Missing Link Friday – Geeks, gamers, dating and etiquette

Even geeks need to be polite: Geeky men with poor social skills might be frustrated by their lack of success with women, but frustration is no excuse for abusing women who say no to other geeks. So if your life revolves around a geeky activity where women are scarce, Skepticlawyer has a message for you — work on your courtesy and charm. And get used to hearing ‘no’.

Creepy guys in elevators : If a man you didn’t know propositioned you in a hotel elevator at four in the morning, would you find that a little creepy? Rebecca Watson did. It happened to her after she gave a talk about misogyny in the atheist movement. As she said in video later, "Just a word to the wise here guys. Don’t do that."

Wafergate: A few years ago, atheist PZ Myers pierced a communion wafer with a nail and threw it in the trash along with some old coffee grounds and a banana peel. Not surprisingly, many Catholics were offended. But of course offending theists is part of what the militant atheist movement is all about.

Elevatorgate: Militant atheist Richard Dawkins was annoyed by Watson’s complaints. In a comment on PZ Myers blog he argued that the guy in the elevator did nothing more than speak to her: "If she felt his behaviour was creepy, that was her privilege, just as it was the Catholics’ privilege to feel offended and hurt when PZ nailed the cracker."

It usually begins with Ayn Rand: When Alyssa Bereznak’s parents split up, her father included a firm instruction in the divorce papers: Alyssa’s mother was forbidden to raise her or her brother religiously. In Salon Bereznak writes about how her father’s obsession with Ayn Rand blighted her childhood. "Ultimately, I suspect Dad was drawn to objectivism because, unlike so many altruistic faiths, it made him feel good about being selfish", she writes.

But ends up as another internet controversy: When geek legend Jon Finkel discovered Bereznak’s profile on OKCupid he decided to ask her out. She accepted. Finkel googled her before the date. "She had a pretty good, heartfelt article about her dad and Ayn Rand" he says.

Unfortunately the googling wasn’t reciprocal . So when Finkel told Bereznak he was a world champion Magic: The Gathering player she was so appalled she ended up writing an article for Gizmodo about it. Surely this is something a person ought to disclose in their online profile, she insisted.

Was that wrong? At Tiger Beatdown, Sady argues it was wrong for Bereznak to name Finkel in her article. She offers some advice: "Disguise the identity of your bad dates, when you write about them on the Internet. They have friends and family and co-workers that they have to face in the morning."

But despite some of the nasty comments Bereznak has been getting on internet forums, there’s nothing wrong with rejecting a date because you don’t share their interests, says Sady: "Sorry, friends: People get to find your interests unattractive sometimes. That’s the way it works."

Back at Skepticlawyer’s: In the comments thread to Skepticlawyer’s post, a different perspective about geeks and dating emerges. "Fascinating post," says su, "this is something I am trying to teach my teenager who does have Asperger’s. He keeps coming up with different ways to approach girls that he likes and they are always rather indirect and yet invasive."

Patrick suggests a self-help book. Skepticlawyer agrees: "How to Win Friends and Influence People helped me a great deal at the beginning of my legal career", she writes.

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9 Responses to Missing Link Friday – Geeks, gamers, dating and etiquette

  1. Thanks, Don — this post is now probably the best summary out there on both ‘elevatorgate’ and … what should I call it … ‘gizmodogate’.

    Gah. Gate. Again.

  2. michael says:

    You’re still missing the point: asymmetric power.

    People are slighted all the time: but few have global public audiences to put their one-sided argument to. These are private matters which never got out of hand to start with, and had no reason to become so public. And if they did get out of hand: a matter for police.

    Rejecting a date is one thing, going to the international public forum of a specific and targeted demographic audience and intentionally trying to aggravate them for money (i.e. page hits) is another matter entirely.

    Trying to argue these episodes of international infamy are simply about ‘rejection’ and ‘lack of social skills’ is wildly inaccurate and totally misleading.

  3. Yobbo says:

    The guy in the subject of this post is a longtime personal friend of mine. He’s also filthy rich and looks like Justin Timberlake. I’m sure he’ll be fine.

  4. hc says:

    Rebecca seems to be a hysteric. The guy made an apparently polite request. How disgraceful. I wonder if the incident deserves a blog post.

    I remember reading somewhere about an imaginative American housewife who was always concerned about being attacked by her vacuum cleaner. ‘Goodness gracious, Wilber, you wouldn’t want to see me violated by the Hoover would you’.

  5. KB Keynes says:


    That was only two links and it has disappeared

  6. tigtog says:

    Hey Ken, just wanted to somewhat echo skepticlawyer above – great summary of two calendar-close geekstorms.

    On the whole, it must be a positive that the nerdcore online community is starting to actually engage with social criticisms of various ways in which it fails to live up to its aspirational ideals. However, I’m not surprised that there’s a pushback.

  7. Ken Parish says:


    I’d like to take credit for the post but it’s all Don Arthur’s work (as will this Friday’s one also be).

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