Knowing When Not to Bigfoot Someone

Someone local to me did something that annoyed me, and I wrote a post about it. And then after I wrote I realized that what this person did, did not rate me venting to 40,000+ people about it, especially since a) this person is a normal person, not a public personality, b) this person doesn’t have much of an online presence and wouldn’t be particularly well-positioned to respond to the venting, which would necessarily cast them as I chose to cast them, c) which, focused as it was on the thing that annoyed me, would have been an inherently slanted and unfair portrayal, and finally d) I have to live in the same town as this person.

Basically I knew that if I posted it I’d hate myself for posting it almost immediately, because among other things it would have been more about me satisfying my urge to be a dick to someone in public than anything else. And this person didn’t actually deserve that. So I deleted the post and this is all you’ll ever hear about it.

This is just me using myself as an object example of being aware that sometimes discretion is the better part of being able to stand yourself on a daily basis.

64 thoughts on “Knowing When Not to Bigfoot Someone

  1. Your blog readership is about the size of my hometown when I was eight. That kinda freaks me out now that I realise it. I mean, I KNEW it, but I hadn’t quite contextualised it.

  2. I try to avoid making comments online for just this reason, this speaking when silence is better served. Here, I am making an exception for what I would think to be an obvious reason. While you do have my complete and wholehearted sympathy and understanding, I can’t help but feel just a small sense of thankfulness that it is not just me. That said, considering the enormous output you pour into the internet, you do a remarkable job of biting your tongue. I wish I could come close to you in this regard.

  3. Blog posts should have a waiting period. I wish my mouth had a waiting period. Dickish stuff pops to mind instantly while witty things don’t come to me in less than an hour.
    If being a dick is called for is it still considered being a dick?

  4. Eh. It’ll be better when you fictionalize your irritant as an alien and have Harry Wilson deal with ‘em, anyway.

  5. You know John, its not praise about not being a dick or even being a dick, it’s having the personal insight to know enough about when or not to chose either one. You do have the power of the pen. ( or in this case the keyboard) I think it is this that the aplause is for. Would be that many more with that kind of power to harm or hurt exercised it with as much discretion.
    Dave

  6. So, does this mean you went all dignified and set a lit bag of poop on their doorstep?

    I mean, that’s the respectable thing to do.

  7. I recently had to do that with two different blogs and I don’t have anywhere near the readership. I threw the blog out and started again.

    Looking in the mirror is still important to me.

  8. I decided a couple of years ago to follow a simple rule: “Don’t blog angry.” Although that policy may have derived my readership of some first-rate sarcasm-soaked rants, I have faith that all 20 or so of them can find the strength to carry on.

  9. I wish other people with a public forum had the same ability to reflect. That is less and less common, and so worthy of at least a little praise.

  10. Unfortunately, such a class act is harder to copy in real life (like when I blurt out something in a work meeting only to think a few seconds later “did i say that out loud?”)

  11. Dude, look at you, not being a dick! Way to go!

    This inspires the now-annual John Scalzi Way to Go for Not Being a Dick Award (2010 Inaugural).

    Here it is -> . (not shown actual size)

    :)

    I wish I had the money to throw away on making an actual award to send to someone each year.

    I often write such screeds, but then just delete them before posting, as I’ve seen others advise. It’s therapeutic, but it allows you to run under the radar in public, so people don’t know about your dickish tendencies. “Open your mouth and remove all doubt,” etc. But you – YOU, sir – went the high road and blabbed all about yourself. A tattletale, but on yourself! Amazing.

    But wait – is this like a different version of white knighting? Hmm…a crafty strategy, Scalzi. Crafty, indeed.

    I seem to have low blood sugar. I should go eat something.

  12. Now you’ve got me curious about what happened.

    I’d say ‘curiosity killed the ‘right about now, but I’m afraid you’d take it as a threat.

    Are you SURE you do want to go ahead and be a dick?

  13. I long ago discovered one of the best ways to get past a serious annoyance was to write the lengthy vitriolic screed that my anger urged me to write, and then delete it. Because in general if it really deserved a direct screed, two sentences would do the trick, and if it didn’t, at least I got that crap out of my system.

