Internet Witch-Hunt and the Alyssa Bereznak Situation [Op-ed]

On August 30th a post came up on Gizmodo where writer Alyssa Bereznak discussed a dating experience she had through OkCupid, and now the Internet wants her head. What is this all about?

Gizmodo Screen

Alyssa Bereznak wrote an article about meeting people through OkCupid, one of the most popular date sites on the web, and how this experience turned out. “I came home drunk and made an OKCupid profile. What the hell, I thought. I’m busy, I’m single, and everybody’s doing it. Sure, I’d heard horror stories, but what was the worst that could happen?”, she tells her readers as if she wanted to defend herself. She proceeded to call the site a “dark, date-rapey bar”, where she was lucky to find one guy who seemed decent and non-creepy.

Well, this guy turned out to be Jon Finkel, a Magic: The Gathering legend and champion. She then explained how the date progressed, and how they talked “about normal stuff — family, work, college.” Casually, Jon mentioned that he is the Magic World champion, and all hell broke loose. Through her article, Bereznak seems to imply that playing Magic in inherently a bad thing saying “I gulped my beer and thought about Magic, that strategic collectible card game involving wizards and spells and other detailed geekery. A long-forgotten fad, like pogs or something”, and expands later with “This is what happens, I thought, when you lie in your online profile. I was lured on a date thinking I’d met a normal finance guy, only to realise he was a champion dweeb in hedge funder’s clothing.” After reading this, the Internet went crazy calling her all kinds of insults regarding her shallowness, and even Finkel explained his side of the story on Reddit.

Let’s be fair: there’s nothing classy about Bereznak’s article, but no one is forcing her to like Magic or any other game or geek stuff. Complaining about “nerdy guys” in Gizmodo, the gadget guide… well, it’s just not a good idea. It’d be as if Sony or Microsoft bashed gamers on their homepages, or if Apple called their fanbase “a bunch of hipsters”. You just know you’re gonna get some bad reactions. Also, the second point is that Bereznak pretty much exposed another guy’s intimacy in his article (Magic champion or not), with enough data to guess who she was talking about if one felt like googling a bit or just knew anything about the game.

Also, there’s an undeniably un-cool factor about the piece: dissing a guy because he’s good at something (let alone a champ) is not okay. Had Bereznak made fun of a lack of social skills, odd fashion choices, or awkward political ideas (not like Finkel has any of these qualities, we don’t know him personally) would have been one thing, but instead, she just focused on stuff that reads like “OMG I went on a date with a NERD“. We’re in 2011, being a geek is no longer looked down upon by society and most of us, geeks and non-geeks have seen super-hero movies or enjoyed videogames here and there, so it’s hard to understand where criticism of a hobby that a guy named casually comes from. We’re not even asking her to date him or give him a second chance, geeky guys don’t have to be everyone’s type, anyways, but writing an article dissing someone’s harmless hobby on a site that has potential to draw people with similar interests looks like her just trying to draw attention and a reprehensible journalistic ethic.

All in all, Alyssa had maybe a decent idea for an article (how dating online can go wrong, and believe us, it can), but the way she chose to go around in her article is the worst possible angle: first potentially attacking some of her very own readers, exposing intimacies, and acting superior to everyone else using OkCupid. What could have been a funny, light-hearted article ended up bad, with a lot of Magic fans or just geeky guys calling her shallow while geeky girls told her basically “you just make us look bad, perpetuating the stereotype that we like to play mind-games”. Finkel himself stated that while he “felt violated”, it “was great to know the Internet has my back”.

Now, we applaud the decision of the Gizmodo editors in putting a disclaimer and distancing themselves from the drama that ensued, placing the ball on Alyssa’s court, as she should be the one one responding for her article, but then again, the site went crazy with traffic, so maybe this is what they intended all along? Could this be just a publicity stunt?

What do our readers think about this? We’re looking forward to read your comments.

[Editor’s Note: The views in this op-ed do not necessarily reflect the views of Walyou nor are they explicitly supported by Walyou and its staff by being published.]