DON’T BE A JERK

I have plenty of other words for the subject of this post but “jerk” was the only decent one I could use. I know there are mean, spiteful people in this world. I’ve had the unfortunate luck to run into several of them in my lifetime but this is a new low. Blogger Alyssa Bereznak recently took to Gizmodo, a technology blog, to regale us all with a dating horror story (on a tech blog??). Why was it so horrible you ask? It was with Jon Finkel, a World Champion of Magic: The Gathering. And yes, that’s why she considered it a bad date.

Bereznak has been called out in the comments of the piece as well as several other websites and rightfully so. The post starts off with an italicized warning of sorts, “This story sounds mean. It’s about a girl judging a boy because he’s a nerd (like so many of us!) that she met on OkCupid.” Hmm, a nerd judging a nerd. That’s never happened before…right?

Regardless of the preamble, the story went something like this, Bereznak met Finkel on the dating website OkCupid. They had usual first date conversation until for some reason Bereznak mentioned her brother was a gamer. “And then [Finkel] casually mentioned that he played Magic: The Gathering when he was younger,” she wrote and then told readers he confessed to being the World Champion. A tough confession to be sure, especially considering the reaction many members of the general public still have to adults liking things like comic books and science fiction. But confess he did and Bereznak couldn’t believe her ears. “Before I could dig deeper, we had to go. Jon had bought us tickets for a one-man show based on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s life story. It was not a particularly romantic evening,” she wrote.
Forget Magic, as a woman, I’d have been concerned about anything involving Jeffrey Dahmer being an acceptable first date activity but no, that wasn’t Bereznak’s problem. She couldn’t accept that this man played Magic. Fair enough. You’d think at that point, if a person’s hobbies bother you that much you’d go your separate ways and chalk it up to dating experience. Is that what Bereznak did? No.
She went on a second date with Finkel.
On date two, the blogger (who I’m starting to think went on the second date just so she could write about it) had prepared. She had googled Finkel, wikipedia page and all, and hoped that his Magic days were behind him.

She wrote, “At dinner I got straight down to it. Did he still play? ‘Yes.’ Strike one. How often? ‘I’m preparing for a tournament this weekend.’ Strike two. Who did he hang out with? ‘I’ve met all my best friends through Magic.’ Strike three. I smiled and nodded and listened. Eventually I even felt a little bit bad that I didn’t know shit about the game. Here was a guy who had dedicated a good chunk of his life to mastering Magic, on a date with a girl who can barely play Solitaire. This is what happens, I thought, when you leave things out of your online profile.”

And that was basically that. Until she decided to warn the world about her date by blasting him on a popular website. She also wrote, “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.” Infiltrated? Did he know she was connected to these other people or just playing the field like so many others on the dating website?
Whatever the case, Finkel and Bereznak obviously weren’t a perfect match so why did she feel the need to tell the whole world about it? And more to the point, why did she call him out by name? Finkel is a public figure of sorts but couldn’t she have changed specific details of the story so this guy, who went on an innocent first and second date and had no knowledge that the person sitting across from him would publicly call him out be spared possible humiliation?
Finkel, at least, has responded to the article with his side of the story via his Twitter account.

Thanks for all the support internet. People want “my side” but it was really a complete non event. Go out on a date that’s kinda blah. Next day the girl tweets me about what shes reading about me, my reply is merely a prophetic, “Remember to use your powers only for good.” She then texts me about serial killer dreams and I dont reply because I didnt think we had much chemistry. A couple days later I’m home and I’m a bit bored and I know she works right by me and seemed like the sort of girl I should like so I text her about grabbing a bite since I know she works around the corner. An hour later we meet up and it quickly becomes clear I’m bored, she’s bored (I assume) but its raining heavily out. Eventually I suggest we head out anyways and luckily I find a cab. We go our separate ways and never speak again. At that point I just thought she was a nice girl, which I still mostly think. God knows we’ve all made poor decisions in our lives.

