I’m with stupid

At school, aside from all the usual tribes and factions and ‘cool kids’, there were two distinct groups you had to belong to, and you didn’t get to pick which. You were either “thick” or “brainy” and there wasn’t really much in between.

Be declared a thicko, and over a decade of jeering, patronising and belming awaited you. Usually, once you left school to go and do whatever your intellect had allowed – be it university or a job or unemployment or, in the case of many thickos from my school, parenthood – this would fall away and you could be left in your own little world. Your perceived lack of intelligence could, unless you were particularly unlucky or had the kind of drunk, hectoring relatives who ruin Christmas, remain hidden.

Until social media.

Oh, God, we blame social media for everything now, don’t we? From our children not talking to us, to people being murdered, via clumsy, dimwitted racism and sexism. We have never been more aware of the idiocy that surrounds us – apart from our own.

People we would never associate with in real life are suddenly front-and-centre and all up in our grills with their lame anecdotes, ancient memes and dreary inspirational psycho-babble. And, of course, flaunting their literacy, or lack thereof, all over our timelines.

Thankfully, for those of us who never got the chance to sit at the back of the school bus, screenshotting has allowed us all to taste that superiority. Screen-grabbing does have its uses when it comes to highlighting sexism or racism or other deplorable antisocial behaviours – and when these happen to you, these are your stories to tell and you have a right to share them. Nobody gets to write your autobiography but you.

When we’re taking screen grabs and calling out people’s bad grammar or spelling in their status updates and having a good old chuckle, however, we’re regressing to the playground.

I was really disappointed, then, that BuzzFeed joined the jeering throngs with this piece entitled 28 Pictures That Will Destroy Your Faith in Education, which showed screengrabs of Facebook status updates and tweets from people whose grasp of grammar and spelling was certainly less than stellar.

I get that the piece was merely aggregating content freely available elsewhere, but it felt like a misfire from  one of the fastest growing, and most influential, content organisations in the digital arena, making some big-name hires from some of the most respected newspaper and media outlets in the world. A step backwards into the “old” internet.

The headings are pretty grim. “This genius.” “This intellectual.” And if you break the oldest rule of the web and actually read the comments beneath it, you will see a massive pile-on, hordes of brainiacs eager to laugh at the dummies. Ironically, there are plenty of spelling mistakes strewn across them.

We’re tackling sexism and racism and fat-shaming and camp-shaming and calling out perpetrators in tweets and a gazillion think-pieces, but making fun of those with a lower level of literacy is, it would seem, still OK.

I don’t agree. There are lots of different reasons why someone may not have the same spelling smarts as you – lack of opportunity, dyslexia, difficult upbringing, or maybe just a general lack of brightness. Not being clever is something few people can actually change, and the education system can fail even the sharpest knives in the drawer.

Plus, is there anyone more boring and depressing than a self-appointed ‘grammar Nazi’? Wielding the red pen of justice and joylessness, their motto “I think you’ll find…” and a fuck-tonne of wearisome old “you’re/your” pedantry  etched on their ice-cold heart?

Congratulations! You can spell! You can string a sentence together! How about you use this intellect for something helpful and interesting rather than kicking a dog that is certainly already down?

Have I done this myself? Have I judged people on their ability to rack out the ABCs rather than what they’re like as a person? Definitely. And I am ashamed. Mortified.

It reminds me of years ago, when I was a haughty, self-important 21-year-old, I proclaimed I didn’t “suffer fools gladly”. My dad, who was with me at the time, looked at me, disappointed, and reminded me gently: “Have you  never been a fool? Can you honestly say you haven’t done anything foolish?”

I felt chastened, rightly.

Ripping a person to shreds because their IQ isn’t as stratospheric as yours? That truly is the dumbest of the dumb – and that’s what “destroys my faith in education”, not a misspelled status update.

More like this:
The real basic is you
Give me death by skinny jeans over bootcut misery any day
If you say “man up”, I hope you catch manflu
Manspreading: Why we do it and why we need to stop

Image: Flickr

No Comment

  1. “There are lots of different reasons why someone may not have the same spelling smarts as you – lack of opportunity, dyslexia, difficult upbringing, or maybe just a general lack of brightness. ”

    I completely agree with your post and would like to add one thing to this list: English not being your own language.

    I am constantly pondering whether to post something somewhere or not because I find myself stuck with simple things such as “should I use ‘at’ or ‘in’ with this” and “is this the right term to use here” etc. This annoys me, if I have something to say I’d rather say it than spend time stupidly concerned if I made a grammar mistake. I usually manage to convince myself it doesn’t really matter, because it really doesn’t, it just pisses me off that I even feel the need to waste time fretting about it.

    And then comes along BuzzFeed with their “Let’s laugh at people who are not is brilliantly clever as me” -piece. I found the article quite mean, especially with their titles This intellectual/genius/Einstein. I guess it was supposed to be fun but I find it hard to see mean as fun.

    Have to add that I found your blog a little while ago and in addition to cracking me up it’s done wonders to my vocabulary. You can never know too many words for male genitalia!

    1. You are totally right – I never even considered that angle at all. How narrow-minded of me! How awful that it holds you back from expressing yourself, knowing that some dillweed might screengrab it and show it off on a site dedicated to mocking. BuzzFeed’s entire tone was pretty off, and the comments below it demonstrate what massive arseholes we can be over something that does not come naturally to everyone. Thanks for your comment and reading the blog!

Leave a Response