‘Shit-Talking’ (also known as ‘trash talking’ or ‘dissing’) can be characterized by a single or a series of subjective statements that imply objective truth, and that are set forth in an attempt to ‘put down’, dismiss, and/or ‘degrade’ a person, place, thing, or idea, while simultaneously ‘boosting’ the ‘shit-talker’ to a ‘place of higher moral or artistic standpoint.’

The gratifying feelings derived from ‘shit-talking,’ I feel, are mainly rooted in the desire for feelings of power, control, and self-confidence. ‘Shit-talking’ seems to be an ‘epidemic’ to some degree, in the blogosphere, and this is my analysis of it all…

*[For the purposes of this article, I am going to discuss ‘shit-talking’ as it has happened to me; however, I feel that these ideas can apply all ‘shit-talking’ everywhere.]

1.) Power – By declaring that I ‘am a terrible writer’ or that I ‘fucking suck,’ one is attempting to degrade me by diminishing the quality of me or my writing in a public forum or in an e-mail to me. Sentiments like these are stated as an attempt to reinforce one’s arbitrary concept of “good” or “bad” by decreasing the validity of other arbitrary concepts of a similar nature. By doing this, the ‘shit-talker’ is trying to emotionally/philosophically ‘prove’ themselves to be ‘better’ than [shit-talked person/thing], resulting in feelings of power, self-righteousness, and ‘rightness.’

2.) Control – The desire for control over one’s perceived reality and the things that exist within this reality are some of the most prominent reasons for the things that many people think, feel, say, and do. ‘Shit-talking’ is a very easy, surface-level way of momentarily gaining control of one’s perceived reality via ‘claiming power’ / ‘asserting dominance’ over it and over [‘shit-talked’ person/thing].

Similarly, subjective sentences that are structured as objective truths [i.e. “this is bad” or “this has no literary value”] exist and are employed in an attempt to validate the ‘shit-talker’ via the illusion that he or she ‘knows what they are talking about’ and ‘are obviously right.’ This helps to create feelings of control, understanding, and certainty, which allows for good feelings to exist within the ‘shit-talker.’

3.) Self-confidence – People who experience feelings of low self-confidence often find solace in ‘shit-talking’ or degrading others, by way of creating a hierarchy in which this person is ‘higher’ than [shit talked person/thing]. The desired result of creating this type of hierarchy is “increased levels of self-confidence via decreased levels of ‘worth’ in the things that [‘shit-talker’] is perceiving and assessing from a subjective standpoint.”







Miscellaneous [something] re: ‘shit-talking’

– ‘Shit-talking’ in a public forum can also serve the function of ‘unifying like-minded individuals,’ resulting in each separate ‘shit-talking’ individual experiencing heightened feelings of ‘rightness,’ ultimately leading to increased feelings of power, control, and/or self-confidence.

– ‘Shit-talking’ requires a ‘one-sided’ assessment of [shit-talked person/thing] ~97-100% of the time. Therefore, ‘shit-talkers’ (by virtue of ‘shit-talking’) are ‘inadvertently’ encouraging ‘closed minded subjectivity.’It is in this way that ‘shit-talking’ can never say anything ‘objectively true’ or ‘right’ of [shit-talked person/thing].

– In my experience, ‘shit-talking’ most frequently occurs when [‘shit-talked’ person/thing] threatens the ‘shit-talker’s worldview, lifestyle, and/or general sense of self.To the ‘shit-talker’, allowing this person, place, idea, or thing to go ‘un shit-talked’ would result in feelings of cognitive dissonance, confusion, and ultimate loss of control over oneself and one’s perceived reality.  This is undesirable, and in an attempt to avoid this undesirable feeling, one decides to ‘shit-talk’ the externality that is ‘causing’ this feeling.

An example of this would be the frequently ‘shit-talked’ vegan diet.I have often been ‘shit-talked’ for choosing to eat vegan foods, via ‘censorship,’ ‘uncontrolled,’ and ‘epic/myth/archetypical’ styles of ‘shit-talking.’*  The concept of abstaining from all animal products and by-products can threaten a potential ‘shit-talker’ due to the potential ‘shit-talker’s’ ignorance, opposing worldview, or other contributing factors.This causes the transformation between potential ‘shit-talker’ to active ‘shit-talker.’

