“We Don’t Have To Be Nerds”

A while ago, friend of the site VZMK2 directed me to a Youtube clip. We’ve referenced it in NTR Radio a few times. The clip is from an offline meeting of users from a particular forum, and the point of focus was on an interview with one user, who said:

“We don’t have to be nerds. We can actually sit here and talk about life, girls, football, y’know, whatever the stuff we’re into, and also talk about toys, naturally, but it’s laid-back…”

Nerd-dom is in somewhat of a binary phase right now. General society seems to be slowly seeing more and more value in nerdy people; however, there is still a general aversion (Even among nerds) to nerds who are too nerdy. This manifests itself in anime fandom as certain anime fans disparaging other anime fans for enjoying the wrong anime.

Among some members of the nerd community, there’s a desire to not be nerds, even for a little while, and I understand. A lot of it is not so much that being a nerd is a negative thing, but that being a nerd isn’t the only thing that defines any of us. So, there, the gentleman in the video is right.

I feel like, however, the approach leaves a lot to be desired as far as nerd interaction goes. A good friend of mine, a Youtuber who goes by “The Geeky Panda” throws parties every so often, and a lot of people, all nerds, show up. We talk about girls, alcohol, and other “normal” stuff, sure, but we also talk about airsoft, cosplay, anime, and videogames.

I mean, think about it. Have you ever seen small-talk between two people who watch football? They’re talking about last night’s game, or who they think will win the next game. People who watch football talk about football with each other. What’s wrong with nerds talking about nerdy stuff with each other?

My point is that, sure, we don’t have to be nerds, but at the same time, we don’t have to not be nerds. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate and sharing that passion with other people, especially other nerds. A lot of us don’t have a lot of people in our general lives with whom we can really share and discuss our hobbies. That’s why gatherings of nerds are so magical to me. It’s refreshing to see so much passion and dedication to the things we’re into in one place.

A big part of this, however, is that I feel like a lot of nerds who share the “we don’t have to be nerds” sentiment seem to see nerd-dom as something we have to apologize for, perhaps even to each other. It’s true that we don’t have to be nerds, but if that comes at the expense of having to tone down our passion for what we enjoy, I’d caution how far we go with that mentality.

We don’t have to be nerds, true. At the same time, however, we don’t have to not be nerds, and we don’t have to apologize for being nerds. We don’t have to confine our passion to internet forums and convention panel rooms.

When nerds come together, great discussions can be had about nerd interests, but that’s only if we’re secure in ourselves as nerds and as people. Let’s not apologize, let’s just be who we are.

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12 Replies to ““We Don’t Have To Be Nerds””

  1. It’s not that you “have” to be a nerd. You “want” to be a nerd. And it’s not that being a nerd about something means “you’re a nerd”. It’s high time people realized that. You can be a nerd when it comes to certain things and not be a nerd about everything else. That doesn’t make you one of the guys from Revenge of the Nerds. It makes you someone who’s passionate about something(s). Maybe a teenager might think that being passionate about something makes you “a nerd”, but teenagers rarely know their asses from their elbows yet, so why dwell on their opinion?

    1. First, I’d like to clarify that the people going on about how “we don’t have to be nerds” and, to a greater extent, those perpetuating “nerd hierarchy” are not teenagers and are mostly grown men and women, often considerably older than myself.

      That out of the way, your assertion raises some interesting questions about the nature of “being a nerd.” Now, I’d contend that a person who does a lot of research about football and knows extensively about stats, teams, players, etc. is a “football nerd.” The question is, is this guy a “Nerd,” and what constitutes “being a nerd?”

      Passion is certainly a requirement, but does the subject matter factor into it? How many things do you need to be into to be a “Nerd?” Does the term “Nerd” even have the same meaning between you and I? When I use the term “Nerd,” I’m referring to an individual who either is very passionate about fringe interest subjects (Anime, math, cosplay) or is so passionate about a “normal” interest subject that the degree of interest is fringe (Football, videogames). Not every nerd is one of the guys from Revenge of the Nerds. That’s a stereotype. In fact, that’s part of why we can’t be apologetic about our passion or interests.

      I mean, what is a “Nerd?” The way it looks like you portray it, nobody can be a nerd, because nobody is passionate about everything.

      1. Well, that’s the point. It’s not like classical stereotypical “nerds” were nerds about everything either. I think the definition is just a hold-over from the time when the word “nerd” was a derogatory label for a certain stereotype of person.

        These days, you can “be nerdy” about things, but we’ve mostly lost that old-school image of the nerd. It’s been mostly reclaimed and turned into something more positive and “normal”. I mean, people call others “football nerds” now. Back then a “football nerd” was more typically called a “jock”.

        So I agree: it’s probably a good time to figure out what “being a nerd” really means. Can one “be a nerd” anymore, outside of when they’re being passionate about something only they care about at the time? Is there really anyone who isn’t a nerd about SOMETHING?

