Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thoughts on "Geeks" and "Nerds"

I've had a few conversations related to this topic recently. For those of you who haven't noticed, every teen and 20-something in the whole world these days seems to claim that they are a "geek" or a "nerd". This has lead to some social backlash.

Well, a friend just posted a link to this article attacking/spoofing people who have issues with those who self-apply those terms.

Since it's a topic I've been thinking about recently anyway, I posted what I believe to be a relatively thoughtful response to the topic, which I've decided to go ahead and share on here as well.

Here it is:

I don't think it's about judging others for not being geeky enough. I think it's more about the defensiveness surrounding a label that arises when one suffers for belonging to a group.

Like it or not, being "nerdy" is in right now, and when something gets popular it's a simple fact that people will jump on the bandwagon for attention. That's not an attack on "fake geek girls" or anything, it's just a statement of truth. Well that's all fine, but kids who grew up in social isolation, bullied on the playground and beaten up by classmates for being "nerds" or "geeks" are understandably going to have some issues with the popular cheerleaders from school sitting down to play Minecraft with their friends and then self-applying those same labels.

That article/video paints it as a "this is our club, you can't join" thing, but I don't think that's accurate. I think it's more of a "don't patronize me by pretending you know what it feels like" thing.

I hesitate to put the terms "geek" and "nerd" in the same category as racial or homophobic slurs, but in many respects they are lesser manifestations of the same ideas. Like with those other terms, seeing somebody from outside the group use them without the context of knowing the pain they once caused can be grating. It can lead to the feeling that "you haven't earned the right to use that word," and that, I believe, is at the root of the recent outrage over many of the people who self-apply those terms.

1 comment:

  1. I think you've hit the nail on the head with this.

    I have to say, though, that I've had very little experience with this. In elementary school, there were a couple of older kids who called me "space cadet" because I was into sci-fi themes and drew pictures to that effect. But there wasn't any real bullying of the "as seen on TV" kind. In my high school I never saw anyone stuffed in a locker, and what wedgies or noogies occurred were between friends who were ribbing each other. Bitchy comments from one particular girl in the class ahead of me were the worst thing that ever happened, apparently because she thought high school was supposed to be like the movies, but ours didn't have the traditional social hierarchy. At least not that I perceived. As far as I could tell, everyone had their own group and they were happy with it, except for one or two people who were hangers-on in other groups, but they weren't really picked on. One group was not seen as more desirable than another. You joined where you wanted to be.

    As an adult I've self-applied the label "wanna-be nerd," because I am interested in a lot of nerdy pursuits but haven't really gotten to the point of full-on nerdhood, except perhaps with metal geekery or my former avid Magic: the Gathering hobby. I don't know whether it's an appropriate way to describe myself, but I think it gets at an aspect of who I am.