*In an article written in the comments section of this post, Brandon Scott Gorrell discusses some of the most prominent ‘shit-talking’ techniques utilized by people on the Internet, including the styles I have mentioned above.

… I just started to feel extreme anxiety about how similar this article is to Brandon’s…I’m going to write another section to hopefully make the difference between our articles ‘more apparent’ / ‘stronger.’

Feeling bleak…

Going to keep typing…

My tentative subjective philosophy re: ‘shit-talking’ (I am going to pre-empt ‘shit-talking’ re: this section of the article by saying now that I recognize this philosophy’s dependence on the arbitrary assumption that certain abstractions ‘exist.’I also realize that this philosophy ‘rests heavily’ upon words like “beneficial” and “harmful” which are subjective. This is not intended to read objectively.This is my philosophy.)

‘Shit-talking,’ like all other forms of hierarchy, can accomplish nothing that is mutually beneficial for the individuals who are involved directly or for the individuals who are involved indirectly (everybody).In the relationship of ‘shit-talker’ and ‘shit-talked person,’ there is an intended inequality that the ‘shit-talker’ is trying to establish.The ‘shit-talker,’ in short, is attempting to ‘claim dominance’ over [‘shit-talked’ person/thing] via ‘putting [he/she/it] down’ and implying that [he/she/it] is lesser than the ‘shit-talker.’

This makes ‘shit-talking’ ‘fall’ in to the same category as any other hierarchical system of interpersonal or ‘social’ relationships (i.e. ‘shit-talker’ as bully demanding lunch money, [‘shit-talked’ person/thing] as child who gets ‘flipped upside down’ and ‘robbed’ to some degree or ‘shit-talker’ as capitalist system, [‘shit-talked’ person/thing] as underprivileged citizen).

I also tend to feel other things sometimes when I come across ‘shit-talking’ on the internet.I don’t really feel ‘set in my ways’ really, about anything, so it’s hard for me to write a strong, subjective opinion about this…

I keep finding myself wanting to type, “Shit-talking re ‘superficialities’ is superficial itself.”Not sure what I’m referring to…

Conclusion – ‘Shit-talking’ is rooted in the desire for feelings of power, control, and self-confidence.‘Shit-talking’ is always and necessarily subjective.‘Shit-talking’ perpetuates ‘narrow minded’ assessments of people, places, things, and ideas.‘Shit-talking’ in a public forum has the ability to unify like-minded individuals, and is often used to do so.‘Shit-talking’ is commonly a result of feeling threatened.‘Shit-talking’ sucks, in my current way of assessing it.

Thank you for reading this.

TAGS: , , ,

JORDAN CASTRO (b. 1992) is the co-author of poetry chapbooks, Assuming Size and think tank for human beings in general (self-published, 2009). He is the author of No Ceilings (e-book, wtfpwm, 2009) and Orientation (e-book, Pangur Ban Party, 2009). He has been published widely on the internet. He maintains this blog. He can also be found on Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and YouTube.

46 responses to “‘Shit-Talking’ – A Comprehensive Analysis”

  1. brandon says:

    damn, seems like you copied me

  2. i didn’t make the first comment, don’t know who made that

  3. nice article jordo, i haven’t finished reading it yet

  4. this was terrible, fuck you, jordan castro

    is this really the future of creative nonfiction

    you have no idea how much this sounds like tao lin’s tnbd articles

  5. you use big words but they seem good and stuff


  7. Becky says:

    You don’t have much experience with linguistics, and that’s okay.

    But it’s worth mentioning that “shit talking” in any number of discourses, is just plain “talking.”

    In fact, in African American English, for example, shit-talking, as you call it, is the primary mode of persuasive discourse.

    What constitutes offensive “shit talking” is entirely subjective, and your version is incredibly white. I am white, but I enjoy shit-talking anyway. Probably because part of my white is Irish.

    Conclusion: There is nothing wrong with “shit talking” unless you are sensitive to it.

