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Who Needs Other People?

Justin Barber
4 min read

Hello friends,

In my last email I described how challenging it is to find real friends in Silicon Valley, illustrating the point through the true story of my co-worker calling an Uber instead of a friend when their car broke down.

Do you know what happened to Nidhi and me this week?

Our car battery died.

I immediately resisted calling a friend and I didn’t even realize the irony until Nidhi reminded me I sent out an email with this exact point and that I should try practicing what I preach and referenced how I claim that “the concept of social debt is the primary blocker to true community” so at that point I really didn’t have any other choice so we called a friend and he saved the day (thanks, Seth).

In other words, I don’t send these emails from an ivory tower.

While I am #blessed to have a Seth in my life, cultivating community here remains objectively difficult. As I’ve already described, the focus on career advancement is one reason for this. But I believe there are two other primary factors that prevent relationship-building in the Bay Area: wealth and transience.


Tech salaries start at six figures (this sounds ridiculous, and it is, but it’s also ridiculous that we pay $2,500 per month for our 500 sq ft apartment that doesn’t have in-unit laundry). Having money removes a lot of stress – we’re fortunate enough that life’s unexpected costs (like replacing our car battery) isn’t a point of concern.

But wealth also removes dependency. Why ask friends to help you move when you can hire movers? Why call a friend to pick you up from the airport when you can call a Lyft? When you don’t have money, you’re forced to rely on those around you to help. But when everyone has money, no one needs anyone else.


People don’t tend to stick around in the Bay for very long – the cost of living makes it difficult to settle with a family (there are more pets than children in San Francisco) and tech’s mono culture can wear thin over time. It’s also hard to put roots down when it feels like the clock is ticking on everyone else’s inevitable return home (where they can actually afford a nice house after making a few years worth of Silicon Valley money).

These two factors – wealth and transience – create a spirit of independence and self-reliance. In general, that’s a strong vibe.

But when placed in the context of church – which is built around the concept of intentional community – it creates the type of spiritual atmosphere that I’d describe as dry and stagnant.

The implicit question facing Christians in this area is: if I can satisfy my own needs, what role does God play in my life?

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