Completely Different: On Nerds

I’ve had too much time on my hands; time that I could have been blogging and musing and providing content to the community of wonderful bloggers that I have gotten to know over the past few years. But my story isn’t really moving. In fact, medical issues have kind of put it on hold. Nothing too awfully major, but those of you who travel on this road know that no issue is too small to be exploited if you’re really looking for an excuse.

So I’ve spent a gob of time on the net, but precious little of it reading and writing. Don’t be mistaken: I am a huge, huge fan of web 2.0. But I think we’re at least at web 2.5. Instead of read/write, it is more watch/produce. Producing content and interacting with the content is still the defining characteristic, but YouTube provides richness beyond anything else going right now. Blogging still has its place, but it is being taken over by more and more V-logging. I’ve been watch all sorts of vlogs the past couple of weeks, and have discovered that whole otherworld of the new 21st century celebrity that is available to anyone who is creative and daring enough.

I have traveled around YouTube before, courtesy of many of your links, but never really got into the community aspect of it. And there’s every bit of a community there as there is here with bloggers. In fact, the visual/auditory modalities can add a lot to the community experience. If you’re daring enough.

For the past 4 months or so, Caitlin Hill has been a guilty indulgence. I ran across her video on Vegemite and totally liked it.  I liked how spastic and outrageous she was, and watched more of her videos.  I also liked the Australian accent, although it is a bit weird, because while an Aussie will often drop the ‘r’ in  words like “weird” or “bird”, which is rather British-like they will tack it on to words like “know” and “No” and “so”.  But all that aside, I was charmed.  As I dug deeper into the Youtube community, I discovered a pretty vibrant thing going on there.  Most notably, a movement that is making being a nerd or geek a cool thing to be.  Suddenly, being a nerd is a cool thing.

Wow.  Where the hell was this pro-geek culture when *I* was in high school or college?

Us old school nerds have totally missed it.  The question is this: will these neo-nerds accept us old school nerds, or are we still too geeky for this hip, new, trendy culture?  While being a nerd (which is seen more favorably than geek on the east coast but reversed on the west) today still involves non-athletic creativity, the community has become much bigger and tighter thanks to Youtube vloggers.  They have managed to harness technology in a way that has made it possible for nerds to be every bit as vain and narcissistic as those jock/cheerleader-types we seemed to envy and dislike back in the day.

Enter, the Nerdfighters.

Just looking at the name, you might suspect that these are a bunch of nerd-haters but one quickly realizes that the nerdfighters are themselves nerds.  I still think the name implies nerd-on-nerd violence, but those folks who invented it use it a bit differently.  They basically decided that it was nerds fighting against “world suck.”  Many of you may know this already.  Many of you may even be a part of the nerdfighting thing.  The nerds have definitely taken over YouTube.  Many neo-nerd communities seem to revolve around Harry Potter.  While Harry Potter looked like a bit of nerd, he was entirely too talented at quidditch to be taken seriously as a nerd.  At least from where I sit, it takes more than wearing glasses to make one a nerd.

Blogging and vlogging would naturally seem to attract more nerdish people because it involves socializing online rather than in real life.  That doesn’t mean we don’t socialize in real life, but the fact that we have this existence apart from real life is something a non-nerd has a hard time understanding.  I’ve tried to explain it, but I’d be better off just teaching these people about Linux.  Fact is, they aren’t all that interested.

I’m glad that there is a place where nerds can rule, even if it is sort of a virtual place.  But it’s interesting to note that within that place, there are still groups and cliques, just like there was in high school.   And if you’re a girl vlogger, looks still matter.  Same with male vloggers too,  I imagine although guys have to have a bit more talent to really make it compared to a lady whose willing to show some flesh in her thumbnail.  I don’t blame the women for doing it, since it is the guys who drive that kind of traffic.

Anyway, this is not a very coherent post.  I was just thinking about my own days of being a young nerd.  I didn’t have a date to any school dance or prom or anything.  And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to or didn’t try.  It was that writing, music and acting were extremely low on the social food chain.  Even nerdy girls didn’t want to date me.  But then even that concept is being challenged now, according to this Newsweek article.

We’re all vulnerable to narcissism, and perhaps those of us who were marginalized as youngsters are even more prone to it.  A lot of us were invisible and then those few times we weren’t invisible we wished we were.

Some of these neo-nerds look entirely too cool to be real nerds.  I mean they seem to be missing out on a lot of what it means to be a social misfit by actually fitting in!  On one hand, I’m sort of glad that being a nerd-geek is not the bad thing it once was.  I especially like that there is an outlet that is so accessible to those of us with social, emotional and behavioral issues.  We can sort of see a person by what they produce in intellectual and creative content beyond whatever they look like or their performance in an athletic arena or beyond the fatness of their wallet.  There’s a sort of egalitarianism in it.  On the other hand, I see the labels “nerd” and “geek” being co-opted and marketed by a lot of folks who might not have any business being called nerds.

I know there’s some old school geek lords around here who are well versed in nerdcraft.  What makes a person nerdy?  Is it now cool to be more nerdy?  Is there a hierarchy among geeks?  Would you prefer to be called a geek or a nerd?



8 Responses to Completely Different: On Nerds

  1. John says:

    I thought being a nerd became cool when the nerds became rich during the first internet bubble. I know nerds weren’t cool in the 1970s, when I was one 😦

  2. FTN says:

    Weezer, 1994 — Rivers Cuomo helped the geeks hit the big time with the “Buddy Holly” song. Around the time that alternative and grunge was hitting, it suddenly became cool for rock stars to be the “ex band geek” type. Big hair rockers of the ’80s may have been ex band geeks, but they couldn’t flaunt it back then like they could in the mid-90s and now. It became apparent that a specialized skill could really do something for you later in life.

    Obviously the proliferation of the Internet helped. Programming and IT became a big business among the 20-something crowd, and you could even live like a rock star if you ended up with enough capital for your startup.

    I’m not sure if I could be classified as a nerd or a geek in high school, but I’m sure I was probably lumped in there by many. I loved sports, and I played a few of them, but I was never the jock type. I dated a couple girls, but I was never horribly popular in my class. Most of my friends ended up being in band, in theater, in choir, in newspaper. I was probably somewhere along the lines of Jim in “American Pie,” when he says

    “I *am* a band geek. I just never joined the band.”

  3. xi summit says:

    I am a geeky nerd. Best of both worlds ….

  4. Digger Jones says:

    Well, John, I wonder if we’re too old to be cool now. And then again, maybe we can get respect as old school nerds. Imagine people who snubbed you back in the day maybe might say, “Yeah, I remember John who always seemed kind of nerdy…he was way ahead of his time!”

    While you might have a few geeky tendencies, FTN, I don’t think of you in that way. I’m sorry…you’re not nerdy enough to be in the chess or astronomy club. How’s that for the new elitism?

    Xi, OTOH, you are totally in. I nominate you for secretary unless 2amsomewhere wants it, as he is among the geekiest bloggers I know, outside of those who actually have tech blogs.

    I sometimes come across people who are looking to join the nerderoti and glom on to the hipness of the new “cool.” I have my own litmus test, which may or may not be fair. I simply ask them “What’s your favorite Linux distro?” If they can’t answer, they need to do additional homework. And anyone still using Explorer is banned for life, even though it was a geek who invented it. Staying ahead of the popular crowd is getting more difficult all the time.


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