  14. Of course, even though you weren’t a dick…assuming anyone in your town reads this, I’m sure he could find out about this post and it could be considered a warning shot across the bow.

  15. I am trying to give up saying negative things I really don’t need to for Lent. Thanks for the stark reminder. Also, giving up sweets. Sometimes, the second one makes the first one harder…. sigh.

  16. I’ll go on record as agreeing with Dave @14 and add a little something.

    We’ve all seen whiffs of dickishness in past posts and that’s not even counting the appropriate use of the LMOC. You seem to have more tolerance than most. It matters that when it comes up, it’s used only as much as the situation requires. No more, no less.
    This is just another example of that level of control and in some ways reflects on the fact that you are a writer and know when an essay(or post) is going the wrong way and at which time you edit as needed.
    Besides, the level of dickishness that you describe is only used by kids in Junior High.

    You may reward yourself with pie. Mmmm pie!

  17. John,

    We praise not for not being a dick, but so that future, possibly less introspective people, who read these comments might someday realize that they people might well respect them *more* for not being a dick.

    Unless, of course, being a dick is what the circumstances actually call for :)

  18. I’m not sure I deserve too much praise for not being a dick, you know.

    This is the internet in question here–we’re trying to encourage more of this kind of thing.

  19. My mom always said “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” As a result, I have permanent scarring on my tongue from biting down on it.

  20. Dave@34: Unless and until we can get a reliable head count of all the gophers in Darke County, Ohio — not necessarily.

  21. Yeah- I’m with the praise-the-behavior-to-encourage-it-in-others crowd. Restraint is admirable, guys.

    While the Snark is strong in you, you mostly seem to use that power for good.

    I write vitriolic screeds and just email them to the two people I trust implicitly. They empathize, laugh at my snark, and we all move on, without anyone getting hurt. Let’s out some steam to prevent an actual messy explosion later. =)

  22. Since you do not wish to be praised much for nondickishness, I shall instead salute your nifty verbing of the word ‘Bigfoot’. This I shall certainly steal borrow take as a source of future inspiration.

  23. As I get older, less and less “dick-ish” e-mails and posts slip past my internal editor. I like that. I hate the sinking feeling that inevitably comes after I’ve posted something in anger.

    Good catch.

  24. 1/3 of the time I worry my post was too dick-ish; 1/3 of the time I worry it was too trite/obvious/dumb/wrong/inapposite/badly expressed/exaggerated/unnecessary; 1/3 of the time I am wrong.

  25. Roger E@40: “As I get older, less and less ‘dick-ish’ e-mails and posts slip past my internal editor.”

    Unfortunately for me, the older I get the stronger the urge to make dick-ish posts becomes. Those “get off my lawn” jokes are becoming less and less funny every year, too. Especially this winter – I’m about ready to clothesline some snowmobilers.

  26. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone through the draft folder and went, “Wow. I sound like a real dick in this. Is there a reason for this dickery?” If it’s John Boehner humiliating the state by being Mitch McConnell’s dimwitted sidekick or the press deciding that Tiger Woods takes precedence over the War in Afghanistan, then dickery is not only called for, it’s necessary.

    If it’s just me photographing my neighbors house and challenging readers to guess whether that’s next door to my house or a still shot from Life After People, then I’m just being a dick and should limit my annoyance to calling the city.

  27. Some of us have not been saved by the morality fairy yet. Bigfooting used to be the raison d’etre for investigative news journalists; some things deserve bigfooting. Below are some common dilemmas in which a cost-benefit to Karma analysis for bigfooting might be required:

    A) said person is an employee, doing their job, and expresses empathy at the results to you;

    B) said person is an employee, doing their job, and says something like ‘you deserve this because I have the power right now;’

    C) said person cuts in line in front of your family at the supermarket, then flips you off and threatens to tie you in a knot for politely saying “excuse me, sir?”

    D) said person is doing something assinine, but its out of negligence, and not any sort of mens rea.

    In my book, C is the correct answer for big-footing, and sometimes B, depending on the circumstances underlying the situation (evil corporate policy, versus ‘you knew our ATM fees were evil and used another bank’s ATM anyway.’

