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Some Empty Friend (A Bit on Fake Niceness)

Fake niceness makes us worse people in the end.

I'm a pretty honest person. It's a trait I find I value a lot more in my friends than talent or oratory or even friendliness; no matter how ugly, no matter how rude, I'll take honesty over a big smiley face any minute of the day. The concept of something, even the bad, being true and in line with reality makes it much easier to swallow—unless you've been ruined by fake niceness.

A lot of events in my life have gotten me to this point, and some of them have been bothering me again. The least I can do is put it into words and make them bump around in your head too. Yes, this'll be a fairly personal essay. Let's talk fake niceness.

I find there's nothing nastier and more insidious than fake niceness. It's an atmosphere that fake people build to turn other people fake as well. It's an atmosphere where hatred is quietly ignored and infection spreads like wildfire, an atmosphere where anything can be spun, and smoke and mirrors are on clearance. It's an atmosphere that comforts the comfortable and disturbs the disturbed.

And when you fall out of it, you find gravity a lot heavier than you remember, and you plummet headfirst to the hard, unforgiving ground below.

It disgusts me.

There's few things that ruin a man faster than the realization that you've been building on a lie. It's a feeling that kills your motivation and peels back layers of armor and skin, exposing raw nerve. No longer are you sure in your abilities, or maybe your worldview. It's a disillusionment people often find when they come out of religion. What do you believe? Where do you go? What else was a lie?

Knowing your community, your friendships, and what you thought was your skillset were all built on something rotted and ugly that now has to be stripped out and reinstalled, taking your time and confidence with it—I can't think of a better way to ruin someone. It's why I refuse to lie to people. I absolutely could, and I would never sleep again. Friends, enemies, any of them. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I find it reprehensible.

I posit two types of fake niceness, one altruistic but no less pathologic and the other outright vile. The more altruistic type aims to protect someone from an uncomfortable truth, and the irredeemable type aims to feed someone's ego under the pretense of either something to gain or something to protect. They're not mutually exclusive. Both operate very similarly: accentuate the positive, attenuate the negative. Pretend everything is alright, even where it isn't. Take no action to solve anything.

I've been fucked by both, so excuse me if I sound a little bitter.

Type A fake niceness often manifests among artsy types, to everyone's detriment. After all, no one likes to be told they're no good at something, so why not just...not tell them? It's so disingenuous, but it's almost understandable. (It helps that artsy types are universally pitiful, anxious beings unable to say anything that might get them ostracized further.) Not only does it lead to the fledgling artist stagnating, however, if they realize they're really not that good, and you've been lying to them the whole time...well.

This got me when I was 14, and it's been one of the defining moments of my life thusfar. Without getting into specifics, a recently-evolved mariteaux decided to start writing, with no concept of characters, plot, tone, pacing, or any of the things that define a story. Headstrong, he decided what he wrote was amazing enough to follow up with a sequel, a sequel even more embarrassing than the first with a narrator as bitter as he was at that point. His friends, keen on not telling him these things weren't actually good...saw fit to instead ignore them altogether.

So a younger, more green mariteaux soon realized exactly why his friends had little to say about his recent attempts at writing a frolicking adventure story and promptly had a nervous breakdown, one that saw his confidence brutally dashed against the rocks. It's only recently recovered, but the idea of doing to someone else what was done to me, by people who honestly did care but didn't know how to go about it, sticks with me every day. I couldn't do it.

Type B fake niceness manifests more often in the "real world", when people arbitrarily decide that anyone gives a shit about their reputation and seek to maintain it. On its own, this isn't the worst thing ever, but when someone gets into a position of either slight or major power, suddenly the conduct of others becomes theirs to control and strip of color, flavor, and honesty. People who go together like bleach and ammonia are now expected to quietly hate each other, never solving anything and never getting anywhere.

My story here is much more recent and one I don't really want to get into details with either, but suffice to say, when someone sets up shop as the gatekeeper of a traditionally libertarian community and seeks to shape people's interactions for the sake of his own reputation (one that could've been left forever untarnished by not plastering his real fucking name across his accounts), Type B works at its most potent.

Oftentimes, Type B people will proclaim their hatred for drama, and sweep all negative interactions into the "drama" bin. (The concept of drama as something to be avoided could itself be an essay.) Now, problems in this community can't be solved. The standards for who can be let in drop, and the hatred of the inner circle for people who don't quite fit comes out in less direct ways. People take to other mediums or direct messages to talk shit. The avoidance of "drama" leads to actual drama.

Fake niceness doesn't fix "toxicity", an end these people often claim to seek. It simply drives it underground, and prolongs its negative effects. Remember, all because one person is here to ostensibly promote a "positive, friendly" environment, or really, to protect his ego.

I can't fucking stand fake people, and Type B people are the fakest of the lot.

Honesty solves both of these problems by letting people who are either going wrong or don't fit in get out early or adjust their course. Fake niceness prevents an easy resolution. When I ran the Valve Developer Union chat, me and my fellow admins would oftentimes partake in what we called "bloodletting" of individuals that just didn't fit in or were actively ruining chat. By running these people away quickly (yes, partaking in drama!), we ended up with a pretty smooth, functional chat where the cool people stuck around and the dickheads were left outside, knowing their place.

In comparison, a common platitude from the fake niceness crowd is the idea that "everyone is welcome". This is an uncomfortable truth to these people: not everyone is welcome. I'm not welcome everywhere, and neither are you. Sometimes, you're not good at something. Sometimes, it's best to cut your losses and move on.

I deal with a lot of people who already have shaky self-confidence and crushing doubt, and I would betray every single one of them by partaking in fake niceness. Do I go overboard occasionally? Yes. But I'd rather people know I care and deal exclusively in honesty than pretending to not care and dealing in ironic brushoffs, memes, and fake niceness. I'd genuinely hope, and yes, I'm moralfagging here, that you'd do the same.

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