetic my day-to-day life had become. I’m fairly image conscious. I like people to think that I’m competent and on top of my shit because usually, I am. I felt like I was admitting defeat when I wrote #MyLifeInSiliconValley, but I kept writing anyway. I prepared to deal with the shock and disappointment of my friends.

Instead, so many of you (some of whom I haven’t talked to for ages!) reached out and shared your stories with me. There’s thinking that you’re not the only one struggling to live here and then there’s knowing it because someone is sharing their struggle with you. It was such a relief.

That’s not enough, though. Sharing among friends, I mean. Like I said before, stories are only as impactful as their audiences. As much as I was hyped by my sixteen hundred-ish hits, the original had over forty-six thousand hits in it’s first few hours. It got reshared by The Observer. I considered not linking to it and giving it more hits but at this point any traffic I create is negligible. That story still controls the narrative of what it means to live in Silicon Valley.

That’s the hardest lesson I learned. It’s also something I want to do my part in ending. I want to make #MyLifeInSiliconValley into a regular series. I’m not alone. You have stories and I want to share them. We live here, too. Our stories are valuable, too.

Comment, message, or tweet at me. Use that #MyLifeInSiliconValley hashtag. Let’s tell some new stories.

2 Comments on “What I Learned from Complaining on the Internet”

  1. Great article! I deliver to and from tech companies all over the Bay Area but I can’t afford to live there so I alternate between commuting from Marina (Monterey County) where I rent a room at a reasonable price, and sleeping in a park. Commuting is expensive and inefficient – service industry workers need to be able to live near the people they serve.

    Keep up the good writing and don’t let the trolls get to you!


    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Would you be interested in being a part of the #MyLifeInSiliconValley series? I think you definitely have a story worth sharing. Drop me a line at elizabethabarcelos[at]gmail[dot]com.


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