By now most of you will have heard of the Gizmodo story written by Alyssa Bereznak about her oh-so-terrible date with a young hedge fund manager who… **gasp, shock, quelle horreur!** also turned out to be the world champion player of Magic The Gathering.
I’m not going to link to the story, for many reasons. To start with, it’s already well-known enough; if you want to find it, you’ll be able to easily. For another… it’s on a Gawker site. Gawker is all about the pageviews and this article is in many ways a blatant trolling expedition in order to rile up nerds in the name of generating more pageviews.
I do, however, have quite the bone to pick over Ms. Bereznak’s hack-job of an article. Not only is it badly written trash, but it’s also indicative of attitudes towards online dating, nerds and nerd culture. The fact that Alyssa Bereznak seems to feel justified in trying to drag a man’s name through the mud for the crime of having not been the best date ever is mostly an indicator of her lack of worth as a person.
But I’ll get to all of that in a minute.
The Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Article
According to Bereznak’s timeline, she created her OKCupid profile “while drunk” and discovered that OKCupid was – in her words “like hanging out in a dark, date-rape-y bar,” full of guys who violate one of my cardinal rules of online dating. Evidently however, her supposed feelings of shame and horror at having created an online dating profile was not enough to make her cancel her account, as she did, in fact, meet with some success. One guy, Jon, sent a polite, clever message with proper grammar and spelling and they went on a date.
Jon is, in Alyssa’s words, a nice, normal guy; “thin and tall, dressed in a hedge fund uniform.” He works in finance – a hedge fund manager, in fact – and they were having a nice conversation when she mentioned that her brother was a gamer. Jon revealed, in return, that he played Magic: The Gathering. In fact, after some prodding, he revealed that he was the Magic world champion.
And this is when Ms. Bereznak freaked the hell out.
Now it is worth noting that evidently this glaring omission from his dating profile was not – at the time – enough to make her end the date early. Nor was it – after she Googled him to find out – enough to keep her from going on a second date with him, where she grilled him on his hobby before deciding that no, she couldn’t possibly go out with him again.
I have four problems with Alyssa Bereznak’s story.
First: It doesn’t pass the smell test. Bereznak’s claim that she only created the profile because she was drunk makes little sense. Unlike whatever other mistakes she may have made after a night of heavy drinking, it’s extremely simple to cancel an OKCupid account. It’s right there under “Settings”, a very prominent tab marked “Delete/Disable”. If Bereznak were so horrified by her forays into online dating, it is literally a matter of minutes to wipe it out as though nothing happened.
But despite OKCupid being akin to “hanging out in an underlit, date-rape-y bar”, she continued to be a member. Long enough, in fact, that she met Jon, read his profile and made a date within a week of his contacting her. And even though she felt the need to rationalize her joining as “everybody does it”, her friends are also members. And even though one would think that someone working for a blog oriented towards technology, gadgets and internet culture would have enough knowledge to figure out how to tweak the settings for a dating site, the better to filter out unwanted e-mails and chat requests… especially considering that these tools are also prominently displayed in the Settings. Evidently Ms. Bereznak isn’t terribly good at her job, whether it be the tech aspect or the writing.
In short, it’s fairly clear that Bereznak is trying to make herself look better despite having been “desperate” enough to join a dating site… oh, the shame of it.
Second: Evidently Jon’s major crime is not wearing the Scarlet N that all nerds in her world apparently are supposed to wear so that they may be easily identified when they’re disguising themselves as normal guys. Who knew that being able to hold conversations about things other than his hobby were, in fact, a clever ruse by this cunning predator?
After all, how could being – in her words – “a champion dweeb” not be something you’re obligated to present in your dating profile so as to not – again, her words – “lure her into a date with a geek in hedge funder’s clothing”? Evidently, to Ms. Bereznak, having a hobby outside of her accepted norms that you don’t immediately disclose is a crime so heinous as to be labeled “an OkCupid horror story”… and yes, once again: her words.
Of course, I notice that Ms. Bereznak didn’t disclose other aspects about herself in her profile… such as that she was going to write an article about Jon.
Sadly, Jon did not disclose other aspects of his life… such as perhaps that he had also won the World Series of Poker and had revolutionized how the game was played. Or that he and several of his friends had dominated Las Vegas as a card-counting team, winning more than $70,000 at blackjack alone? Would Ms. Bereznak – who was evidently clutching her pearls wondering what her sisters in Pi Delta Pi would think if they knew that she had gone on a date with a nerd – have had such an atavistic reaction that she felt the need to write this article… apparently in revenge?
More on that in a second.
Third: In the article, Alyssa Bereznak gives his *full name*. And then, just to make sure that everybody knew exactly whom she was talking about, she included links to his Wikipedia page and several YouTube videos… evidently to support her assertation of “HAHAHAHAHA, look at this nerd, he’s such a loser, am I right? God I can’t believe I went on a date with him!”
Lets think about this for a second: after having what ultimately was a date with someone that didn’t click, Bereznak decided to pull a name-and-shame on someone on one of the most HIGHLY TRAFFICKED media networks on the Internet.
