There was a time when being the sort of person who wore glasses, had braces, liked books and/or did well in school made you a target for bullying. I think, among younger people, this is still the case. I know that at primary school I was constantly being called a ‘bodrick’ (however that’s really spelt) because I was clever.
But for the older ones, who spend their time on internet and watching YouTube videos, it’s ceased to be an insult. It’s a label that people wear with pride – I’ve seen so many Twitter biographies that just list ‘nerd’ as one of their attributes.
When trying to discover the reasoning behind this, my first thoughts are that it’s because of John and Hank Green, known to the YouTube community as the vlogbrothers, and the people responsible for various things including the forums, In Your Pants, the record label, DFTBA records, and VidCon. The community nerdfighteria has definitely made people who once tried to be cool revel in their eccentricity. Seeing DFTBA written on someone’s bag in permanent marker will instantly make the two of you friends. (I know this from personal experience.) But the Vlogbrothers are not alone.
So, you ask, was it Charlie McDonnell and Alex Day? Was it Liam Dryden? Was it just Chameleon Circuit in general, with their undeniably nerdy songs? Were these vloggers’ ridiculous, sometimes Doctor Who related videos what made nerds cool?
I don’t think it was any one person. I think that the Internet itself made being nerdy cool.
For a while, people who had computers were obscenely rich, or scientists. Then they were people who needed them for work. Then they were people who were ahead of the trend, or incredibly geeky. And finally, computers became something that almost everybody in the first world had, something that schools took for granted when setting homework (very annoying for those whose Internet is down!). But still, people who spent all evening on the Internet were obviously social outcasts.
And then came forums, and YouTube, and Twitter, and the hundreds of thousands of blogs that now exist, and people began to see that they weren’t alone, that other people felt the same way they did about all sorts of things. They entered into discussions about various aspects of TV shows and books that none of their friends in real-life wanted to admit that they’d seen or read, and that was when things began to change.
People found that they weren’t alone. People saw that others were exactly the same as them. They realised – I don’t have to be like the ‘cool’ people! I can be who I want to be, because this community on [insert social media here] will support me whatever happens!
And so they were. At first, they were bullied, but they had support. More and more people joined them. Are you really going to make fun of the gruop that outnumbers you? Are you?
When I was at primary school the ‘cool’ kids were the ones who got in trouble, who wore fashionable clothes…well, you know the drill. And it was the same for the first couple of years at secondary school, too. But now I’m in year eleven, my last year of compulsory schooling, and I’m beginning to notice what probably began at least a year ago: there are two groups of popular kids. There are the troublesome, fashionable students, and then there are the nerds.
And they’re not all acne-ridden geniuses (genii?) with glasses. They know how to dress (most of them), and they won’t say no to a party or a shopping trip, but that doesn’t mean they’re not nerds.
Being a nerd isn’t about what other people think you are, it’s about what you think you are. It’s about the conversations you’ve had with perfect strangers about the stupidest of things; it’s about daring to be different; it’s about going out there and saying that you don’t care what others think, you’ll work for your exams and get the grades you deserve; it’s about not hiding your light because you don’t want to draw attention to yourself; and most of all, it’s about connecting.
Maybe ‘nerd’ isn’t the right word any more. So many of the people I know who spend time on the Internet, or people I’ve met online, consider themselves to be ‘nerdfighters’, reducing ‘world suck’. And that’s great. Me? I’ve always wanted to stand out from the crowd and it took me way too long to realise that I watched the videos, every one of them, and I was a Nerdfighter. Being a member of the community wouldn’t take away my uniqueness, it would make me belong.
‘Nerd’ used to mean someone who was clever, who liked computers, and who wasn’t too good around people. Oh, there was more to it than that, but it wasn’t a good thing. Now there’s a certain brand of people for whom it’s the ultimate compliment.
“You’re such a nerd!”
“Why, thank you.”
Being a nerd isn’t so unique any more. There are more of them around than there ever were, and I blame the Internet. Or thank it, I’m not sure which.
But its very nature enables you to be different. Be yourself, however weird others think that is, and you’ll find yourself supported by so many people. I have never met a nerd who disliked another nerd for being ‘not nerdy enough’ or ‘not one of us’.
Joining a community of online weirdos isn’t going to make you lose yourself; you don’t have to conform to fit. People will accept you.
That’s what I’ve learned since I started spending time on the Internet, and although sometimes I find myself irritated by people who have never done something slightly nerdy in their life (You mean, you’ve never sneaked up behind someone with a toy dalek, or made a vlog, or discussed the finer philosophy of Doctor Who, or compared LotR to Star Trek, or got distracted in a library for more than an hour? You haven’t lived!) calling themselves ‘nerds’, I force myself to forgive them. Who am I to judge?
It can only be a good thing, can’t it, that so many people over the world are connecting under one virtual banner?
Well. That’s open to debate.
But for now I say: be proud to be a nerd. Be proud to be different. Be proud to like what you want to like and not worry what other people will think about you because of it.
But most of all,
Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.