Every now and then some arsehole guy (or occasionally arsehole girl) gets rejected online by a romantic prospect, goes apeshit over text, and then goes viral after his victim posts the conversation online. It’s a good reminder that this shit is happening all the time, mostly to women, because some people never learned how to take rejection like an adult. It also happens to the editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
Editor Chris Monks has to gently reject hundreds of submissions every week, and some writers react…poorly. In a recent Vulture article, Monks shares some of the worst responses. These cringey replies are a great read. They also make it very clear why you should always, always, be graceful about rejection. Here are four reasons, in increasing order of selfishness.
You’re talking to a person
99% of the time, even the most generic form-letter interaction is at some point read by a human being with feelings. This is all the reason you should need to not be a dick!
“I empathise with the frustration of not getting your work published,” says Monks under a screencap of a rejection reply that simply reads “I hate you.” “But it still sucks to receive these sorts of emails because, you know, I have feelings.”
But even if you don’t care about being decent to people, there are more cynical reasons not to lash out.
You’re burning a bridge
A lot of the submissions Monks rejected were obviously wrong for the site. While he redacts writer names in his piece, he leaves the subject lines unredacted, including “WE ALL KNOW A STORY ABOUT SOMEONE FROM OUR HIGHSCHOOL WHO PUT PEANUT BUTTER ON THEIR ‘JUNK’ AND HAD A DOG LICK IT OFF THEM.” Yes, someone submitted that idea to McSweeney’s, and was offended when it was rejected.
But some pitches were almost right for the site, so Monks replied something like “Keep pitching us!” That wasn’t good enough for some submitters, who still wrote back to insult the site that dared reject their piece.
And now, of course, those people can never get into McSweeney’s again. Before their reply, they could have tried a new pitch the very day. Now that they’ve been pissy over a polite rejection, they could write the next “Decorative Gourd Season” and McSweeney’s would (probably!) not accept it. Because now Monks knows that these writers will be a huge pain in the arse to work with, and no humour piece is worth that trouble.
You can’t get revenge
Suppose you write a humour piece, and McSweeney’s rejects a piece for terrible, awful reasons, like they were getting bribed to reject it by an evil politician, or they thought you were ugly. If you knew your piece was great, and that McSweeney’s had only bad reasons to reject it, you could publish it elsewhere. You could watch it win accolades all throughout the internet. And then you could email them back, saying “Big mistake! Big! Huge!”
You know, like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. That’s what she does after she gets fancy clothes and looks posh, and the salespeople who dismissed her yesterday are falling over themselves to serve her today. Not before! You never throw your fit until after you’ve proven the other schmuck wrong. And even then, you do it briefly, firmly but calmly, and you walk out with all your shopping bags.
You will be mocked
Lastly and most selfishly: When you lash out, you are buying a ticket to the internet fame lottery. As Twitter user maplecocaine once said, “Each day on Twitter there is one main character. The goal is to never be it.” If you don’t want to be the internet’s most hated person for a day or a year, if you don’t want everyone pointing and laughing at your pathetic advances, if you don’t want proof that you deserved rejection—then don’t buy that lottery ticket.
Monks has kindly hidden the names of all the arseholes who verbally abused him over email. Some deserve it: they clearly thought they were being funny, joking in good faith, although if they’d actually thought about it they’d have realised that their replies of “I hate you.” and “Pussies!” were unfunny at best.
But some of these dickwads really deserve to be named, and if Monks had chosen to name them, most readers would have rejoiced—and maybe sent nasty emails to those people. And sometimes this happens—someone gets called out by name, and their victim lets the rest of the internet enact justice.
You should never hit send on a text, email, or message without thinking: If the other person posted this publicly, would I look like the good guy? And if you’re feeling hurt or rejected, you should close the draft, and spend a full day meditating on that question. The face you save could be your own.