Nerdiness: and Why it Should be COOL to be NERDY

WHERE DOES it begin, this sense of being the Other? It can come early on, when you find yourself alone in your childhood bedroom, raising tropical fish, composing a poem, writing code, meeting friends mostly online, playing by yourself. Or in middle school, when the jocks turn on you and you pray you will get through gym class alive.

Or maybe it comes in high school, where you find yourself on the outside looking in, getting jostled in the halls, watching TV on weekends while everyone else goes to parties.

After some time, there's an accumulation of slights, hurts, realizations: You don't have a lot of friends; other kids avoid you; you're not good at sports or interested in shopping; the teachers seem to like their other students a lot more. There are few school activities you want to be part of, even if you could. The things you like aren't the same things most other people like.

The alienation is sometimes mild, sometimes savage. Sometimes it lasts a few years, sometimes a lifetime. It depends on where you live, who your parents are, whether there's a single teacher who appreciates you, whether you can cling to one or two friends, how well you can hide your brains.

-excerpt from Geeks, by Jon Katz

The excerpt above gives a good description of discovering that youre different.
Back in the mid '80s, there occurred what was probably the very first era when Nerdiness was celebrated. There were a plethora of movies like Revenge of the Nerds, Real genius, and Weird Science, which celebrated Nerdity and nerd traits. In fact, even in movies that did not deal with Nerds specifically, Nerdy traits were often appreciated. In Breakfast Club, for example, the nerdy character, Brian (played by Anthony Michael Hall), was presented sympathetically. So was the nerdy character in Lucas. Even non-nerds were given nerdy traits. For example, what is Ferris Beuller, exaclty, if not an example of "Nerd-lite"? 

The '90s were not so prolific in nerdiness, but there were more ambigious examples of nerdity, such as the protagonist of the movie Rushmore..  Then, in the 2000's, there were nerdy characters like Peter Parker in the Spiderman movies, the freaky-nerdy X-men, and just about everybody in Napoleon Dynamite. And nerdy TV characters in Ugly Betty and The Big Bang Theory.

What exactly constitutes a "nerd" is not exactly clear. Or even whether there is a difference between Geek and Nerd. Is nerdiness (or geekines) just being intelligent, or shy, or awkward... or is it all of that put together? There are lots of smart people who arent nerdy, and lots of nerdy people who arent all that intelligent. And the same can be said for awkwardness and shyness. Perhaps there isnt an exact definition. One good effort at a definition was attempted by the creator of the classic Nerd Resouce site, who contrasted the traits of Nerds with those of their exact opposite, "Berms."  He gives this well-thought out, generalized definition of nerds:

A nerd is someone who thinks in terms of substance over form,and in terms of absolutes. A nerd tends to neglect packaging in favor of content. Often nerds don't find people very interesting. Nerds usually don't pay much attention to their physical surroundings, or to people's mannerisms, and have difficulty understanding why anybody would want to. Nerds find gossip completely uninteresting. Psychokillers make far better first impressions than nerds. Nerds have strange egos, usually totally lacking in self-confidence yet at the same time seeing themselves as great visionaries somehow.

The person who wrote the Nerdiness Manifesto gave the following view:

Although all nerds are different, most tend to have a few characteristics in common. One of the most obvious is their lack of coordination. A nerd is generally rather clumsy. Rarely are they very good at sports. This is not necessarily their most important aspect, but it is usually the most easily recognized.

Nerds also tend to be fairly intelligent. There are many explanations for this. Some claim that it is due to an excess of free time. Some say that nerds are more easily motivated. Some say that they are just more inclined to be intellectuals. Whatever the reason, cleverness is doubtlessly a key element of nerddom.

Oftentimes, nerds can be recognized by their dress. though many do not go to the extreme of pocket protectors, most tend to be a little bit out of fashion. Whether this is due to ignorance or simply carelessness has yet to be proven.

Finally, there are a few purely physical features that seem to make one more inclined to enter a state of nerdiness. For example, a tall nerd is truly a rare find. Poor eyesight is a must. For one reason or another, the majority of nerds also have dark hair.

(Although I am short, foureyed, and have dark hair, Im cant agree that you can categorize people as nerdy or not based on such rigid physical characteristics!!! Nerds come in all shapes and sizes.)

Or you could take the Geek test and see if you qualify. 

I tend to think that Nerdiness and Geekiness are subtle complicated concepts.

Being "different," "nerdy," "geeky" and, should I add, "freaky" can be hard. Its difficult to realize that youre a square peg, that youre unique and have difficulty fitting in with mainsteam comfomist society. But one thing I picked up from those great '80s films, is that Nerdiness should be fun... and, as contradictory as this may sound, it should also be cool. It should be something us nerd, geeks, freaks, etc. should take pleasure in and have fun with. 

Thats what this site is all about.   Its about celebrating Nerdity. I carefully selected the links to bring out the idea that being smart and different should be a source of joy and fun, and that the negative side of it can be overcome.


super geek