Judging by the twitter explosion that I just witnessed, you guys have all read the terrible mistake that Alyssa Bereznak just made over on Gizmodo. And if you haven’t, here is a link. Long story short, she unwittingly finds herself on a date with a (gag) Magic the Gathering nerd! Hilarity ensues.
“The next day I Googled my date and a wealth of information flowed into my browser. A Wikipedia page! Competition videos! Fanboy forums comparing him to Chuck Norris! This guy isn’t just some professional who dabbled in card games at a tender age. He’s Jon motherfucking Finkel, the man who is so widely revered in the game of Magic that he’s been immortalized in his own playing card.“
This vignette of high school bullying is nothing the Internet hasn’t seen before, and as far as nerd-related bullying online goes, this is really rather mild. But what really stands out to me in this particular instance is that Gizmodo caters to nerds and dorks of all kinds, and in the spirit of “friendly ribbing” or “simple observation” they are actively participating in cyber-bullying. Not only have they posted this diatribe against one innocent guy, calling him out by name and giving half a dozen links to him, they’ve also posted an example to their readers. This is what happens when you try to reach out, to have a relationship with another human being: outright ridicule in the most public manner available.
From a brief google search of Alyssa Bereznak, I find out that she was an intern at Vanity Fair, that she also attended UCSD and currently attends NYU — two very expensive schools both with reputations for haughtiness located in two of the nicest cities in the US. She’s white, and blond, and manages to live in New York on a freelance journalist’s income. The only other piece of writing I found by her was a smartly sad reflection on her fathers emotional neglect called How Ayn Rand Ruined my Childhood.
In the Gizmodo article, she alludes to her own nerdiness, stating that she’s not making fun of him “because he’s a nerd (like so many of us!)” it’s just that she get’s so icked out by nerds. You understand. Maybe my brief assessment of Bereznak is just as cruel and dismissive as her brief assessment of her OKCupid disaster date. But if this girl is a nerd, she’s the kind of nerd that hot topic is talking about when they sell adorable baby-doll tees with the phrase “I <3 nerds” screen-printed across the boobs. I have a feeling that she never spent an afternoon crying in the dark in the bathroom at grammar school because Jessica Knoff called her out in front of the whole classroom for not knowing the difference between Old Navy and the Salvation Army and then suggested that no one was talking to her anyway, and when will she get it that NO ONE ever wants to talk to her because she’s such a STUPID WEIRDO! But that’s just speculation on my part.
“I later found out that Jon infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people I sort of know, including one of my co-workers. Mothers, warn your daughters! This could happen to you. You’ll think you’ve found a normal bearded guy with a job, only to end up sharing goat cheese with a guy who takes you to a one-man show based on Jeffrey Dahmer’s life story.”
Alyssa Bereznak is like a specter of my stupid weirdo grammar school past. Not only can she not believe that this nerd thinks he can go out with her, she also can’t believe that he thinks he can go out with her friends. Even, like, friends of her friends. So gross, right?
She’s assuming that we’ll all get the joke, that we’ll all turn and laugh at nerdlinger Magic the Gathering freak, trying to talk to the popular girl. But that assumes that we all think nerds are gross like she thinks that nerds are gross. Unfortunately for her, and in contrast to what one would think when one considers the Internet at large, some us are grown-ups now.
Over all for Bereznak, this was just a bad call. The article isn’t especially well thought-out, the narrative is disjointed and her intended thesis, which seems to be that online dating is QUIRKY! is lost in the cloud of public nerd-shaming. Her decision to write it probably had more to do with paying her bills than her being a pretty blond, outraged at the injustice of having to talk to a dork more than once.
Gizmodo must have taken one look at it and known that it would have triggered a Jessica Knoff moment in each of their readers, which started a shit-storm that resulted a page-view spike. I guess they couldn’t stick with Naked Lady Gaga pics like everybody else. They had to single out a random guy who didn’t do anything wrong except try to date a random girl, who turned out to be a total jerk.