        1. You bring up some really good points. I don’t know how far I’d go with saying that the idea of the “nerd” is positive or normal nowadays. Sure, the modern narrative is that nerds are valuable and often become very successful, but there’s still a revulsion toward nerds and “nerd interests” from society (And if not from society, then from other nerds). Put simply, it’s portrayed as positive and normal, but not treated as either.

          As far as what “being a Nerd” (I’ll use a capital “N” in Nerd when referring to general Nerds, as a community; how most people would use the word) means, I’d assert that a key aspect of “Nerd-dom” is that Nerd interests are fringe. For example, I’d sooner call an avid X3: Terran Conflict player a nerd than an avid Call of Duty: Ghosts player. So, the “football nerd” might be a nerd about football, but I’d hesitate to call him/her a “Nerd” by virtue of that alone.

          If we look at Nerds, we see that a common thread among them is the fringe nature of their interests. For example, the group in the video I linked to at the beginning of the article is into robot toys (Note: Not considered a fringe interest for children, but definitely considered a fringe interest for grown men.) The Geeky Panda, myself, and a few of our friends are all really into the Ace Combat series of games. The things that fascinate Nerds typically don’t see much penetration into the mainstream, and I think that’s a big part of what “being a Nerd” means.

          1. I think you’re onto the same general idea I am. I think there’s just being a nerd about things, but whether it’s viewed positively or negatively by society depends on how fringe it is.

            Like you said, being a football nerd isn’t viewed with as much derision as being a nerd about magical girl anime. But “being a nerd” in general isn’t as negative as it was a couple decades ago.

            Back then, you wouldn’t even call more socially acceptable nerdism “nerdy”, you’d call it something else. Like being a jock, or just being really into something more mundane. “Being a nerd” is no longer as much of an instinctive negative anymore, it’s whatever you’re a nerd about.

            I think that people fall back on the idea of a capital-n Nerd when they don’t want to view THEIR nerdism as nerdism. In other words, the negative use of “nerd” is used by people who don’t want to acknowledge their own nerdisms.

            Perhaps, then, a capital-n Nerd is someone who doesn’t care what others think of their nerdisms, no matter how unpopular they are?

          2. @Hogart
            I think that’s it right there. A Nerd is someone who’s interests are fringe, but is still very passionate about them, despite the stigma that goes with that.

            Going back to football, a “football nerd” probably wouldn’t be considered a “Nerd” by the general populace because football isn’t a fringe interest.

            I also agree that a lot of the negativity surrounding the term “nerd,” especially coming from other individuals passionate about fringe interests, comes from a refusal to embrace their own nerdism, which is part of where we get nasty things like nerd hierarchy.

  2. People need to realize that being a nerd isn’t an off and on switch. To ask people to not be nerdy is to ask them to turn off their brains. Basically telling them to stop being the person they are. It’s never ever that convenient.
    Furthermore, one of my pet peeves and generally lumping nerds, geeks, and dorks into a single word as if everyone’s a smart introvert who’s obsessively passionate about a thing.

  3. Sure, I wouldn’t necessarily define myself as being a nerd all the time. In fact, some things I can really get into are anything but nerdy. But I like being a nerd. It’s a lot of fun, and what’s wrong with having fun?

  4. “We don’t have to be nerds. We can actually sit here and talk about life, girls, football, y’know, whatever the stuff we’re into, and also talk about toys, naturally, but it’s laid-back…”

    He sounds like an insecure guy who can’t freely admit that he likes something that society considers “Childish” so he tries to pass it off in a casual manner. I thought America was in this trend where it was “Cool” to be a nerd. And why not? Geeks/Nerds have a tremendous value to society, its through their knowledge and ideas combined with hard working backs that we have the society that we have today. So if nerds/geeks have such a societal value how can you be “Too Nerdy?” Or do people still have it in the back of their minds all the negative stereotypes of someone who is a “hardcore” nerd?

    We as a society need to get past this “Cartoons and Toys is childish” stigma, what one does in their own freetime is nobody else’s business. Your worth in society isn’t what you do in your freetime, but what you contribute to make the world a better place.

    1. America is sort of half-pregnant on the “it’s cool to be a nerd” thing. On one hand, the contributions people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg etc. have made to society are noticeable and very real to all of us. On the other hand, nerds are still, for the most part, ignored (at best) or cast out (at worst) societally until they make some kind of major contribution like that (Unless they’re very attractive).

      Another way to look at it is in the media we consume. Properties formerly relegated exclusively to nerds are now blockbuster movies (Transformers, Marvel/DC Comics, etc.). It’s cool to be into them, but it’s still nerdy to be too into them.

      Or look at gaming. If you’re playing what everyone else is playing (Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc.) you’re cool, but if you start talking about Record of Agarest War or Senko no Ronde, that’s too nerdy for most people.

      Nerds have plenty of societal value, but they’re often actively discouraged from living up to their potential. They’re told to work on their weaknesses, rather than play to their strengths, and that means wasted opportunities.

      “Society: Be yourself!”
      “Society: No, not like that.”

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