    • damn…

      seems vaguely racist re “white” / “irish”

      i agree that the word “offensive” is entirely subjective. i did not use the word “offensive” once in this article. in the definition of ‘shit-talking’ at the beginning of this article, i scare-quoted subjective words… except “dismiss”… maybe should have done that…

      i don’t think i’m sensitive to shit-talking, rather, i have asessed it from a detached, generally emotionless standpoint, and i still think it can be harmful (due to the hierarchies it is trying to establish)

      i think, ‘in the face’ of ‘shit-talking’ i tend to think any number of things. i generally don’t feel bad. sometimes i feel happy that i have ‘sparked’ [something] within the ‘shit-talker,’ furthering my precense in the mind of someone, which may or may not be expressed to another person, therefore furthering my career and possibly increasing blog hits…

      sometimes i feel nothing
      in almost all cases i try to understand what the ‘shit-talker’ is saying and why they are saying it. also if their point seems ‘valid’ in the context of my worldview/understanding of existence.
      sometimes i feel bleak

      • Becky says:

        Yes. We all feel bleak sometimes.

        It’s not racist. Or maybe it is racist. But it is nevertheless what they teach in college-level sociolinguistics courses. People from different backgrounds and cultures use and perceive the same language differently, but in culturally-dependent, predictable ways. White, Midwestern Americans and people who come up with that as their primary culture of influence, generally (though not universally) speaking, are especially conflict-avoidant. That’s what they say.

        Of course talking about something in an emotionless way only means that you’ve talked about it in an emotionless way.

        If outward appearances were indicators of truth, a lot more women would have blond…eyebrows…don’t you think?

        Nevertheless, I can’t read your mind. I have to assume you’re being truthful and that your considerable investment in shit talking comes from a purely clinical rather than personal motivation.

  8. Amanda says:


    Double ouch!

    Ahhh well.

    A handful of friends and I engage in a far more…friendly…version of shit-talk, which I think elevates it to a finer plane. Our shit-talk is all about demonstrating what clever joke-tellers and comedians we can be. A bit more aligned with the dozens, than with coldly insulting (as per the online shit-talk you received).

    It’s warmer, kinder, and positions the thing we’re teasing the other person about as a clearly great and enviable trait. Like, if your [insert awesome quality] wasn’t so awesome, I wouldn’t be picking on it here with my joke. This is, of course, a creature of another nature–we need to be friends in order to know one another well enough to dish out that sort of shit-talk in the first place.

    I’ve never understood shit-talk of the other, mean variety. It’s kinda like taunting some kid on the playground, “I just wanted to let you know that I am not talking to you. Starting now. Ok, starting in three seconds…one…two…three…See? Not talking to you!” If you hate some guy’s poetry, why invest the time in telling him about your hatred? Buncha big threatened babies.

  9. i didn’t say ‘nigga u trippin’

    somebody is trying to emulate me

  10. Mary says:

    Heck Yes! Great great great job. Seriously.

    First of all, your buddy Alexis seems to think it’s somehow easy to imitate the styles of writers you admire. Hah! Even if you were able to do so convincingly, and even if it were totally unoriginal, it would still be a serious accomplishment and a great learning opportunity.

    That said, I adore how she was like, “I hate to rag on you for this, but …” RIGHT. you really hate putting me down, insulting my writing, and implying that you are thousands of times better than me because I accomplishing something you can’t even aspire to. Right.

    The thing is, talking trash just to be a jerk is one thing. That’s just trolling, and it’s worthless. And then there’s criticism, which can be so useful, albeit hard to hear sometimes. But there’s a gigantic difference between the two. Here’s hoping you get more useful criticism and less worthless trolling.

  11. Ben Loory says:

    i just ate the best kiwi i ever had.

  12. I used to be part of a writing/editing group on MySpace. It was nothing too fancy – this was MySpace, after all, not a Parisian literary salon circa 1888 – but people would submit pieces, and the editorial ‘staff’ would give advice. I tried to stick to fixing up typos and grammatical errors (again, MySpace).

    One day, a guy posted a piece that was replete with bad construction and misplaced punctuation. So, doing my thing, I went in and said ‘From a common usage point of view, you need to fix up this, this, this, this, etc.’ I did my best to be polite about it, to keep it academic.

