Programming is literally the hardest thing

A conversation on the twitter really got me thinking, both about
programming as a profession, the human obsession with winning at everything (Up
to and including failing at life), and much though it kills me to say this,
privilege.

The blog post that started it all is interesting- it begins by
saying that the authors friends who have a more physical job than he does, and
he goes on to explain why programming is so awful.

It’s not that I don’t see the point of his post. Programming really is awful.
These past few weeks have been among the most harrowing and demoralising that I
can remember, both in terms of invested effort and in losing faith in the tools
that we trust day to day. I enjoy ranting about what a hilarious shitshow
software is well above the mean for people who do what I do.

That said though- it’s worth maintaining some modicum of perspective. Ignoring
everything else, programming is innately safe. No job is without its risks,
but comparing the outcome of RSI to the average workplace injury on a
construction site I would wager skews way in favour of the construction site
for both frequency and severity. (As an aside, where the hell would I find
stats for this?).

Michael raised a valid point about mental health, but I totally fail to see how
this relates to computer science. If you’re in a workplace that’s causing you
mental or emotional harm you should seek help, immediately. My intuition
suggests that you stand much better chances of actually receiving it if you’re
in the typically privileged shoes of your average software engineer.

My intent with this post isn’t to victim blame or to tell anyone miserable in
their job (or just needing a space online to vent) to ‘harden up’. I do really
stop to wonder though, when I read about the number of studies showing that
using a male name improves chances of success in the
workplace and academia whether taking to a privileged soapbox to complain how
hard it is after you get there without a handicap might be missing the bigger
picture.

About richo

I enjoy exploring interesting concepts in weird languages. I also like hacking on all of the things.
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3 Responses to Programming is literally the hardest thing

  1. Hm, my comment re: mental health was more in the context that I hear “You don’t have problems, X has problems” too often used as a “Cheer up, emo kid” foil.

    Workplace stress and anxiety is too often underplayed and often[citation needed] can have catastrophic impacts on home life and your own career.

    While you’re unlikely to lose an arm (but I do know somebody who lost an eye), you are at risk of losing a spouse, or a friend, or a house, or gaining an addiction, or posting some hilariously drunken awful racist thing to reddit that goes viral and divebombs your career.

    There are jobs that are worse than others. Programming is not one of the jobs that I’d consider “bad” (unless you work for a BigCorp). But – the problems are real and deserve recognition.

  2. Oh! Yes. Also, re mental health: these issues don’t get raised because of attitudes like “Oh, well, you won’t lose an arm.” “At least you’re not that other worse-off person over there, you’re lucky to have a job.”

    I think that people who say that programming is a terrible job deserve a swift kick up the arse and a year flipping burgers – or a horizontal transition in their current workplace to the phone pool.

    However, I also think that people who don’t think that programming has severe anxiety & stress triggers endanger the mental health of others.

    (previous jobs, ranked from worst to best: car courier, student bum, pizza delivery boy, burger flipper, motorbike courier, bicycle courier)

  3. richo says:

    I think we might be violently in agreement. I’m not for a second saying that programming isn’t hard, or that it can’t cause serious personal issues.

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