Who Did You Think You Were Impressing, Alyssa Bereznak?

Just when I despaired of having anything to write today, along comes this article from Alyssa Bereznak, entitled, “My Brief OKCupid Affair with a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player“.  Please, take a moment to follow the link over and read it. I’ll wait…

(For those that don’t want to follow the link, here’s a summary: Miss Bereznak went on a date through OKCupid with a pleasant man named Jon, who turned out to be Jon Finkel, Magic: The Gathering World Champion.  She found this to be a terrible omission on Jon’s part, and because he didn’t disclose this information on his OKCupid profile, decided to write an article about her horrible experience.)

All done?  Okay, I wasn’t even really sure who to be more disappointed in: Gizmodo or Miss Bereznak.  Then I did a little digging (ie, Googled Miss Bereznak, as she suggests in the article), and discovered she is in fact an editor at Gizmodo.  Which solved that problem handily; now I could bundle all my disappointment up into one package.

I want to give Miss Bereznak the benefit of the doubt here, I really do.  I want to believe the article she wrote was meant to be a satire, something in line with Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” in which Swift satirizes the plight of the Irish by suggesting they sell their children to the rich as food.  I want to believe that Miss Bereznak is that clever a writer.  But nothing I read in the article supports that.  In fact, I would suggest that if you need to preface your piece with a paragraph explaining the point of your article, that should be a red-flag moment.

What I get from her article is someone who has not properly gauged her audience.  She wrote a long, bad joke. And she wrote it on a site aimed pretty much at the people she makes fun of with her long, bad joke.  I’m not sure there is any other way to look at it.  Trying to explain away your long, bad joke by claiming it was aimed at showing up the foibles of OKCupid and online dating sites, is a little like trying to explain to people in O’Byrne’s Pub why it’s okay for you to tell Irish jokes.  As a matter of fact, that would have been a good exercise for Miss Bereznak to try: go through the article and where she talked about Magic players, substitute a religion or nationality.  Chances are, if it sounds offensive with “Irish” or “Muslim”, it’s going to sound offensive no matter what proper noun you insert.

I should make it clear that it isn’t “nerd rage” fuelling this post.  I’m not angry at Miss Bereznak for what she wrote.  I really am just, as the cliche goes, disappointed.  Disappointed that someone working for Gizmodo of all places, would think this negative, bitchy-sounding geek-bash even has a place.  Disappointed she would use her public platform to engender and maintain this ignorant idea of “Us vs. The Geeks”.  Seriously, Miss Bereznak, do you really think that supposed conflict is relevant any more?

Mostly, I’m disappointed that Miss Bereznak chose not to dig deeper.  By her own admission, Jon Finkel was considerably more literate and interesting than anyone else she had encountered on OKCupid thus far.  And she found him enjoyable, charming company on their dates, up until she allowed her ignorance to get in the way.  She could have used that moment to examine nerd prejudice by exploring her own prejudicial feelings and preconceptions.  But she didn’t.  What we got instead was the written equivalent of a catty bitch-session.  And for someone in Miss Bereznak’s position, that is a just a sad waste of an opportunity.

But I’ll end by quoting the last line of Miss Bereznak’s article: “So what did I learn? Google the shit out of your next online date. Like, hardcore.”  That’s good advice, Alyssa.  It would protect us from winding up on a date with, well, you.

Comments? Counterpoints? Handy space for that below…

Update: @kiala wrote a brilliantly satirical response to Miss Bereznak’s article over at Nerdpuddle.  See, Miss Bereznak, that is what satire looks like…