Popular culture showcases the techie as a man (always a man) who types at lightning speed, earbuds tightly plugged into his ears, hunched over his computer alone.. He sits in some undiscernible locale, shrouded in cinematic darkness, only the light from the screen to brighten his focused face, and everyone leaves him alone and/or looks at him in awe, because you know he’s doing important work that you don’t even dream of doing. Popular culture tends to get a lot of stuff wrong (like the hacker typing at lightning speed), but the isolation and remoteness of coders, while exaggerated, reflects the essence of a truth. I call this “Lonely Coder Syndrome.” I’m not sure if that term of endearment existed before I committed them to this blog post, but what’s in a name?
The fact of lonely coder syndrome is just that – a fact. Lots of techies have fessed up to feeling it, even saying they do better work when they’re working with someone else. Some people become remote web developers so that they won’t have to deal with others, an understandably appealing motive because humans suck. But those who don’t hate people *that* much might be a little overwhelmed by the loneliness in lonely coder syndrome.
Lonely coder syndrome in the classroom
Lonely coder syndrome firsts assaults you when you’re just starting out. It’s no secret that web and app development can and tend to be a frustrating sport. Something as simple as the order of lines, a comma instead of a semi-colon, or a single accidentally-inserted letter can be the difference between a running program and a broken browser. You might feel like you don’t want to ask too many questions because you don’t want to sound stupid when you ask certain questions (suppose it’s obvious to everyone else?), or you just don’t know how to formulate the question you have in mind. Even worse, you might not even know what question to ask.
That type of loneliness, though valid, is borne out of stubbornness. Sometimes you just gotta be the annoying person in class who asks clarifying questions about everything. Your instructors are there for this very purpose.
When you finally graduate from the bootcamp and pursue web development as a freelancer or work remotely for a single firm, you find that you spend a lot of time alone. Working. Working Alone. You don’t report to an office, so there is no watercooler kiki. You aren’t mere desks away from a fresh set of eyes who can tell you that your middleware is in the wrong order. It’s just you and your Google Fu. No pair programming, no nothing. Suddenly, you’re back to your just-learning-classroom-self, where you don’t know something, and there is no help in sight.
How to combat Lonely Coder Syndrome
It’s not that simple, but it is doable. Find ways to engage with your work outside of your regular, lonely spaces, like the coffee shop you work out of, where you aren’t exactly alone, but you’re basically alone. Find other people who either need your services or who you could teach a thing or two. There are a number ways to do this, and I’ve listed a few below:
- Find an office home. In Gainesville, FL, Innovation Square is a community that brings young techies, startup hopefuls, and the research savvy together. Within that community is Innovation Hub, where you may lease office space to work in. That way, even if your work is remote, you have the pleasure of others around you, and the up-swell of good feelings that come from collaboration will overtake you and happiness will ensue. Your dream of the watercooler kiki can finally come true.
- Attend a happy hour or some sort of gathering. Lots of tech companies or startups host an industry happy hour in their different cities. In Gainesville, there is Startup Hour, where startups and techies gather to talk shop and knock back a few brewskis. It’s an awesome place to meet others working in the tech field and compare notes. Maybe this can eventually lead to a collaboration that will keep you around people, away from lonely coder syndrome.
- A Hackathon! Hackathons are a brilliant way to meet people and collaborate on fun and necessary projects. It’s group problem solving that teaches or solidifies your learning of how to work on a project with someone else. It might rid you of the “my idea is the better idea” mentality, and open you up to other ways of thinking abour a problem. This can only be better for you and your pojects in the long run. Find one near you with the Hackathon Schedule.
- Start an after school program where you teach little kids to code. Or join one that already exists! That way, you’ll even start to miss your alone time. Teaching a subject to other people who don’t know it as well as you do is a good way to see an old thing with fresh eyes. Find somewhere where you can volunteer your time and help this next generation come up in the tech world with support, the kind that you wish you had.
- Join online communities like CodePen, Stack Exchange, Udemy. Yes, you’re still without real life human contact, but it’s the internet so you’re bound to find some people who you can talk to and learn with.
Or come join Gainesville Dev Academy in our class or at our events. Follow our Facebook page for more information!