Once upon a time when life was less terrible, San Francisco was referred to as a place "where young people go to retire." That is less and less the case these days, what with rents that require upper-six-figure salaries and jobs that provide shuttle buses to and from corporate campuses so that you can keep working every hour, even while you commute. Yes, the city lately is becoming more and more a haven for the over-employed, greedy, and ambitious who don't believe in weekends and take breaks as infrequently as possible. Take, for example, a recent talk at a programmers' conference in town in which a speaker advised that everyone needs to ditch the silly idea of work/life balance.
As the Tech Chronicles reports, senior engineer Nick Floyd, who might not have too many friends outside work, told the assembled workaholics that the "idea of work and life being separate is outdated and impractical," and he advised adopting something called Nerd Life Balance instead. Rather than fight the urge to spend 12 or 16 hours a day coding, he suggest you just simply "change the settings of your life" and make work time and play time more congruent. Or, rather, he encourages programming nerds to give in and hand over their lives for the next decade to the corporation that gives them a paycheck, and to cross their fingers that they can have satisfying personal lives, and/or start families, somewhere in between, or on alternate weekends.
Look, we get it. Some people have jobs they really love, and some jobs are kind of addictive and require long hours. Even we writers can sometimes get caught up in the glory of our prose and keep typing away through a sunny Saturday afternoon when we ought to be out drinking in a park or kayaking. Nobody here is trying to tell dutiful programmers or lawyers or professors or fashion designers for that matter that they shouldn't devote as much time as they want to to their work if it satisfies them.
But it perturbs us that a culture of 7 a.m. conference calls, team-building retreats, on-site workplace gyms, standard 12-hour workdays, and dreaded breakfast meetings are creeping in on a town we've always loved for its proud laziness. Manhattan has pretty much said fuck off in the last two decades to all the artists and vagabonds who once occupied the place formerly known as "downtown," but are we doing the same? Sure, this is just one guy, one guy at a conference denouncing work/life balance as antiquated. But there are signs aplenty that the tech industry and its culture of blind devotion to The Company is taking a toll on San Francisco's beloved bohemianism. San Francisco Magazine explored this topic the other month. "Do we wish to be a city of enlightenment, or a city of apps?" they asked. And that's probably a question we should all keep asking before its too late.