The tech entrepreneur is making dating insufferable
Love and libertarians don’t mix
When I watch Congressional hearing after Congressional hearing, featuring multimillionaire and billionaire tech CEOs who try to justify their roles in destroying our democracy, decimating fair labor practices, and violating the rights of their consumers, I often sit back and consider my dating life.
The two might seem unconnected but, as I stew with contempt, and watch these men in suits (or plain T-shirts) take septuagenarian congressional representatives on a ride, the eligible bachelors in my dating pool watch with admiration.
And why wouldn’t they? Technology entrepreneurs have redefined what success looks like. Rather than sitting in an office, taking orders from others, and pushing around papers, the tech entrepreneur identifies our existential problems and aims to solve them. Armed with a vision, coding prowess, and access to millions of dollars of venture capital, these perceived heroes seem like the new vanguard for making it big. They’ve replaced the big-dollar financiers of the 80s and 90s, and the tycoons of oil, steel, and gas before them. Tech entrepreneurs don’t just want to make it big. They want to stamp their cavernous imprint on the world.
Take Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook’s mission is “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Innocuous. Admirable, even. But 16 years after Facebook launched, it’s clear that the company’s self-professed mission couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if we believe Mark Zuckerberg’s early good intentions, we can’t ignore the disastrous effects Facebook has had on our society. But Zuckerberg does.
This misguided, if not self-absorbed belief that you are saving the world, is not exclusive to Zuckerberg. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, marches forward with a bravado that is unparalleled. Not only does he slam the slightest critique of himself on issues related to his expertise, but Musk also acts as an expert on all industry, most recently, public health. Musk describes his work at Tesla and SpaceX as making the world and the future as bright as possible. Meanwhile, he hoards wealth upwards of $100 billion (at the time of this writing).
Such criticisms, however, have little effect on the prevailing sentiment surrounding these men. Instead, these tech-bro titans remain deeply admired. From Zuckerberg to Musk to Microsoft’s Bill Gates, people across the world revere these billionaires for their business acumen, the products or services they’ve created, and their vision for how the world ought to be, no matter how misguided or damaging it is.
A few years ago, a progressive organization called Catalist created The Peoria Project, a multi-modal survey that focused on voters’ underlying values frames rather than demographics. The project grouped voters into nine segments. They called one of these groups “The Libertarian Left,” and described its members as not wanting “to be labeled or told what to do by anyone.” They also described them as admiring figures such as Elon Musk.
To be fair, the Libertarian Left is divided equally along gender lines. They’re also disproportionately younger (18-49), disproportionately white and, surprise, surprise, the majority of those who voted in 2016 chose Donald Trump. Most of this demographic, however, didn’t vote.
A member of the Libertarian Left is the type of person that has an affinity for demagogues like Donald Trump because he “shakes up the system,”
A member of the Libertarian Left is the type of person that has an affinity for demagogues like Donald Trump because he “shakes up the system,” ignoring the fact that such leaders put the lives of billions of marginalized people at risk (and that, typically, they’re not actually shaking up the system that much). This admiration for mega personalities like Trump and Musk suggests an affinity for chaos for chaos’ sake, qualities you don’t want in an elected leader or a boyfriend, and the tendency to support chaosmakers means there’s skin in the game for the Libertarian Left. Their need to defend their choice can lead to blind loyalty for the mostly male figures they support. Musk is a 49-year-old white South African who was still deciding who to vote for in the November election as recently as September. And his followers? They have gained infamy for how passionately they defend him.
When I first discovered this voting bloc, one of my first thoughts was: “I keep dating this guy.”
Granted, I’ve never dated a Trump supporter. But the other characteristics of the Libertarian Left were uncomfortably familiar. Among the Libertarian Left, there’s a general distrust of our political system, particularly electoral politics, which honestly, is fair enough. But, the distrust of the “system” tends to come from an ideological focus upon the individual, rather than the collective and that can begin to affect how the Libertarian Left sees itself. Their figureheads reveal the goals to which they aspire. As opposed to developing solutions that aim to make life better for as many people as possible, their solutions are motivated by profit and efficiency. Rather than acknowledging criticism and engaging in self-reflection, they dismiss detractors, claiming that their vision is misunderstood. These aren’t admirable characteristics. They are a recipe for disaster, no matter the scale.
When people like Zuckerberg and Musk live their lives guided by this kind of ideology, it produces dire social consequences. For example, the early success of Travis Kalanick, Uber’s former CEO, was described as being a result of the technology industry’s meritocratic practices, an environment where “good always wins.” However, once Uber’s toxic workplace conditions, rife with sexual harassment and an overly aggressive culture, were revealed to the public, Kalanick was pushed out of leadership.
When the men we’re trying to date attempt to emulate these archetypes, it can have disastrous consequences on our interpersonal relationships. Sure, it may seem harmless enough, picking up the good habits that these men purport to have, like meditating or reducing how often you use your phone. When it comes to their politics, though, looking up to a role model like Zuckerberg is a major red flag.
The lofty words and the vision such men espouse resembles a phenomenon called “wokefishing.” Wokefishing happens when a potential partner mimics your politics and worldview, leading you to believe that you are politically like-minded. Later, the partner drops the act, revealing that they were never devoted to the ideals that they used to reel you in. For example, you might begin dating a techbro because he claims to be a feminist and committed to racial justice. Once he has hooked you, you might find that he refers to his ex-girlfriend as a “crazy bitch” because she dared to hold him accountable for his actions. That is classic wokefishing. When you give a guy a chance because he claims he wants to connect people and bring the world together while he simultaneously enables white supremacists and misinformation to dominate his platform, that, too, is wokefishing.
I once dated a man, Tom*, who aspired to live like Zuckerberg or Musk. He believed that they had cracked the code for life. Tom was unhappy about the direction his life had taken and often complained, wishing he could be more like the billionaires I described above. Tom was also an asshole. He refused to take responsibility for any of his actions, instead acting like the world was organized against him. Tom admired tech entrepreneurs, not only for their success but for the way they never backed down. And while Tom made it seem like this ideology was in line with a vision of a world built on equality and community, I knew it wasn’t. I knew they were incompatible.
The relationship with Tom eventually ended because the “world is against me” act got to be too much. Tom pretended to be the hero in the story when he was really the villain.
Role models matter. When we idolize figures that are known to be doing irreparable damage to our society, it’s going to have some implications for how you treat the people in your life, romantic partners included. The tendency for these men to bristle at criticism and shirk responsibility for their actions aren’t characteristics that deserve admiration. They deserve scorn.
We have to knock these men off of their pedestals. We should not aspire to be like them. And we definitely shouldn’t date people that model their lives after the tech billionaires of the world.
Chika Ekemezie is a freelance writer, editor, and self-described “shit talker on the Internet,” who writes about sex, politics, and everything in between. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram. She also co-runs a weekly newsletter called twenty-something, where she explores all the questions twenty-somethings are asking.