I recently read an article about the plan to turn Galaxy Quest into a TV show. The writer mentions in the article that the central conceit of the movie was that the cast of a fiction Star Trek-style TV show are taken by real aliens into space. One of the comments of the article was as follows:
I am happy to say that this commenter was suitably shot down by others. Now, most of the reasons society gives us not to be huge dickweeds center around the idea that it is the right thing to do. Do Unto Others and all that rot. But here we have a perfect example of how Not Being A Dickweed can also be act according to your self interest.
This poster doesn’t understand the multiple meanings of the word conceit. That’s an honest enough mistake. Had he said “Um, I think the word you’re looking for is “concept,” not “conceit,” he would have looked a little dumb. But it would have been a pretty forgivable mistake.
Instead he chose to be self-righteous and obnoxious about it. So instead of being harmless, he came off as a total and complete jackass. He was trying to score points by being sarcastic and superior. You can get away with that when you are correct about things. But the fact is, no one knows everything. Occasionally you are going to slip up, and if you are a dickweed about your own knowledge and superiority you’d better believe people will pile up on you for it.
And others will laugh and applaud as they do so, because you totally had it coming.
So feel free to correct people online when they make mistakes. It’s a worthwhile thing to do. But be nice about it. Be humble about the possibility that what you think is a mistake might actually be completely correct, using a word or a grammatical rule that you don’t currently know or fully understand. Even if it isn’t, an attack won’t make you look as smart as you think it does.
Not Being a Dickweed isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s in your best interest as well. I’m looking out for you.