How Not to Be "That Other Guy" - A Lesson in Empathy

By Audiosurfer. Art by Andrew.
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Everyone on this site, from the new badgeholder to the longtime Super Moderator, started off as a new user at some point. Yet for some reason, plenty of people forget this and instead treat people who are as new as they once were treated—condescendingly—thereby inhibiting their growth as users. In this article I'd like to make a case for why more established users should take it on themselves to be nicer to newer users and make Smogon a more pleasant place for everyone to be on, as well as how they can go about doing so.

You're not cool for being unhelpful

Not the most polite heading, but it really does encapsulate the heart of the issue when more established users insist on being mean or rude or unhelpful towards newer users for no reason. Think of the people who are always picking on whoever it's cool to make fun of at the time in their own desperate search for acceptance, despite the fact that they're probably no more established than the person they're mocking. Or the person who never seems to actually direct confused new users to the resources they need to get better and instead always makes fun of them, or has to preface their help with a snide comment or remark. While many people like this think that they're somehow cool or witty for doing these sorts of things regularly, in reality there's no better way to broadcast words like arrogant, insecure, or downright useless to others who are forming opinions about you.

Simply put, behavior like this is often born from a need to be accepted or from just being a jerk. When people do things like this consistently, they're using cheap slights to mask the fact that they're unable to say something actually clever or do something helpful to others. Now, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that mocking other users is never considered funny by others (I've liked a funny dig at another user before, and so has just about everyone else onsite). However, when it's a recurring thing, it stops being funny and just goes to irritating. Imagine if every time you needed a favor from someone they had to insert some barely veiled insult or snark, or if you were hanging out with them in a large group they always had to pick on someone or embarrass them to draw laughs. You'd probably stop wanting to be around them after a while, and you'd likely start to lose respect for them too.

Consistent behavior like this is irritating when seen in people, a huge turnoff when it comes to potential promotions to leadership positions, and a sure-fire way to be known as a complete douche, so why do it? While you'll likely win their laugh (or like in the case of forum posts) in the short term, you'll almost certainly lose their respect in the long term and develop a reputation for being a negative person. Instead, build a name as a nice, helpful user. When people clearly need help, actually seek to help them better themselves without needing to make yourself look better. And when someone's being treated unfairly, just reach out to them instead of mocking them all the time. It might seem like you won't get as much attention that way, but believe me when I say that people take note of it and respond accordingly. For example, there are plenty of instances where badge nominations are opposed due to a poor attitude on the part of the recipient, but it's never been said that someone was too nice for a badge. On the contrary, consistently helpful users are often rewarded with promotions and leadership positions. So yeah, next time you think of doing something that's mean, try being kind for a change. It can benefit you in ways you haven't even thought of.

How you could be nicer to new people

If you'd like to better aid new users but are unsure how, the answer is surprisingly simple. All it takes is a reasonable proficiency in the area in question and the willingness to take a conscious stance to help others. For example, if you see someone posting a thread in the wrong location, simply direct them to the right one. Or if someone posts a team in the RMT section that's clearly unviable, instead of telling them their team is trash or just saying nothing, you could simply direct them to Battling 101 or the Smogon Mentorship program. Little things like this that seem trivial to those who already know what they're doing can make a world of difference in the online journey of a new player. In addition, if you decide to go a step further and actually offer mentorship to a new player, that's even better. Having someone to guide them through Smogon's social culture as well as helping them navigate various sections of the site is what can help people get the starting knowledge they need to start their journey from lost new user to all-star contributor.


When you see someone who needs help, just help them. Seriously, do it. Whenever you help another user, you improve your own reputation while simultaneously making the site a better place to be for someone else, and potentially starting them down the path of their own journey on Smogon. In contrast, through consistently being mean you develop a worse reputation, hurt your chances of being promoted, and become a person who's generally less enjoyable to be around. So be nice. When you put these things side by side, the choice is a no-brainer.

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