Let me restate this one more time for the record: His crime was… she had a not-terribly good date. So she decided to try and humiliate him in front of the entire world.
I’m thinking of a word here, and it rhymes with “what a bunt”.
One does have to wonder how Ms. Bereznak – who has a publicly accessible Google+ account and Twitter feed would feel should people decide to link to her accounts in order to better support their point that Alyssa’s both a horrible person and a sub-par “journalist”.
Fourth: Bereznak has edited the American article twice now in the attempts to make him look more like a loser and to try to deflect the nerd-rage she’s engendered. Instead of launching into her “horror story”, there’s an attempt at a qualification about how “One person’s Magic The Gathering” is another person’s nail-biting – another undesirable trait, I notice. She has also attempted to soften the language and cut out paragraphs insulting him.
Unfortunately for Ms. Bereznak, there’s another version of this article to be found. Gizmodo Australia also posted the Ms. Bereznak’s article, which is far closer to the original – only leaving out Jon’s name and the aforementioned links, but with enough information for anyone who feels the urge to find out who she means.
There is one critical difference between both versions however. In the American Gizmodo article, Alyssa Bereznak refers to Jon as having “infiltrated” his way into dates with other girls she knows. Now, I’m not entirely sure how one “infiltrates” a date unless he were to pull a full Solid Snake, tranq the original beau and take their place without her friend noticing. Regardless, notice very carefully how Ms. Bereznak attempts to imply that Jon tricked these girls into going out with him. Not content to humiliate him, she implies that no woman would possibly go on a date with him unless deception were involved.
So, pretty damn bitchy of Ms. Bereznak, no? Ah, but you see, it gets worse.
In the Gizmodo.com.au version of the article, she not only implies that he tricked her friends into dates but that he also went out with another Gawker Media employee… and in her words: “Don’t go after two Gawker Media employees and not expect to have an article written about you. We live for this kind of stuff. ”1 So not only does Bereznak imply that he deceived her friends, but that he stalked her and other women, and that this article is merely justice, not a poorly just a written hit-piece ginned up in the attempt to drive more page views Gawker’s way.
Again: Alyssa Bereznak – in a fit of pique – decided to hack out an article trashing a man because she had a mediocre date, implying that he deserved this because a) he didn’t immediately inform her that he was a nerd and b) he deserved it because supposedly stalked her via her friends.
One wonders why, exactly, Ms. Bereznak is so obsessed with Jon that she felt the need to try to drag his good name through the mud. One also hopes that anyone who decides to date Ms. Bereznak will – as she put it – “Google the shit out of her” and realize just what sort of person she is.
Frankly I don’t expect much from Gawker Media but some basic pretense of journalistic integrity would be nice.
Now, having said all of that… there is a lot for nerds to learn from this debacle that masquerades as journalism…
Online Dating 102:
Let’s take a moment and break things down.
Alyssa Bereznak is a prime example of not only why geeks feel the need to hide their interests but also of the ridiculous remaining stigma and double standards of online dating. Jon is an incredibly successful man; he works in high-finance, he’s good looking and is evidently charming enough to get regular dates. He’s also a nerd… and if he weren’t to bring it up, you would never know.
Jon Finkel’s is a prime example of how to handle being a geek in the modern dating world. His nerdy interests are a part of his life, but not the sum total of it. He’s able to hold perfectly pleasant conversations with people about any manner of subjects that aren’t restricted to his hobbies, a love of gaming or science fiction. He didn’t humblebrag about being a champion poker player. He didn’t put forward his playing Magic: The Gathering as a problem women would have to work around. It was simple and straightforward: “Yeah, I play this geeky card game that’s pretty fun. In fact, I’m pretty good at it. I’ve even made a respectable amount of money playing.”
Now personally, I’m a fan of wearing my geek credentials on my sleeves. Literally, in fact; I have the mark of the Arashikage ninja clan tattooed on my forearm. But then again, I advertise my interests like a geeky peacock’s glorious plumage because the people I’d be interested in dating long term are usually interested in meeting geeks. It’s all just a matter of personal preference and knowing how to communicate your interests in a positive way.
Jon Finkel did everything right when it came to online dating; going on a date with Alyssa Bereznak was just an unfortunate toss of the dice. Regardless of whether you met them online or in person, there will always be people with whom you just won’t click. With luck, they won’t be a hack journalist with an axe to grind in an attempt to overcome their own feelings of insecurity.
My concern with Ms. Bereznak’s bullshit “OKCupid horror story” is that this is going to discourage my fellow geeks from online dating. It’s worth remembering that, for all of her justifications and her attempts to explain how she’s better than “this whole online dating thing” and she’d never do it if she weren’t busy and drunk… she’s still a member. And she was still going on dates with dudes she met online, despite how in her mind that it’s the mark of the desperate losers who can’t get dates otherwise.
Don’t let Alyssa Bereznak’s issues discourage you or intimidate you into being ashamed of your geekiness. Follow Jon’s example and realize that you can do better than her… and so can he.
- emphasis added by me [↩]