I code because computers understand me
I live under this perpetual impression that I’m being misunderstood. People are complex.
There are lots of ways to be misunderstood. We communicate back and forth in social interactions every day. Every communication relies on each party being able to contextualize the other party’s data.
If it’s misinterpreted or there’s no code to handle and process that received information, there are usually problems. Or shall we say, “errors are thrown”.
Errors thrown in real life stress me the hell out. Social interactions are just that difficult for some people—the potential of being misunderstood, and the resulting negative outcomes—that it causes them to avoid social interactions altogether.
I know this, because I’m one of those people. It seriously sucks. I wish I weren’t so stressed out by other people. Online interactions have been better, but it’s still not easy. And they pose yet more problems for those who need the visual cues of body language and speech inflection.
It’s important to note that many of these people, myself included, will still force themselves to socialize through it. You may not even recognize that they’re struggling, because they’ve practiced.
I have endless hours of practice. I simply got to a point where I recognized that it was hurting me to not be in front of people, and I needed to do something about it ASAP. It does not mean it got any easier.
While reflecting on some of the reasons I love programming and web development recently, I picked up a sense of security within myself when I imagined sitting down in front of Treehouse or freeCodeCamp.
There would be a predictable set of actions and responses. There would be messages sent directly to me that what I did in that interaction with the browser or server, or attempt to compile my code, was not well-received.
These failed interactions would be well-documented on sites like StackOverflow, and I could find answers there. I was never left in the lurch in terms of trying to figure something out. There was always an answer somewhere, and because I knew how to search effectively—it was always just a search away.
In other words: I code because computers understand me. My interactions with the programs I use, and the results they produce, can be easily learned and documented in my mind.
I code because I feel capable and confident in my ability to use the languages provided to me to produce desired reactions. If only interpersonal relationships were that simple.
When I approach a new tool or even something as small as a function to use, I have to learn its purpose, capabilities, and the intention behind it. And the same is true with the language I use when interacting with others. Language has power—the power to both bring connection, and to ostensibly destroy our relationships.
Code doesn’t have that complexity or nuance. If I screw up with it, it lets me know. It’s no longer as rough for me to accept as it was when I first began coding, and there are no hard feelings between the compiler and I.
Now, what should people typically do when they need help, though? What do I recommend to the students I work with?
Reaching out to other people, of course.
There are mixed reactions to this necessary step in our develoment. And I need you to know that I totally understand those reactions. People are necessary in our interactions in this industry. They are integral to our learning, and our career and personal development.
They’re even often super nice people, and very willing to help. However, the possibility of the interaction ending poorly due to something we did can be a powerful deterrent for people who value their interpersonal relationships.
This fear keeps a lot of students in place in their educations. It kept me in place. Maybe we think we don’t know enough. I don’t know, there were probably no less than a million reasons for me.
If you also feel like you code because you feel a connection with the predictability of it, ask yourself this:
How much does that security of predictability pull you away from the unpredictability of interpersonal interactions you need in order to prosper in this industry?
I mean, there’s no way around it. We need to interact. We can also simultaneously build our relationships with the code we write, but it’s important to understand that building interpersonal relationships also affects the code we write. It makes us more aware of others’ perspectives—an skill we’ve seen is sorely needed in the tech industry.
Of course, leverage your freeCodeCamp and CodeNewbie communities and chats, too. They are one of the most supportive communities to help you move past project ruts, confusion over how things are used, and more advanced concepts. People have been where you are.
Love your code, and love your industry. They are both here for you.
Recognize your fellow coders as the people who build alongside you. The people who want to help you, and will be willing to work with you if there are miscommunications. To show you that reaching out to others won’t end up flames.
And if they don’t? Oh well. You will certainly find someone who will both understand you and help you elsewhere. We’re here.
Nicole Archambault is the creator of La Vie en Code, a blog, podcast, and (coming very soon!) online course site dedicated to the unique experience of self-taught web developers. She has built her business around the intersection of technology, education, psychology, and the ways they affect self-educated web developers.
Nicole Archambault (@lavie_encode) | Twitter
Self-taught web dev & #EdTech #entrepreneur. Lover of WordPress. Treehouse Student Success Story. Host of the LVEC Podcast.