    His response started with the words ‘OK asshole – let’s do this,’ and he proceeded to get personally upset.

    I think it was at that point I a) started to laugh and b) realised that maybe, just maybe, the internet wasn’t the bastion of illumination that lolcats had made me believe it was.

  13. ornithology says:

    shit-talking is boring.
    i think

  14. i feel really insecure about my avatar…

  15. has my avatar affected anyones perception of the ‘tone’ with which i am responding to comments… or like, [something] re this essay…

    how has my avatar affected things…

    seems interesting

    • Brad Listi says:

      I can’t tell what you’re holding in that photo. It looks vaguely balloonish.

      If we could receive some kind of confirmation on what it is, it might be easier to comment on issues of ‘tone,’ etc.

  16. it is a salad comprised of organic spinach, organic iceberg lettuce, organic carrots, organic marinated tempeh, olives, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, newman’s brand ‘family italian’ dressing, craisins, and celery

    interesting re “balloonish”

  17. Anonymous, Don't You Love That? says:

    interesting article, because you talk more shit than anyone i know. oh wait… did i just talk shit? does online shit-talking differ from person to person shit-talking?

    maybe you should analyze your own inability to keep your mouth shut before you go condemning/ preaching the same shit to the choir. do us all a favor and comprehensively analyze yourself.

    • i think ‘shit-talking’ online is different than ‘shit-talking’ in physical reality, one reason being that you can’t ‘shit-talk’ anonymously in physical reality. another being you can’t re-read/edit what you say. i also feel that ‘shit-talking’ online is easier, to some degree, than in physical reality, because online the ‘shit-talker’ has at least some vague understanding in his mind that he/she will not ‘get his ass beat’ or [other immediate result of ‘shit-talking’ that commonly occurs in physical reality].

      do you have evidence of me ‘shit-talking’…

  18. jimi says:

    How is this different than criticism in general? Isn’t any critic coming from the viewpoint that they have something to say on a subject that wasn’t previously considered? Which is basically saying they are higher up on a cultural hierarchy than either the producer or consumer of the cultural product at hand? So they have a subjective, controlling, sense of power and obv self confidence? So…insomuch that criticism is everything that isn’t flattery or explication or random comments… isn’t the derisive tone you’re taking about shit-talking sort of an impulse to control how your own work is perceived? And isn’t that wrong? And isn’t any cultural practice dependent on or at least encouraged by critical discourse?

    Seems like the ole tirade of producers vs critics.

    Especially because the Alexis examples you cite really are, like, at least half constructive in intention.

  19. How is this different than criticism in general?

    ‘shit-talking,’ as i have described it, is a ‘sub-category’ of criticism, i feel. not all criticism intends to ‘put down’ or ‘degrade’ [‘shit-talked’ person/thing] and not all criticism implies objective truth.

    Isn’t any critic coming from the viewpoint that they have something to say on a subject that wasn’t previously considered?

    maybe, yes. however this does not mean the critic is ‘putting [‘shit-talked’ person/thing] down’ or implying objective truth. a critic can simply ‘bring something to light’ in a manner that implies comaradie or [something]. saying something that was not perviously considered is not inherently good/bad. in my view, it is also not good/bad.

    Which is basically saying they are higher up on a cultural hierarchy than either the producer or consumer of the cultural product at hand?

    no, based on what i said re previous question.

    So they have a subjective, controlling, sense of power and obv self confidence?

    no, based on what i said re previous question.

    So…insomuch that criticism is everything that isn’t flattery or explication or random comments… isn’t the derisive tone you’re taking about shit-talking sort of an impulse to control how your own work is perceived?

    i don’t think so… i say nothing in the above essay that indicates my desire to control how people percieve my work. i do think ‘shit-talking,’ as a thing, is generally harmful, but i don’t think i can or want to control how people percieve my work. i think in certain circumstances i even ‘go so far’ as to ’embrace’ ‘shit-talking,’ to some degree, in scenarios where the ‘shit-talking’ could potentially attract attention to myself or my internet precense in a potentially career-boosting way.

