I love nerds. And geeks. And yes, as I include myself in both those categories, I did sorta just pat myself on the back. So be it.
Sadly, we’re not always the most tactful of folks. The Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons exists (and is popular, especially among nerds) for a reason–we’re like that sometimes: know-it-alls who feel entitled to have things just the way we want them, and why can’t everyone else just see how WRONG they are?
Yep, my beloved nerds get on my nerves sometimes*. I adore the community, so it’s extra hard to deal with it when we come off looking like jerks. Okay, some of us really are jerks. There’s no getting around that. Every fandom and community has its share. That sucks, but even more frustrating is when the people who aren’t really asshats at heart do and say stuff that makes them look like they are. It’s not just because it gives us all a bad name. Yeah, that’s part of it, but mostly I’m disheartened by the insular view so many people have about the way they communicate.
“I didn’t mean it that way” is possibly the most stupid and annoying defense I have heard (again and again and again).
Intent only goes so far, people. It’s great that you didn’t mean to sound like a tool, but if everyone else in the world thinks that’s how you come off, then the way you wanted it to sound really doesn’t matter that much. Sorry.
I’ve also heard “Well I know what I meant, and that’s all that matters.” No. It’s really not. Though I suppose that’s all that does matter if you genuinely don’t care about having friends and interesting conversations and interacting with the world around you. If that’s the case, enjoy your effective hermitage. I’m sad for you.
Ok, so before I descend into a quagmire of annoyance and tetchiness thinking about this, let’s turn to the bright side here. And yes, there is a bright side!
Some of the time, in fact, I’d wager most of the time, these obnoxious utterances come from a place of love. No, really! We geeks get so wrapped up in our adoration for a character or property or event that we want to make sure that it’s the best it can possibly be.** We care SO MUCH that we sometimes (okay, often) let it blindside us into thinking it’s okay to blurt out the first thing that pops into our head.
News flash: it usually isn’t.
Here’s an example that came up recently. If you know me at all, you’re probably aware of my deep, abiding, passionate love for the Gallifrey One convention.*** The con has grown so much in recent years that tickets sell out quickly. In the run-up to the moment tickets went on sale this year, I saw some twittering to the official @gallifreyone account expressing worry that the system might not work well enough to purchase tickets easily.
(Note that this is only one example. Feel free to substitute something like calling a local comic store the day of a new release to point out its popularity and tell them they better have lots of copies on hand. Or telling Big Finish “PLEASE have the Doctors interact and playfully bicker” in The Light at the End. Or, to step outside the strictly-geek world for a moment, a typical mother-in-law asking if there are enough centerpieces on the day of a wedding.)
Okay, so there are a few things going on here:
A) This was most definitely done from a place of love. People are really passionate about Gally, and were expressing genuine concern. They want to make sure they get their tickets. I completely understand that sentiment. I, too, was hovering over my computer waiting to refresh the page. However…
B) That concern is irrelevant. Like I said, intent only goes so far. It’s great that folks care about the convention, but that doesn’t make this kind of tweeting look any better from the receiving end (or to bystanders), and that’s because…
C) They’ve already thought of it. That’s their job. The people who work for Gally (or the comic store or Big Finish, etc.) think about this stuff all the time. It’s what they do. If they haven’t thought about it already, there are far bigger problems going on, besides…
D) At this point (mere hours before the event), it’s too late to do anything about it, so you just look like a dick. If the folks in charge genuinely don’t know what kind of situation they have on their hands, the appropriate time to let them know is far in advance, and preferably via some sort of private message. It’s only polite. By making a public statement like this…
E) You’re basically saying (publicly) that you have no faith in the organizers. You might as well just declare “You’re an idiot and I do not trust you to do this thing correctly. Oh, and I am also hereby cementing my right to say ‘I told you so’ after the fact if something does go wrong.”° Yep. That’s how it comes off from the outside. If I was on the receiving end, I’d be tempted to say “Okay, so you don’t trust me to get it right? Maybe just stay home and skip the whole thing, how ’bout?”°°
Of course, this example is just one type of the glorious°°° and varied world that is nerdsplaining. Perhaps my little diatribe is fatedˆ to become the first in a series of posts about this pernicious behavior. I’m sure most of you have run into it at one time or another (or, depending on your friends, over and over again). What’s your favorite nerdsplaining story?
Anyway, sorry to get all Miss Manners on you, but this is something that always bugs the snot out of me.
In case you’re curious, the ticket-purchasing experience was pretty darn smooth. There were a few minutes while the system was getting into gear when everything stalled out (something I 100% expected because I live in the real world and use the internet all the time). After that initial bump in the road (which was far less troublesome than issues I’ve had buying tickets for much bigger events), things ran smoothly. SO smoothly, in fact, that the con sold out in only 75 minutes. I’ve seen many tweets expressing how easy it was to get tickets this year, so way-to-go Gally!ˆˆ
*I’m not pretending I’m innocent here. I’m certain I’ve been just as bad as anyone out there. I am, however, trying to be more cognizant of it these days and pay more attention to how my words and actions are received.
**The tricky part is that we can’t agree on what’s “the best”.
***AKA “Gally”, North America’s largest and longest-running Doctor Who convention. It’s the BESTEST THING EVAR. I do not exaggerate.
°This particular impulse is not motivated by love for a thing, so I’m not really talking about it here. The desire to be able to say “I told you so” is just plain dickish and not driven by anything but insecurity and ego.
°°Of course, me being me, I’d recognize that the insufferable comment came from a place of love, and I’d let it go, but I’d still want to snipe right back.
°°°By that I mean not-at-all glorious.
ˆˆAnd don’t even get me startedˆˆˆ on all the “helpful advice” people have been giving Gally (post-sellout) about how they should change their convention or rules or venue. Like I said, this is their job–one they do for FREE I might add. Gally is so popular because it is an amazing convention suffused by an incredible feeling of fandom-family. If they change it, it will cease to be that thing and become another thing. Sure that other thing might be okay, but it would no longer be the thing we currently love. Yep, I dread the day when I’m not lucky enough to be one of the limited number who get a ticket, but do I want them to change the con I love just so I can be there? Hell to the no. That would be some kind of ridiculous and shitty hubris, and any “advice” I offered to try to make that happen would be nerdsplaining to a tee.
ˆˆˆOops. I clearly got started.