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Pull up a chair — we need to talk. No one online cares about how smart you are, and talking about it makes you sound like a prick.
Don’t leave, it’s okay! I’ve been that guy, and didn’t even realize I was doing it. Hardly anyone who sounds like a prick knows they do, but with time you can spot your own patterns and become better. First, you need to laugh at yourself.
Partially to that end, but mostly just because it’s funny, the good people at r/iamverysmart on Reddit have been compiling examples of People Who Know They Are Very Smart™. The result is hilarious, and a great lesson in the kinds of things everyone should avoid saying — online or off — if you don’t want to accidentally sound like a condescending jerk.
Saying Only Your Subculture is Intelligent
Geeks are awesome, it’s true, but that hardly means that everyone who doesn’t identify as such is a drooling idiot. Implying otherwise isn’t just insensitive: it makes you look ignorant. Don’t do it.
I’m not sure why having geeks around prevents people from tripping over their correctly tied shoelaces, but maybe I’m just not smart enough to understand.
It’s hardly only geeks who do this, of course, so however you identify yourself remember: everyone has different interests, and that’s okay.
Assuming Most People Won’t Understand
Understanding references feels great, but never assume others won’t understand it too. This is especially true if you’re talking about something basically everyone knows.
The painting in question shows up if you run Google image search for “famous paintings”, and is impossible to miss in the broader culture. Everyone has seen it in some form, or is at least familiar enough with it to understand why the watch is clever.
Thinking People Are Dumb For Enjoying Things You Don’t
You might not enjoy TV – that’s fine. You might occasionally not understand references because of this – that’s also fine. But assuming people are inferior to you because they’ve seen Star Trek, or any TV show at all, isn’t going to go over well.
I love Reddit, and even use it productively sometimes, but taking the time to post something like this hardly proves how valuable your time is. People are passionate about things you’re not – it doesn’t mean they’re wasting their lives. Lots of smart people love Star Trek; lots of other smart people haven’t seen it. Let’s just all hope some Trek tech becomes true in our lifetimes and leave it at that.
Trying to Convince People Their Hobbies Are Pointless
Putting someone down for enjoying something you don’t personally like might feel fulfilling, but all it’s proving is that you’re a killjoy. Here’s a textbook example.
There’s lot of things wrong with David’s comment, but the main thing to remember is that it’s okay for people to like something that you don’t.
Lamenting Your Friends’ Intellectual Shortcomings…To Your Friends
Facebook is a great tool for connecting with your friends, but it’s a pretty lousy place to complain about your friends.
This sort of vile vaguebooking is only going to inform all of your friends that you think you’re smarter than them – so much so that you find them boring. And that’s not just mean, it’s probably completely terrible way to view the world. Everyone can be interesting if you find the right subject of conversation, so go find it.
Show, Don’t Tell
I’m not saying you’re not smart: you probably are. But if you want to be seen as smart, don’t talk about how smart you are: prove it by engaging with the world in a way that demonstrates your curiosity. If you make solid arguments, you won’t need to point out how smart you are while making them. If you ask good questions, you’ll get good answers – and learn more.
Idea Channel’s recent series on fallacies makes a related point quite well. Check it out:
Remember: things aren’t true because you’re smart, things are true because they’re true. Find interesting things to say, by all means, but don’t add a mention of how smart you are in the process. It adds nothing, and comes across as petty.
I’m looking forward to trying to be better, and I hope you all are too. Let’s talk about other bad online habits people fall into, and how we can avoid them, in the comments below.