This post is going to be more personal and casual than my others— a bit self-indulgent no doubt, just as one should be at 2am in front of a computer screen. I have been going through a lot of personal reflections that come with the usual transition thing; in the last year, I went through many changes that I am only now recognizing the magnitude of. It’s my first time in a long time to acknowledge the importance of patience and to try to live that a bit more.
I have been living in San Francisco for half a year now. It was not my first choice to live here but I have come to love this city for the way it’s beautiful in that matter-of-fact, all-consuming way. Driving through the peninsula, sometimes it shocks me how many corners, one after another, are consistently breathtaking. I have come to love the genuine optimism and openness of its people, something that I was frankly not sure how to adjust to at first (two of the most influential cities of my life are Hong Kong and Tokyo— complete with their dark streaks and cold manners). One of the things that I liked to say in the beginning was that SF was too healthy for me. But since then I have learned to harbor my own healthy leanings, and I suppose, learned to be kinder to myself in the process. For that I know, no city could have changed me the way SF did.
But there are parts of the Bay Area/Silicon Valley thing that is grating. As much as I love tech and the promises that come with it, I keep getting the pesky feeling that SF feels a bit one-dimensional sometimes. I know there are always many exceptions to the rule, and I know I can find them probably even without looking too hard. But for now I am going to stick with my vague, perhaps hyperbolic, sentiment. I am tired of tech being the primary and almost only thing that is the center of the world here. It’s a cultural sentiment, it’s a paradigm of living— and it is the politically correct mantra of most that I’ve encountered here. Sometimes it feels like everybody is vaguely the same prototype of a person. I am aware that this is not an SF-only phenomenon, it happens in other cities too with their proprietary bubbles.
Tech has enclosed upon itself so much here that it has become a celebrity culture. The strangest feeling I get, and that I witness playing out, is that tech here is often inspired by tech and not real life. The Facebook for blah blah. The airbnb for blah blah. The yelp for blah blah. Granted, these are valid and useful paradigms for solving problems that may well exist in the corners of the universe that they are trying to tackle. But sometimes they feel small, stifling, and just a trifle depressing.
I am not sure what is more depressing at times: people who have blatant contempt for buzzwords like innovation, or those that claim a new photo-sharing app is innovation.
I still have a lot of faith in transformative possibilities, but I am starting to recognize now to be careful of what perception you filter life through in SF. Many here allow tech to change and intrude upon their lives completely— their routines circling around different platforms. But that is not the way that everyone wants to live, and that is not the way that everyone should live. We should design for that too.