I want to talk about n00bs today. Or newbies. Or greenhorns. Or whatever you want to call people who are new to an idea, a concept, a community, a skill or job.
For those of you who don’t know what a n00b is, UrbanDictionary.com defines it as: A inexperienced and/or ignorant or unskilled person. It originated in gaming culture but is now used to refer to any person who fits those criteria.
I had a bit of a rail at Twitter late last night after reading two different people making fun of n00bs, actually not just making fun, but directly hating on them. Ridiculing them publicly, without giving direct identifying details, but anyone who knows the people or the circles they travel in could probably work it out pretty quickly.
It really makes me angry, because we are all n00bs at some point, repeatedly across our lives. Every single one of us has times in our life that we are learning a new skill, job or concept. In fact, those of us who aren’t regularly n00bs are the ones who are stagnant, dull and unchallenged.
In the context of Fat Acceptance, I see the general disdain of n00bs quite a bit. Over at Not Blue at All, there was a very good podcast with Brenda and Julie of the Busty Traveller on how n00bs are received in the community. Now of course, nobody is talking of the willfully ignorant, those who come in just to troll, or who don’t want to hear thoughts and concepts different to those that are the status quo. We all have to deal with those, and yeah, sometimes anger and disdain are the only tools you have left to deal with those. But so often people come in to Fat Acceptance with questions and don’t fully understand what it is we’re talking about.
Once upon a time, every one of us was that n00b. Every one of us came from the world of mainstream thinking on fat, where fat = bad, or unhealthy, and that fat should be removed no matter the cost. We bought the magazines, we watched the television shows and media, we listened to what doctors told us about needing to lose weight to cure our ailments. But something brought us to Fat Acceptance. We saw something that made us look twice, that made us ask questions, read more blogs.
For me it was photos on Tumblr. I followed a link, I asked a question or two, I commented on a few blogs. These things all led me to become a Fat Acceptance activist. Sometimes along the way, I made some mistakes. I didn’t understand things. I blundered when I tried to describe how I was feeling. I used the wrong language. Sadly, when I was a n00b, some people shat all over me and tried to bully me out of speaking. But thankfully, there were those who just answered my question, or posted links that would help me. If they didn’t want to engage, they didn’t have to, but they recognised that sometimes people are just new and don’t get it yet, that if they keep doing what they do, then they’re encouraging those n00bs to keep reading and keep questioning and keep expanding their horizons.
Yes, sometimes people just want to argue, they just want to push, they just want to shout you down. This week I dealt with one on Twitter who seemed to decide that I was going to be a good person to goad repeatedly into an argument, and I had to disengage. Nothing wrong with that. I did attempt to give him some information and make my point, but there came a point where he just wasn’t going to get it, he just wanted to be pedantic, so I made the decision to let go.
Sometimes you just arc up out of frustration, or you’re having a bad day, someone was just mean to you, or some other reason. It happens to all of us. It happens to me a lot.
Now I’m not saying that you have to educate every person that comes by your blog or Twitter or whatever. I’m not saying you have to devote your time to hand feeding every new person to come along to Fat Acceptance or whatever other area you’re skilled/informed in. But when someone asks a question, and does so without ad hominem attacks, ask yourself if it is a legitimate question. If it is, consider answering it. You don’t have to, but if you can, and have the time, maybe do so from time to time. Don’t lecture, don’t bully, don’t talk down. Just answer it. If you don’t want to, don’t. Or provide a link/resource.
Whether you respond or not, realise that every one of us is a n00b at some point and the fact that someone is exploring new concepts, ideas and skills is an awesome thing. Remember how it felt when you were the n00b. Do you want to treat someone the way you were treated? If you think it’s ok for you to hate on a n00b, then perhaps it’s time for you to stretch yourself a bit and be a n00b at something yourself before you get stagnant.
But most importantly, when you next encounter a n00b, think of this:
Raise your hand if you’ve never made a mistake/got it wrong in your life.