Have you ever realized in the first 10 seconds of a conversation that the person you're talking to is a complete moron? Maybe you're a nice person who politely wraps it up as best you can and then makes fun of them to your friends later. Or maybe you're an asshole who looks them dead in the eyes and says, "Oh. You're one of those. I'm going to stop talking to you now and go set my brain on fire."
That snap judgment is a filtering mechanism, one that saves a ton of time and effort by immediately deciding the person in front of us has nothing to offer. Everybody has that mechanism, and everybody needs it. The problem is that it's really easy to develop a hair trigger on the "Shut the Fuck Up" button. So you hear yourself saying things like ...
How It Manifests:
You're in an online game of Shootface Corpsefucker, and you're just flat-out cleaning house. Some of the players aren't that great, and every time you nail one of them, they let loose with a geyser of homophobic slurs that would make Perez Hilton denounce penis. As the game ends, you notice that the guy with the lowest kills is going off in the chat window. (The following has been translated into human.)
"I can't believe you're calling that a win, using that cheapass shit."
You figure you'll put him in his place, because that always works: "You should stop crying and learn to play the game, pussy."
"By the way, I can touch boobs any damn time I want."
Surprisingly, he doesn't immediately apologize for his outburst and inappropriate comments. "Fuck you, [homophobic slur]. At least I have a life, you stupid [racial slur]. Of course you're going to win when all you do all day long is sit in your parents' basement, play this game and [graphic homophobic and racial combo insult]."
Before you can finish vomiting and retort with something that will really get him, he logs out and is gone forever.
"I'm like a ninja that throws racism!"
Why We Do It:
Even in a setting where we're all playing a video game, this is one of the world's great go-to insults: "You're a loser who spends all of your time on frivolous things!" Get into an argument on the Internet and it's "At least I don't spend all day on this stupid message board, like you!" If I'm arguing with someone while shirtless, it's "Go work on your abs some more, Captain Six-Pack! Maybe you should spend a little time READING instead of polishing that clearly visible erection!" Everything I might say is rendered invalid on the premise of "You have no experience, because you clearly spend all of your time on bullshit instead of what's important."
And no, I'm not going to be a hypocrite here -- I still do this. Pull up any of my articles where I'm talking about a teenager having no experience yet and you'll see me doing it on a more subtle level. The rare few hate mails I've responded to have seen it in full force.
It's always wrong, of course. Even my gamer example up there is assuming that skill is directly tied to the amount of time invested. "I've played this game six hours a day since it came out, and I'm able to average 15 kills per game. This guy just got 30 kills, so he must play 12 hours a day. What a loser." And even if that were true, there's the further assumption that the time played was all spent at the cost of a career or meaningful relationship -- that's why they throw in the "you live in your parents' basement" line. Even though I've never actually met a person who lives in their parents' basement and does nothing but play video games.
Now, the bathroom, on the other hand ...
But of course, the truth isn't important -- it's just a means to dismiss them so you don't have to think about them any more.
How It Manifests:
A son comes home from school and asks his dad if he can borrow the car and a hundred bucks. The dad adjusts his expression from "just closed a porn window as you were walking in" to "how do I tell him to fuck off politely" and asks why. The son has a date this weekend, and he wants to go somewhere besides McDonald's and the Walmart parking lot. He'll need money for gas and food and a movie -- and before he can finish presenting his case, he's interrupted.
"I don't think a 17-year-old needs that much money. In fact, I don't think you really need to be going anywhere this weekend. You're barely pulling a C in algebra, and you need to get that up if you're going to get into a good college. You need to get your priorities straight, starting with that grade. Girls can wait."
The son throws his bandanna on the floor and adjusts his Blind Melon T-shirt, because this story is in the '90s, and protests, "This is bullpoop! I'm sick of you trying to hunch up my life! You are not a very nice person, father!"
"Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go call my girlfriend on my giant cellphone."
He storms into his room to write a poem about it, and the conversation is over.