Even though he’s been highlighted in a negative way by the blogger, Finkel doesn’t seem bitter about Bereznak’s article himself and may even wind up getting a few dates out of the whole thing from women who appreciate his hobby, “I’d like to thank everyone for their messages, and I’m sorry I cant reply to them all – especially all the date requests from cute nerdy girls,” he wrote. Though he did express some disappointment in a Q&A he held via Reddit, “I felt a little, I dunno, violated. Even though the post itself didnt make me look bad at all (at least I didnt think). Still, it’s sort of like someone publishing emails you wrote to your girlfriend, or posting part of your diary – it just feels wrong.”
image via LA Weekly
Bereznek made one general statement about the backlash she’s received via her Twitter account, “dudes, i don’t think it’s bad to be a dweeb. i just dont want to date someone i can’t relate to. not an attack. more a cautionary tale.”
Like I said, besides Bereznak’s atrocious personal behavior (she warned us she was shallow, what should we have expected?), it was a horrible breech of basic human trust to publish a story about a person who had no idea he was going to be the subject. At least bad date stories from gossip or fashion magazines have the decency to change names when telling their “cautionary tales.”
And about Finkel not including his accomplishments in his dating profile, he wrote, “For the record I wanted to state that not mentioning magic in my profile has nothing to do with wanting to hide it or being ashamed of it. In fact my accomplishments in magic are one of the things I’m most proud of in life. There just doesn’t seem to be a graceful way to say: ’10 years ago I was the best in the world at this game you’re only 50% to have heard of’ – plus it ensures every conversation goes that way.”
Finkel did have a few encouraging words for geeks out there hesitant to share their beloved hobbies with a date, “I know there are a lot of younger guys out there who are thinking, ‘I can’t let girls know I play magic or they won’t think I’m cool.’ Despite what you’ve seen here the vast majority of girls view it neutral or positively – tho admittedly I date more intellectual girls.”
In other words, don’t freak out, not every person you share your pastimes with will make fun of them online. Most will be adults and either say you’re not for them or perhaps ask to learn more about it. And writers? You want to discuss online dating? Fine but do so in a constructive and legitimate way. Go head and be shallow if that’s your priority in life but don’t be rude. Bottom line, trying to get hits and become an overnight internet “star” aside, being a jerk to a person who did absolutely nothing to you will not get you far in life. So, DON’T BE A JERK.
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  • Dom

    This isn't entirely related Jill, but it is a story of Magic: the Gathering and how it grabbed me as a young'n. It was actually a guest post on a buddy's blog. I was asked to write about early Geekery…I also wrote my own intro. Anyway. Enjoy!

    http://beholdthegeek.blogspot.com/2011/09/guest-post-week-gathering.html

  • From the gracious way the nerd boy has played it and the hag she's been, I can bet on who's more likely to find love. Walking the fine line between being upfront about less-than-cool hobbies and interests and being honest is an interesting problem. I would recommend erring on the side mentioning – even if not revealing the extent of it – a passion as serious as his. I'm, of course, biased. One answer in my OkCupid profile is responsible for my relationship. "I spend a lot of time thinking about" which, in all honesty, I couldn't have answered with anything but "the Star Trek universe." And despite my lifelong love of Vulcans, I've fallen for a Klingon. I can't imagine now being with someone who didn't share my geekiest pursuits. The romantic in me hopes Jon finds a nice girl who still plays Magic be it on OKC or through all the hype surrounding this story. Okay, I actually hope it's the latter just so Alyssa looks slightly more foolish.

  • Kryoma

    Actually, I'm the kind of girl who would have loved that movie! Not every girl wants to see some overrated, sappy, boring as hell, and gag inducing "romance movie"
    In fact, FYI, I did my senior year project on Serial Killers!

    As for this girl, obviously she'll get her just desserts, it's called karma. She's going to keep being her horrible self, and wake up someday either alone or with some jerk she deserves.

  • Wow… This story really hits home for me and strikes a nerve at the same time. Lucky, my personal experience with this was much more juvenile and I learned a valuable lesson from it. I can't imagine being put on blast by a REALLY popular website for being a nerd/possible bad date lol

  • David

    I find with dating websites, people tend to be their own worst enemy http://itsagreatbigsea.tumblr.com/ I just post the pictures they opt to put up. Speaks volumes

  • someguy

    The one lesson people never learn is that just because someone calls somebody a jerk doesn't make it so. I'm doubting that anyone who would read the article and decide this was a great warning wasn't going to be that great of a date anyway.

    Majic not being on his profile is not unusual. This kind of reveal is what usually happens on a blind first date. That's what they are for. Unless this is a relationship and MTG is interfering you really don't have a cautionary tale here.

    As for entertainment, back in my dating days, I never choose what we were doing or watching. If it was even my idea to go to a movie we always picked it together.

  • Anonymous

    stuck up bitch. next

  • As a geek, who used to Work for Wizards of The Coast.. I can for one say I have never mentioned that I used to be able to run a MtG tourny.. nor that I used to be able to do the same with Pokemon.

    I don't thin those things are bad in anyway, it was just part of working for the company. Also If a girl can't tell that the guy across from her(in this case me) is a nerd/geek by the Imperial Crest from Star Wars tattooed on my wrist, or the Umbrella Corp tattoo on my forearm…

    All that being said as some who USED to play Football and date cheerleaders, I have been building my own computers and playing DnD for at least the last 15 years. Do I bring it up on the first date? No, no reason too really. Yes I am a designer and web-developer I can talk about that.. But I see no reason to bring up DnD.

    How many guys/girls list their Fantasy Football teams? Or talk about their collection of Snowglobes from around the world? Everyone has their MtG Geeky hobby.

    Mine is DnD. My fiances is Fashion. That is what this chick missed. Sure he plays MtG, sure that is a bit geeky. But the next guy she dates may watch Top Gear religiously, and be able to strip and clean a car in 3 hours.. THAT IS JUST AS GEEKY!

  • John Kovalic, as usual, finds that every cloud has a hilarious lining.

  • Kudos Jill.

