Obsession: Nerd Pride
One of the first things my advisor said to me when I walked into his office frehman year was, “So. You’re a nerd, huh?”
Caught off guard, I stared at him for a few moments. How did he know? I looked down at my chest—was I wearing my Dr. Who shirt? No, I was wearing a dress. Did he think I just looked like a nerd? What does a nerd even look like? I spent a very stressful 45 seconds wondering where he was coming from with that question before remembering something he had told all of his advisees during our group meeting a few days earlier: “I read all of your Common App essays.” That explained it.
I don’t recall exactly, but I think I went with “topic of my choice” for my Common App essay. I wrote about four separate beliefs, but I guess that the part about being a proud, enormous nerd stood out to my advisor. I don’t blame him, since the word “nerd” appears five times within seven lines of text.
I used the word that many times for a few reasons. I consider it to be a great catch-all term for the kind of person I am—one who is passionate about 1) knowledge and 2) Joss Whedon. I also wanted to make a joke about how many times I had used it. Finally, I hoped that repeated use would acclimate readers to seeing the term, helping me get my argument across.
A few years ago, people were more hesitant to label themselves as nerds. It was a rather polarizing term—not only in the sense that there were clearly nerds and non-nerds, but also because the distinction between nerds and geeks was arguably more clear-cut than it is today. I credit John and Hank Green, novelist and scientist respectively, brothers and vloggers together, with blurring the nerd/geek line and making nerdiness more ubiquitous.
Revolving around these two figures for several years now has been the pro-nerd pseudocountry called “Nerdfighteria.” We nerdfighters watch, share, and comment on John and Hank’s videos (sometimes by making videos of our own), but we have also formed with the goal of “decreasing world suck” through donations of time and money. This is a community formed by self-identified nerds to share laughs, discuss nerd-dom, and meet up in real life to make the world a better place. “Nerdfighteria” used to be something of a refuge for those of us who did not necessarily feel comfortable declaring ourselves nerds. Thankfully, the label is now a point of pride.
In my college essay, I referenced something John Green said in one of his many videos, just after stating a belief I (somewhat regretfully) phrased as, “If aloof and detached equate to cool, I’d rather be a loser.” Wow, that sounds bitter. Make that very regretfully. John was discussing the stigma that surrounds being a nerd, and how he could not understand it. How could showing your excitement and passion about the things you love—be they science fiction, fantasy, or something as hard as video games (I’m bad at video games)—be wrong?
Concealing your passions from others is never useful; sharing what we love helps us find others who share our interests, and provides us with the opportunity to introduce people to new areas of knowledge. I credit John and Hank with a large part of the recent revolution in the perception of nerds, and that largely means that, as with food porn, I credit the Internet and its uncanny ability to make havens into phenomena. And doesn’t the proliferation of nerds make the world a better place? People read “A Song of Ice and Fire” in public now! I am pretty sure that means we’ve won.