Why We Do It:
The lesson here is not "Teenagers should always be given any amount of money they request at any time." I use the father/son example because that's one case where it is incredibly easy to completely dismiss the concept that someone else may have different priorities from you. Not because they're stupid, but because they're in a completely different phase of their life. The priorities of that teenager are to get through school and maybe touch a few boobs along the way. When the opportunity for nipples presents itself, it quickly jumps to the top of the list -- priorititties? The dad's priorities are based around work, taking care of the family and squeezing in a few nipples of his own via a 56k modem. Because it's the '90s.
The modern version of rock and chisel.
So he doesn't want a long and complicated argument during which he might realize that, in fact, learning how to socialize and date and have relationships is part of what a teenage boy goes to school for. The dad wants it to be simple -- his son is a student, and a student is all he is, and those grades are all that matters. Anything else is a frivolous waste. End of conversation.
And you can carry that "Why doesn't this person live their life exactly like ME?" judgment with you your whole life. It's why your great-grandmother can still be a horrible racist after all these years while you have narrowed yours down to just French Canadians.
"Shhhh. You'll alert the Mexicans to our presence."
It's a way of saying "What you're saying doesn't matter because on my list of things to worry about, there are seven other topics that take precedence. When we take care of those, then we can talk about your thing." Knowing full well that those top seven will never be completed. Boom, another conversation successfully buried.
How It Manifests:
You underestimated your budget this month. We've all done it, and yes, you have every right to feel embarrassed about it. Especially since right before your checking account went into overdraft mode, you bought the stupidest thing ever created, or ever will be created, for any medium in the entire history of all forms of entertainment: Star Wars Kinect, featuring a mode where you have to enroll Han Solo in a dance-off.
Now you're screwed on rent, so you call your mom and ask her for a few hundred bucks until your next paycheck. And she gets pissed. "Why don't you have rent money? What did you spend yours on? I know you're not broke because you called me, crying, just two nights ago about that Star Wars game. If you've got money to spend on video games, you've got money to pay your rent."
Seriously, did they have to make the word "Great" shoot out of his crotch like that?
Whether she helps you or not, you end up feeling pretty stupid, and as a result, you never bring it up again. The next time you get in a bind, you find that she's moved down a few places on your list of people to call for help.
"Honey, have you tried stripping? I hear they make very good money if you grind a little extra on the lap dances."
Why We Do It:
Deep down, she knows you didn't look at that game and say, "Know what? Fuck rent. I have to dance. I'm Han Solo." She also understands that people make financial mistakes, so she's not secretly thinking, "What a colossal, ignorant pile of shit my son turned out to be." If she is that type of person, stop talking to her. Forever. That shit ain't normal.
See, I don't think you're quite understanding just how bad it is.
This is one of those forms of dismissal that's rarely done out of malicious intent. In fact, it's usually done with the opposite in mind. They're subconsciously trying to shame you into learning a lesson, and it's not quite the same as "get your priorities straight." In this version, they're holding your actions up to their schedule and budget and saying, "I could make this work. Why can't you? It's not like you have a Jabba to answer to." They're dismissing your excuse in order to avoid hearing a rationalization for your ordeal.
"OK, I'll help you out, but just know that I wiped my ass with that bill."
It's the reason it's so easy to withhold sympathy from rich people. We look at how we're living, and think, "Man, if I had that kind of money, I wouldn't have another problem for the rest of my life." And that's simply not true. You're assuming your living style would remain exactly the same as it is right now, only with more money. You're putting their problems into your life formula, and it just doesn't fit. "He's in debt? Bullshit, look at the house he's living in." I still do that -- it's such a hard habit to break.
And it's the same with time. "I gave you two weeks to complete a 20-page assignment. Why is it only 18 pages? I noticed you've had time for football games. You've got time for that, but not for my class? Maybe I should have a talk with the coach about your participation level." They're completely ignoring literally everything else that's going on in the student's life because it's so much easier to dismiss the excuses than to confront them.
"Now if you want this extra credit, you get up here and let me whip you in the balls until you pass out."