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Leah Reich

@ohheygreat

Hey! I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the article you wrote about Love.

Thank you so much, I loved writing that one. I mean I love them all but that one was extra fun.

Important question:

Do you get those cool socks when you join slack?

I don't know if you get them when you join! but I do have some

damn #perks

So you're writing for The Verge and working at Slack. How do you find the time?!

I think if I didn't do both I'd go insane

also this week I talked to someone who has three jobs and three kids so if he can find the time

haha how come?

a couple reasons I think

one is that I love writing

like, even tho it's hard sometimes, there are times I truly love the act of writing, not just what I create

and without that I feel like my life would be incomplete

also I need a creative outlet, and doing my work uses more of the analytical side of me (with some creativity still)

so it's a good balance

plus I think tech/SV has a very very very bad habit

of wanting people to make their jobs/tech their LIVES

and when you do that, if shit gets rough, you have nowhere to retreat to that's yours

and finally I think my work is informed by my writing, and my writing is informed by my work -- not that I write about slack but more that my sensibilities sharpen and improve by doing complementary things

yeah I can definitely identify with that

I was drinking the fb coolaid pretty bad my first year or so

it made the lows *very* low

YES

it's really hard!!!

I guess for me it's hard to find balance because we spend so much of our time at work

like literally most of our life

so not fully devoting your life to it feels like a waste in some ways

right

I guess

but it feels like an chance to use the job as a stabilizing force, a place where you do work you're proud of and where you can take refuge when personal life feels insane

but also see it as a place that sometimes you need refuge FROM

because the problem with work, especially at a company, is that no matter how beholden and devoted you are to your job

it can never fully return the favor

it's a company

and you're a person

I guess many people in SV don't set out to make a company

rather to bring an idea to life

and the company is a byproduct of the idea

maybe that's why it's so easy to get tangled in that as your "life"

yeah

I totally get it

what I really like about your writing is that it's so personal

and I feel like once you develop a reputation it's hard to be truly authentic in public

you know? because everyone here knows each other and you never know when something you say might come back to bite you

right

but that's authentic too, just a different kind

I say this in part because I figured out at one point

maybe like 9 months into doing that first series of essays

how to write something very personal that also didn't reveal very much at all

so being personal can also be a sort of performance, you know?

ooh that's interesting

I think people fetishize authenticity

part of what I try and do in my writing is give people the space to find themselves in the writing

I mean we love this idea of authenticity, in the items we buy and in the ways in which we want people to present themselves

and in our cultural production, right?

right

but so much of what we consider to be authentic is basically layers of narrative, much of which has been based on concepts that are not "authentic" themselves

there's this book I love, one of the few sociology books I truly truly enjoy reading

it's about the creation of country music

and the idea that "authentic" country music is based on a concept that was manufactured by the music industry in the early 1900s

early "country" musicians didn't dress like cowboys and hillbillies

they wore their sunday finest to the city where they'd record their music

but that wasn't going to sell, it needed an image. they needed to LOOK like hillbillies or like cowboys or like some mythological western creation

so whatever people think is "authentic" is based on layers of truths and fictions and narratives and images and intentional creations

and I think about the self that way too

the authentic self is a weird amalgamation

and even when we're protecting ourselves or not sharing all our feelings, we're still being authentic

Perhaps true authenticity is hard to prove, but I guess what resonates with me is the vulnerability that comes with this perceived authenticity.

right!!!

I think what resonates is this willingness to be vulnerable

and we mistake that for authenticity -- it may be very authentic, and hopefully is

but authenticity carries with it a value judgement

it's "better" than other ways of being

and maybe I'm not totally correct

but it's fun to talk about

It's certainly refreshing!

well, I guess the difference is in being truly authentic versus being perceived as authentic

yeah

and hey sometimes the truly authentic you needs to protect yourself!

authentic, in my mind, is behaving in a way that is congruous with how you feel and who you "are"

right

what I think is "better"

is learning to listen to the way deep down voice inside of you, which if you want to know the truth, is what I think God is

it's just that it's easier to put God outside the self

because then it's not like "what if I'm wrong, what if my inner voice is wrong"

I think that's what I am trying to do with my verge column

which is get people to sit and listen to themselves

that's a generous simplification of "God"

maybe it is

so, "learning to listen to the way deep down voice inside of you" -- is that being authentic? vulnerable?

it's definitely vulnerable

I guess I just dislike the concept of authentic so much because it feels like shorthand -- it feels like what you said, a generous simplification for something that is much harder to do in reality

people can say "oh you're so authentic" but REALLY BEING THAT WAY takes work

because once you start listening to yourself and acting in a way that respects you AND those around you, with kindness and intention

is a constant practice

but that's why it's so fetishized right? It's so hard! And rare...

well, it's why it's rare for sure

but do you think people think about authenticity to this degree?

I think it's fetishized because it's a shortcut

Well, I think it comes from a fear of being lied to.

sure

I think it can be more subtle than that though

and I think the fetishization comes b/c of trappings of "authenticity"

and the sense that certain visual/verbal cues mean "authentic"

rather than "you are absolutely true to yourself and you also operate from a place of kindness and decency toward others"

well, kindness and decency are a bonus :)

hahaha

they should be the baseline!

So, we separated authenticity from vulnerability.

Is your writing authentic or vulnerable? Or both?

it's definitely vulnerable

I think my writing is authentic but is not a complete and total representation of me, the human

or even me, the writer

I see. So you're crafting a vulnerable "character"?

no

it's not a character

it's absolutely a part of me

but it's not the whole me, which is of course a more complicated picture

gotcha

that makes sense

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Leah Reich

@ohheygreat

Leah is a writer, editor, and ethnographer who currently works at Slack as a user researcher. She writes about people, technology, communication, relationships, and culture, but mostly about the people trying to use and create all these things.

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