Monday, April 6, 2015

When Is Helping Not Helping?

I've been known to occasionally curse nerds. It's not that I don't like nerds, but often I come across what I would describe as "fucktardary". Basically, don't kick someone then tell everyone that you're helping them. This has come up a couple of times over the last few weeks on Facebook.

In one I was expressing a disgust for Let Me Google That For You and I was shocked and stunned that someone was not only defending it's use, but also stating that he saw it as empowering people i.e. "Give a man a fish".

This isn't helping. It's patronizing. If someone is asking for help, and you want to help, help them. Don't be patronizing. Be patient and actually help them. Perhaps give them a search term they could use or link them to a Google search result. More likely than not, they're going to get angry at you if you're patronizing. You don't get to be a patronizing prat and feel proud of yourself for doing it.

The next occurrence was a conversation about needing to do something and the only way that works, apparently requires a certain environment (Windows). To which I got a response asking "Why aren't you using Linux?". Because the requirement is to do it in Windows... Which had been stated. That's not helping. It's not even close to a helpful suggestion.

So let's get this clear. If you want to help someone:
  • It shouldn't be patronizing.
  • It should involve talking about the problem rather than preference.
  • It should be patient.
If you can't manage these things, then don't chime in. It's not that hard really. Alpha geeks are probably the worst at getting this right. I was surprised when I found someone who I helped on a daily basis say to me that she appreciated that I never made her feel stupid like others. I was surprised by this. It doesn't take much to be helpful. To empower. To add value. I tend to find myself chastising myself if I get it wrong. What could I have done better? Where did the conflict stem from? How can I approach it differently next time?

Alpha nerds are the worst! And I've even found myself leaving online communities for this reason. It just seems that bad behaviour is somehow normalised and the steaming heap of excrement is hidden under the guise of "help".

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