Words have power. Words have weight. And words—particularly when leveled against the underprivileged tech sector workers of Silicon Valley—can hurt. What might seem like a silly term to you is someone else's cultural nightmare—so cool it with the "t*chie" talk, OK?
The San Francisco Chronicle unpacks the racial and social complexities of that rapidly gentrifying urban center, and sheds light on a real problem: discrimination against software engineers.
Dan Gailey, a 30-year-old tech entrepreneur who was recently working at Four Barrel, said he didn't identify as a "techie" - and thinks it's actually a pretty rude term.
"If you use the word 'techie,' we know you're not in tech," said the Mission District resident. "A lot of negative terms like that - yuppie, hipster - are outsider terms. We don't call each other techies - at all, ever."
The preferred terms, he said, are "hackers," "makers" or "coders."
Makers are tired of being treated like outsiders. They're our neighbors, friends, relatives—or maybe just the guy down the block who makes your app. But just because their habits seem strange to you, doesn't give anyone a license to use labels:
"People talk about 'techies' with such disdain, like 'Oh, it's this thing that's swamping the city,' so of course the word's gotten negative."
It's actually a common misconception that makers are "greedy," or live together in large, illegal numbers: did you know that the average startup employee is willing to settle for less than $3 billion dollars? Stereotypes are misleading.
The Chronicle explains, seemingly in earnest, that Software Americans sometimes feel like "the word 'techie' [fits] into a long history of words used by natives to describe immigrant groups." It's an American pattern, and an American problem, explains one coder:
"Whenever you get a mass migration of a new wave of people, you get a negative connotation from the people who were there before - like Mexicans in the Mission. The new wave always gets a bad rap."
Mexicans, MySpace—it's all part of the same struggle, the Chronicle notes, just different positions on the same spectrum:
Comparing tech immigrants to the Mexican immigrants may be hard - Twitter's IPO just made an estimated 1,600 new millionaires - but, for [startup co-founder Enrique] Landa, the term "techie" connotes "unwanted newcomer" in much the same way as racial slurs.
Yes, much in the same way. Much in the same way. Much in the same way. So, the next time you see someone taking up a seat at a coffee shop to work on a cold cut delivery app at 2 pm, resist the urge to slur—instead of "techie," just call them a fucking loser dork with inconsequential ideas and a dumb life.