    Thanks for calling attention to the fact that, although few in comparison, woman can be "Jerks" too. I don't know the Miss Bereznak and frankly, don't read her blog but have a little tact at least.

  • Great post!

    I agree with Finkel about being open about ones nerdyness. I am very out as a nerd on my dating profiles.

    Now, that's in part because I seek a nerdy mate, or at the very least a mate with some nerdish leanings. But even if that weren't the case. I'm me and I like me. And I like being a nerd.

  • I'm not about to excuse Miss Bereznak's actions, but let's not forget, she had at least one editor who let this "column" go through, who thought this was a good representation of the staff of a frigging tech blog.

    That said, if the guy were a fan of Smallville … #kidding

  • It's worth noting that the article has been revised a couple of times since it was first posted. The original version was MUCH harsher than what's currently up, including the implied accusation that he was stalking Gawker employees and thus he deserved to be named-and-shamed.

    Fortunately (or unfortunately) gizmodo.co.au has the original post – just minus his name and links – if you want to read that.

  • I'm still trying to figure out what the cautionary tale is supposed to be. She says she has nothing against dweebs except they're not her type. Is that it? It can't be, unless she went specifically on a website that caters to dweebs to shame them out of their dweebdom.

    The only thing I can think of that might be a cautionary tale is that people do leave things out of their OKCupid profile. She's not ignorant of fame and the public light. Heck, she wrote a piece about her father who she described to be enthralled with and a devout extremist of Ayn Rand's philosophies. Quite frankly, THAT should have been on her OKCupid profile. If it wasn't (I don't know nor don't really care to.), then she should have written about herself as the cautionary tale.

    Or perhaps she was cautioning everyone that people like her are out there and to avoid them, and publicly shame them, too.

  • I tend to agree with Beth's comment above that this just smacks, more than anything, of lazy writing at deadline. Jill and I already discussed this over at FB and we both agreed that she was unnecessarily vitriolic in her account of the event, but this is a woman that works for the network that sponsors Deadspin and Jezebel, so it's not like they have an editorial dictate to spoil the snark. And speaking of editors, she is one, so I'm doubting she'll catch any flack for this at all. Not that she should. She's employed to write op/ed and that's what she's done. Our kangaroo court can do more damage to her rep than anything Gizmodo might do at this point.

  • She sounds appalling. The fact that he can make money out of his passion is extremely rare and to be lauded.

    As for not mentioning this in his profile, well, i imagine it would be seen as a poor strategy to do so because it evokes the prejudice against it and by mentioning it on the date he has a chance to have someone get to know him as a person and not a stereotype.

    As for the person who says "people list their TV shows!" well, yes, you are explicitly asked to do so when you create your profile.

    Career and hobbies don't get a look in oddly enough, although there's nothing stopping someone putting it in.

    Still, I know I would have gotten far fewer dates when i was young if i mentioned i was a gamer (which had a lot of baggage back then), and that i played rpgs (in the era that a huge religious scare that AD&D was somehow satanic). You can mention these things after that first impression has formed, when the person is under the delusion that you are wonderful just because you look ok and have rehearsed a few lines. :P

  • I don't understand her POV. I met, and married, a comic geek. He's not a gamer, but really, in the grand scheme of things, is there much difference? She is definitely shallow and not open minded in any way. What happened to finding somebody who doesn't have the exact same hobbies, views, etc. as you? What happened to finding somebody who can teach you something about a subject you know nothing about? I feel bad for him – he was a good sport to go on that second date with her. And if she's going to talk about her dates with him in such a public forum, you'd think she'd *at least* change the names to protect the innocent.

  • c5

    love the LOL caption

  • Honestly? It sounds like she had a deadline and no ideas. I agree about the serial killer as entertainment thing–that could have been a dealbreaker. But Magic? Please.

  • Dom

    I actually think the poster was right to think there was something off with this guy (obviously for wrong reasons…the movie choice of a killer was weird). I think his film choice proves he is and was a killer himself. "Used to" play Magic? Kinda like how he used to play football? I bet he thinks the laces were in! Finkel is Einhorn! Einhorn is Finkel!

  • Yes, no doubt she was thoroughly in the wrong for judging him and then for vocalizing it at gizmodo; but really, he clearly doesn't keep MTG in his past. He was working on a tournament for that very weekend. It's obviously a major part of his life. It should have been in his profile. People what tv shows they like for crying out loud. His choice of play for a date… yeah, horrid. Was he trying to scare the shit out of her on a first date?

    I'm very curious how this plays out with gizmodo. Will she lose her column? Are her apologies enough? The only reason I can fathom it's "tech" is just because it was an online dating site, ergo "tech." She would have hit a better audience on that Star Trek singles site.

  • From her own actions (and her response) she seems like a terrible person. But then, I've never met her. I only have her actions to go on, and you know what they say about not judging people by their–oh, wait.

    Basic empathy and human decency seems to be a problem for many people nowadays. I would love for one of her old boyfriends to write a piece about dating her and why it just didn't work out.