    And isn’t that wrong?

    i don’t know…

    And isn’t any cultural practice dependent on or at least encouraged by critical discourse?

    i don’t know…

    Seems like the ole tirade of producers vs critics.

    seems dismissive, a little / i don’t know…

    Especially because the Alexis examples you cite really are, like, at least half constructive in intention.

    “cut that shit out” seems to be an attempt at ‘destroying’ free-thought / my writing, to some degree…

    “priveleged spoiled asshole”…

    “reeks of shittiness”….


    if you are referring to her mentioning me ‘copying’ Tao re constructive in intention, seems i agree with you, to some degree..

    i enjoyed your comment, seemed really good… felt ‘startled’ at first re ‘never thought of that’

  20. jimi says:

    I feel that both shit-talking and “legitimate” criticism come from the same impulse and are just processed differently… probably people who take criticism seriously see it in and of itself as an art form and wouldn’t stoop to ad hominem attacks – if not just to avoid debasing themselves. But that doesn’t mean that structurally criticism acts differently than shit-talking – it just means it has been processed differently – I think in terms of class and media platform and historical lineage. Like, ok, killing your friend is murder, killing an Iraqi is patriotic. The action is the same. It’s just context.

    Even if the intended message of a given criticism is not to put down a subject, the idea and act of criticism presupposes a position of power and sub/dom relationship to the artist. In the idea that things can be put up to a “yes or no” vote is in itself humiliating and a put down. Just like how I never consented to American’s social contract but am still binded by its jurisdiction. And rarely is anyone motivated to write criticism without having some “critical” point to make. And as much as everyone wishes that was impulse was out of camaraderie I think it is usually perceived as being about as BFF as Alexis’s comments. And I think with good reason. Because she made the same point, perhaps more bluntly, that I could see many literary critics making. Influence of Anxiety and all that.

    Shit-talking (seems) like it is just crass criticism from non-critics that is overtly personal.

  21. i think all actions are ‘ultimately’ the same if arbitrary context is removed, in that they are all ‘equally as arbitrary’ and ‘pre-empted by the end of everything percieved in said context.’

    honestly feel like i have no ‘points’ to make, i just say things for like, blog hits or whatever…

    seems most criticism (as you have described it) i guess, has ‘points’ to make or something…


    feel like “yes or no [something]” or “good or bad [something]” don’t make sense unsarcastically or something…

    “you just feel like a priveleged, spoiled asshole who thinks he’s really deep because he can name a poem after animal collective”


    i think criticism can happen in an open, friendly way, maybe…

    ‘idk, bro. don’t really know what to say.’

    4/20, i guess…

  22. just want to know why people are so offended by change and the people that enjoy it. no one has a problem with writers from other periods in time who sounded ‘similar’. we each seem to have a voice of our own that permeates our writing, maybe. like ‘mary’ said, it is extremely hard to imitate another person’s writing successfully. mr. castro you are young and you are writing beautiful things that make me feel things most of the time.

  23. margot says:

    this is interesting, it seems like you’re getting a lot of shit for your writing style, but i think people are kind of missing the point. generations can be changed, united, even defined by a voice. tao lin seems to have found a voice that speaks to our generation and frankly i don’t give a shit if others find it dry or unimaginative. i’m young and also find myself yearning to define myself through writing. and if this is how the tumult inside your expresses itself, all the power to you, do what you do and be who you wanna be.


  24. Carl D'Agostino says:

    Takes on shit:
    Definition: 1. anything my ex did, said, or believed. 2. Anything that comes out of Washington. 3. Anything that comes out of the boss’s mouth. 4. What you learned in Church. 5. Any thing or action that is not the way YOU think it should be. 6. probable future of United States.


    “Shit.” ut, oh(this ain’t gonna be good)
    “Sheeaatt” (this is real good)
    “Shihihiit” (disbelief, scoffing)
    “Shihit” (fine babe)
    “Shoot.” (Christian shit alternative)
    “Shat” (past tense of shit as verb)
    “Chit” (Mexican)
    “Shitta.” (Italian)
    “Thit.” (lisp)

    Types of Shit: bull,horse, chicken, owl, dog, big, important, unimportant, sorry, poor, strike three, pink slip,any mail you must sign for, Monday morning.

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