This is the fifth and final in our series discussing the second of the five geek social fallacies as initially written about by Michael Suileabhain-Wilson. Each day this week, we’ve heard from a different princess (author) on the subject. We’ve already heard from Alana, Caitlin, Margaret and Lisa and today you get to hear my thoughts.
While considering this particular social fallacy, I struggled a little bit. When it comes down to it, I don’t think I have actually ever come in contact with someone who exactly matches the GSF2 write-up. With GSF1, I have firsthand experience at how group dynamics can be affected by the unwillingness to exclude anyone, but this one didn’t really seem to match up with my experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met plenty of people that can’t take criticism well, but never quite like it was described for GSF2.
Most of the people I’ve met who were almost pathological in their inability to take criticism were never localized to just friends. It wouldn’t matter whether the criticism was coming from a friend, a stranger, a family member, a coworker or even a boss. The slightest hint of criticism would be considered a personal attack regardless of where it originated. Many had the survival ability to hide their reactions from people that could affect their livelihood, like bosses or teachers, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t extremely offended by the critical comment. Criticism is criticism no matter who it is coming from.
Also, none of the people I have known who are incapable of taking criticism would actually refrain from dishing it out. In every case from my personal experience, those that could least take criticism were usually the first to say something critical about others. Some were adept at couching it in pretty language to hide the barbs, but that didn’t stop the negative, critical comments from coming out of their mouth.
Rather than a behavior stemming from the exclusion that geeks often suffered, a true inability to take criticism always struck me as something that came from a deeper level of self-absorption. One particularly notorious ‘friend’ I had back in college might have been classified as a GSF2 carrier, but on closer examination, his behavior wouldn’t have fit. Like the fallacy describes, he would take any critical comment on his behavior as a personal insult and proof that the speaker wasn’t truly his friend. But when it came down to it, his world view was so narrow and narcissistic that his definitions of friendship were completely dependent on ‘what have you done for me lately’ concepts. He’s not part of my life any longer, but I do occasionally run into him every few years. The cycle is always the same – his new friends are the only true friends he’s actually ever had. At least until they say or do something that’s proof they were never actually his friends and then the cycle starts all over again.
I find the inability to take criticism as being something more universal across all social groups than something unique to geek culture. Taking criticism well is a skill that can be learned, but is also something that anyone of any social group can avoid developing. Where geeks actually have a problem is in our struggle to deal with conflict resolution. For a bunch of people who like to pretend to be heroes and adventurers, we are collectively VERY adverse to confrontation.
Note: Thanks to Chris Mann for providing us with some back-stabby art to go along with the series this week.