Everyone should be a nerd in their own right. Not to fit in with the latest trend or to please someone else, but to allow them the pure bliss that comes with immersing yourself in something you truly love. While nerd culture continues to expand and flood the mainstream market through films, television shows, video games, and all other aspects of the entertainment world, at times I worry that people are missing the point of what these experiences have to offer. If you’re only seeing Batman through a corporate money making lens or you only enjoy a video game for it’s graphics and popularity, you’re only exposing yourself to the tip of the iceberg. I’ve noticed that people (myself included) get stuck in this limbo land of really enjoying something and wanting to delve more into the topic, but feeling that they can’t because of what others will think about them as a result. While it’s natural to be concerned with how we are perceived by others, we’re so sensitive to how we are perceived by the outside world that we restrict ourselves in how enthusiastic we can be about our interests.
It frustrates me endlessly to see people tiptoeing around their potential passions to avoid criticism.
If someone is not willing to proclaim being a complete nerd, they’ve got to be careful that they’re not too invested in any storyline, film, video game, TCG or any other aspect of entertainment that might be deemed “too nerdy” and thus make them some sort of outcast. This is where nerds just don’t care, we take pride in the things we enjoy and we aren’t afraid to say it. Perhaps, this unwavering commitment to ourselves is why we’re so often labeled as antisocial, awkward or ___________. As John Green said in a Vlogbrothers video from 2009:
“Nerds like us are able to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff.”
John goes on to explain that unlike non-nerds who all too often have to temper their excitement or risk being questioned for how passionate they are about any given interest, nerds celebrate their interests with deep, unyielding excitement. This is something everyone should be able to do without question or fear of judgement. While this level of excitement can also exist in interests that aren’t particularly nerdy, like sports, if an interest doesn’t meet up to society’s preconceived notions of what makes someone attractive/strong/interesting, it’s a mark against you on the social scale which is unfortunate to say the least. Some of the most creative, thoughtful and brilliant people I have ever met are nerds who greet the world with an open mind.
In the past few years, I’ve really worked to distance myself from what everyone expects me to be and just focus on who I am, which happens to be pretty nerdy. While it’s great to shed that bullshit baggage of irrelevant societal norms, it still causes me to consider my actions and interests regularly. Thankfully, my writing and reading habits have always allowed me to stay tapped into the worlds and themes I love. Through this portal of awesomeness that has continued to grow since I was a child, I’ve come to realize how important the realms of fantasy and horror are in making me a more empathetic and compassionate human being (though I’m totally open to adapting the ability to shape-shift, just sayin’).
While there are certainly examples of people who dive a little too deep into nerd culture (or ANY culture) and lose touch with other important parts of the world, those issues are more rooted in the individual and not the culture itself (though some games do lend themselves to unhealthy habits, see Internet Gaming Addiction in the DSM V for more on that topic). I just don’t understand why these extreme experiences are still considered the norm? Nerds come in every shape, size, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. Everyone deserves to be nerdy about whatever it is they love without fear of judgement.
Are nerds perfect? No. Are nerds better than non-nerds? Nope. But we’re people. We have interests that we are endlessly passionate about because they not only give us a break from the ups and downs of the most mundane parts of our lives, but because they help us to realize the collective current that connects all of us. An author can write a story that is both entertaining and significant to readers 100 years later, even if that story exists in a realm that only exists in our minds. If you don’t think that “nerdy things” like Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, comic books, or video games don’t hold any value to the lives of their fans, I challenge you to find the biggest nerd you know and ask them what it is they love about their favorite franchise/nerdy thing. You may just be surprised at what you learn.
For my fellow the nerds out there, do you ever feel like you have to scale down your excitement about something just to avoid criticism from people around you who don’t understand your excitement? Or do you feel that people are more accepting of your interests because you’re so passionate about it?
Image Credit: Yashodhan Talwar on Flickr