The Toxic Robot Developer Syndrome

Photo by 广博 郝 on Unsplash

On a list of things I dislike people assuming about developers, the assumption that all developers can fix a damaged computer is a distant second. The outright winner is the assumption that developers are robots manufactured on some sort of assembly line and shipped out to Silicon Valley. I like to call this The Toxic Robot Developer Syndrome.


I have been writing code for about three years now with about a year of professional experience during which it dawned on me that people assume developers are some super rare individuals that do not need to sleep or eat. Hollywood is partially to blame because of their rather inaccurate depiction of professionals who use computers as their primary work tool. Shows like Mr. Robot are great when it comes to portraying the technical aspects of the trade. However, a quick analysis of its main character, Elliot Alderson lead me to conclude that his characterization is flawed and marred by the Toxic Robot Developer Syndrome. That aside, they really decided to name a show about a Software Engineer, Mr. Robot — catch my drift? Needless to say they are making amends and showing that developers are a diverse bunch and that we come in all shapes and sizes (shout out to 9Ball from Oceans 8).

The worst thing though about The Toxic Robot Developer Syndrome is that developers themselves promote the attitude and endorse such behaviors in the form of memes and posts.

Exhibit A: We sleep and have lives besides our work.
I don’t

Posts about how someone went 2–3 days without rest or how developers tagged as ‘good’ and/or ‘legendary’ survive on just code and a cup of strong black coffee. Now, get me right, there are exceptions and occasionally for events like hackathons or work related code sprints to meet deadlines it means people cannot get enough sleep and that’s okay as long as we don’t do it too often. Some would say it’s subjective and that it differs from person to person and I agree. However, we really need to think about the following.

  1. The Toxic Robot Developer Syndrome stops beginners from taking up the profession. This is sad because it creates a high and very unrealistic bar to be achieved for someone to be successful in the field.
  2. Sleep deprivation is detrimental to your health and can cause imbalances in your body. It makes you less productive, impairs your judgement and slowly eats away at your cognitive ability.

This matters because one thing I’ve heard from various minority members who already face enough hardships and usually lack the confidence to step out into the field is the perceived difficulty associated with being a “Developer” and promoting such a toxic such culture worsens the situation. Let’s do better and create a fresh and healthy environment for beginners to flourish, learn, improve and become the developers the world needs them to be.

Crush the Robot, picture by James Pond on Unsplash

Excuse my mini rant, I have a few of these ever so often also, I’d love to talk to you all about this, reach out to me on Twitter and we can keep the conversation going.