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…

10 thoughts on “Who Did You Think You Were Impressing, Alyssa Bereznak?

  1. Nicely done. I found this article after I read the gizmodo and decided to Google Alyssa Bereznak as well. I honestly think your opinion of her might be nicer than what I would deduce. Kudos to you for taking the high road, and being objective

    • Thanks for the kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I like to think there is a place on the internet for expressing disagreement without rage. There seemed to be enough of the latter on other sites today, so I just focused on my disappointment.

  2. I think what was most disappointing to me, was the way she painted Magic: The Gathering as some long dead artifact of forgotten nerdery. If you wanted someone to champion something like that, there are hundreds of ancient game modules that nobody will ever play more than once… if they play them again. Maybe, if she’d followed her own advice, she would have realized that there are far, far smaller things in the realms of geekdom for her to pick on… like competitive Street Fighter II players. xD

  3. Funny, I got here by googling her as well. And since your post is showing up on the first page in search results, I thought it might be a good place to say this.

    Guys, please don’t judge all women based on this Alyssa chick’s rant. There are (or were) some comments saying how awful and shallow women are. Trust me, I have seen a LOT of comments from women on that Gizmodo post (as well as its sister site, Jezebel) who feel the same way you do. Not all of us are narcissistic, adolescent snobs.

    Apparently she didn’t get the memo about geek being the new sexy.

    • Thanks for that, April. Yes, the backlash from the nerdlings has been unfortunate, enough that I wrote a post about that today. Attacking the message is one thing, but attacking the messenger never accomplishes anything.

      Thanks for being one of the ones that got the memo!

  4. Pingback: Gizmodo Saga Pt. 2: Who Are You Trying To Impress, Angry Nerdlings? | Renaissance Dork

  5. If she doesn’t want to date MtG players, fair play to her. Maybe geek is the new sexy, but that doesn’t mean she has to sign up for it. And even if Jon was charming and pleasant and so on, it doesn’t mean she’s obliged to follow up on that, because somebody can be charming and pleasant and yet not the sort of person we want to date.

    I don’t even blame her for being surprised, because there aren’t that many MtG champions out there (let alone world champions), so it’d be pretty odd finding out some random dude just happened to be one.

    But where I really get frustrated and annoyed is where she claims he should be obliged to mention his hobby. Really? Obliged? It’s not at all parallel to having a kid, because a hobby, even a hobby that’s as big a deal to somebody as MtG clearly is to Jon, doesn’t need to be part of a romantic relationship. If she’s not into MtG, she’s not into it, but she’s doing him a big disservice by assuming that dating him is going to be all about dating a Magic player.

  6. Magic is far from an ancient artifact. It’s supremely popular still. I didn’t start playing till I was 30. It’s lots of fun, especially during those long boring nights when I can’t sleep. I would much rather play magic than have dirty dirty relations with most OKcupid girls. In fact, I always thought OKC was primarily for one time hookups with strangers. That’s all I ever got out of it. While writing for a tech blog I’m sure that Bereznak had some idea of what OKC is about.

    Who does she think her readers are anyway. I get the feeling that she thinks of herself as a “Sex in the City” girl and her readers are all fans of the show. She was all about the hedge fund money until magic came up.

    The worst part of all this is that she’s getting attention for writing a spiteful article. I’m sure she’s loving every moment all the nerd-ballers spend hating on her. So, backwards.

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