If you know me, or even ran into me, you probably know that I have very little shame in the things I do. I’m an unapologetic fan of role-playing games, comic books, and professional wrestling. I love bands you’ve never heard of and I don’t care if you think I’m a hipster for it. I tend to favor cult movies over blockbusters, though that one is starting to gain more traction.
My point is I don’t hide my nerdy, geeky, gamer side. Heck, I’m wearing a shirt with a giant d20 on it as I write this. I don’t even like d20 games, I just like the hobby so much that I don’t care that this shirt isn’t my exact flavor of nerd. Then I read this article and wanted to climb under a rock a hide.
For those of you who can’t bother to read about what shamed me, let me break it down for you. A guy going by the handle @dogboner saw Neil deGrasse Tyson on the subway and tweeted a picture of him with the caption, “Some guy using his laptop on the train like a Dumbass nerd lol” The article I linked to above makes claims that @dogboner knew who Tyson was and the tweet was a joke. That’s not what I’m ashamed of. This is:
“Yes, stupid cunt. I’m sure. Fall into an ocean of A.I.D.S.”
“you are dumb as fuck. Don’t breed. Cunt.”
“Are you stupid or what? For people like you this world is becoming a shit. Do us a favor and go fuck yourself!”
These responses make me sick. They make me ashamed of being in the same cultural space as these people. I don’t care what the @dogboner said there is no cause for these kind of vitriolic responses. What makes me the most ashamed is how I’ve seen myself have the same reaction. I don’t like seeing the shitty attitude I’ve displayed. I’m ashamed because I’m not any better at this.
As a nerd I’ve felt ostracized and demeaned plenty of times. Lashing out at people who mock me feels like the right reaction at the time but, in my experience, it has never made me feel better in the long run. Let me talk, abstractly, about a personal run in I had recently that I handled poorly.
I was with a group of friends at a local convention. We intended to play a game but discovered that there were elements that didn’t sit well with a very specific phobia a friend an I both suffer with. When we asked about its prevalence in the game the host responded with hostility and told that we weren’t welcome in the game.
Who’s right and who’s wrong at the start of this situation doesn’t matter for what I want to talk about. My reaction to it wasn’t right. I felt attacked and, like a wounded animal, I lashed out. I was in a funk over the encounter for hours. Finally, later in the evening, a friend said, “You know what I really hate about this? We’ve been talking about it for the last hour. There is so much we should talk about and that asshole isn’t one of them.”
He was absolutely right. No matter how much we talked about it I never felt better. Even when the convention came down on “our side” it didn’t feel like a victory. There isn’t anything for me to do but drop it. I need to stop carrying around the weight of being offended and just get on with enjoying my life.