    I’m sure, as the comments above indicate, there are many more situations warranting a bigfoot. If you are in the wrong, and just pissed about it, perhaps SPICE (Scientific American Mind, Supersuasion, Feb/March, 2010) might work.

  28. It’s funny, I’ve never heard the expression “bigfooting” before, and when I google for it I see many examples of people using it the same way John has…but no one attempting to define it. I’d have figured at least the urban dictionary would have a go.

  29. Well, you can find “bigfooting” in Wordnik. As with most of their other words, they focus on defining by example rather than by formal description.

    From their examples, it looks like “bigfooting” may have multiple meanings. In particular, their lead example is from an article in _Vanity Fair_, where a reporter is described as having “a reputation for bigfooting colleagues — that is, taking the best stories — and otherwise fomenting discord.”

    Other examples shown seem closer to the usage I’m seeing here.

  30. John Scalzi @ 9

    I’m not sure I deserve too much praise for not being a dick, you know.

    Given the pervasiveness of dickishness in today’s society — especially overplayed and/or misdirected dickishness — I suggest that there is no such thing as too much praise for not being a dick.

  31. Yeah, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it would have been a Very Bad Thing if you’d ranted about this non-famous person on your blog. It’s one thing to call out dickish behavior in public figures. But a normal person living an anonymous life? Yeah, that’s a Very Bad Thing.

  32. And now that I’ve said that, the subject of your diatribe must have REALLY pissed you off to evoke that kind of response in you.

  33. “I suggest that there is no such thing as too much praise for not being a dick.”

    Although if we overdo it, our host may find it necessary to put a stop to it by being a dick. Why push him to that point? He’s a nice guy; we shouldn’t goad him like that.

    I wonder how many other authors have been praised this much for something they didn’t publish. Can you imagine the reviews?

    “Best novel I never read!”

    “Put it down? I couldn’t pick it up!”

    “Scalzi sets the bar for conciseness impossibly high.”

  34. @9

    No, I don’t think you deserve too much praise for not being a dick, but it *is* nice to see someone showing a modicum of self restraint. Perhaps there is a larger message about general societal dickishness that so many people are willing to praise someone with a frontal lobe that is working appropriately.

    Multi-step thinking is a wonderful ability.

    (If everyone showed that ability, there wouldn’t be any more televised police chases, or unwanted babies. Or televised unwanted baby chases.)

  35. Noah #54: unwanted babies

    People can do everything right and still get pregnant. Even married people. Crazy, I know.

  36. The praise is necessary not so much for your sake, John (I don’t think you really need the positive reinforcement), but rather for the Bigfoot Dicks out there who could profit by your example.

    They probably won’t take the point (that’s part of what makes them such dicks), but hey, we’ve got to at least try.

    So bravo, sir! Well played!

  37. Scalzi said: I’m not sure I deserve too much praise for not being a dick, you know.

    Inasmuch as this is the Intarwebs, where dickery is de rigueur, I’d would argue that perhaps you do…at least for the audience you demand.

    I find myself lately looking at certain Internet arguments on forums and blogs and thinking “Really, do I add to this discussion or am I just extending the argument and trying to convince the unconvinceable in some ill-conceived attempt to ‘win’?” and then just closing the page. I may just be getting old.

  38. Noah @ 54

    I keeping with the spirit of John’s post, I deleted my original response. Instead, I will gently suggest that perhaps you mean there would be fewer unwanted babies.

    There might also, I suspect, be far fewer embarrassing comments.

  39. Some might say there is a time for the dickery and a time to restrain the dickery.

    Of course, I wouldnt say that.

  40. I agree–no points for not being a dick. I’m very strict about this. I also don’t think people for not stealing my wallet and not kicking me in the shins. However, it is a very valuable admonition, and the fact that you use yourself as an example is rather classy and humble.

  41. Of course, this post is also a good way to get your point/subtle threat across to the intended person in a way that says to the outside world, “Hey, look at me not being a dick” while saying to the intended person, “Hey cross me again and see what I could do if I so chose.”

  42. It does raise the question, I suppose, of what sort of online audience do you have among the greater Bradford, Ohio metroplex? Would they even have noticed this inchoate online dick move?

  43. “Discretion is the better part of being able to stand yourself on a daily basis.”

    I’m so quoting that.

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