The Nerd

“an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person” - Merriam-Webster

The stereotype hasn’t gone away. The definitions have evolved over time. Growing up gives you perspective on how the word was used and how it’s used now. The question I seek to answer is, “Are nerds popular now”?

Let’s look back for a second. Picture pants hiked up to your chest, bowtie on a baggy dress shirt, and glasses. So basically Steve Urkel from Family Matters, but look how Jaleel White turned out. Proves you are not who you play as.

Anyway, back on topic here. As far as I can recall, that is what a nerd looked like. You’re stuffed into a locker everyday at school, your lunch money is taken, you clam up in conversation, you have a crush on the most popular person. Am I missing anything here? The majority of this is the television portrayal of the nerd, but when you consume entertainment, expectation ends up being reality.

Where does playing video games factor into the above stereotype? I actually don’t remember it as part of it, at least in entertainment. I think this is the reality part. Video games are pretty synonymous with “nerd culture”. Picture a person, 30 years of age, living in their parent’s basement with a computer, bag or Doritos and a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew playing World of Warcraft for 18 hours a day. That’s the first thing that pops into my head. It’s actually very similar to what I saw in college, in varying degrees, but that’s a story for another day. It’s a slow evolution of what a nerd is. You’re still considered socially awkward because you refuse to see the sunlight and would rather absorb the blue light from your computer screen and you’re dressed differently. I think PJs, a gray hoodie, a beanie, and the ever so regular glasses to top it all off. You try to speak a word about video games and you’re instantly called a nerd and that you have no life. Can’t a nerd catch a break with enjoying something, despite the stereotype putting them in a very negative and unhealthy connotation?

Now, welcome to present day, where the nerd has evolved into a multi-million dollar personality. Video game streaming is all the rage. eSports are being shown on ESPN with huge prize pools. For once, nerds actually look good because they’re making the big bucks. How many people have chased playing video games for a living as a result of watching others stream? It might not even be streaming. There are individuals and groups who are making tons of money posting themselves playing video games, adding their own personality into it. Maybe nerds aren’t so socially awkward at all. With this “evolution”, does it make nerds popular? It certainly seems that way based on the attention they get. Might want to keep a close eye on whether it’s just because they’re making a ton of money, or breaking the barriers of what a nerd typically is defined as. Jury’s still out on it.

I’ve spent most of the time going through the history of a nerd, but what about me? I mean, I’m not writing this just for shits and giggles. Let’s be real here. I’ve been a nerd my entire life. From video games, anime, school, you name it. I fulfilled it. Don’t worry though, I do wash my clothes. I’m also a running nerd. I love running. I watch track meets on the regular. You look at video game and running nerd and you’re probably confused. They’re polar opposites. An activity that requires no real energy and another that requires a good amount of energy. I like it. Kind of makes me feel as if I hover around different spaces of nerdiness. Though I will say, makes it difficult to determine where I truly fit in, but that’s another story I’ve already written about.

The definition of a nerd that I started with is the textbook version. As I (continue to) grow up, I try to understand why that definition is what it is today and how it’s changing in today’s culture. The one thing I learned from one of the most important people in my life on a nerd is that a nerd is just someone who is passionate about something. Sports, television, movies, video games, whatever you have an interest in, you are a nerd in that space. Hell, if you love your job so much you have to be a nerd because you’re doing something that you have a vested interest in. It’s simple. We’re all nerds. We don’t have to be nerds in the same topic and we’re never going to agree of what areas of nerdiness trumps another, but you are a nerd, I am a nerd, we’re all nerds. Not even close to the Wonka candy.

I’ve had conversations with people about how little they reveal about their interests because of how “nerdy” they are. I’ve always told them to embrace it, especially now, but the nerd is in. If people can’t accept your nerdy interests then they might not be people you want to associate yourself with. I mean, that’s probably law when it comes to making friends, I think. People don’t have to respect it, just gracefully accept it and support it from afar. Be the nerd you always wanted to be. Honestly, in 2019, it’s cool now.

Think about it this way, this entire piece I’ve talked about the stereotype and culture of a nerd, I myself have been stereotyping nerds the whole time. Hypocrisy at its finest.