Although I’m very proud of and happy with the rise in popularity of ‘nerdy’ endeavors such as tabletop role-playing games, video games, cosplay and science fiction, not everything associated with being a ‘nerd’ is healthy or beneficial to the community as a whole. No one should be ashamed of the forms of entertainment they enjoy or the types of cloths they wear, but that doesn’t mean that being a ‘nerd’ in it’s current state should necessarily be encouraged. Every Dungeons and Dragons group or Doctor Who enthusiast knows ‘that guy’, but, unfortunately, many alcoves within the nerd world act as echo chambers to reinforce anti-social behavior and negativity. This allows ‘those guys and gals’ to gather and spread their bile under the guise that it is normal and healthy. While we should do our best to show everyone that they should be proud of who they are, there are four distinct versions of ‘that guy’ or ‘that gal’ that are not acceptable, if we plan on being a positive force for good.
Everyone on the internet has met a troll. They lurk around every corner, waiting to derive enjoyment from the displeasure of others. By their very nature trolls are a negative smudge on the internet community and, therefore, on the nerd community as well. If I’m going to talk about nerds and nerdom, I might as well use a nerdy analogy to explain trolls. Trolls are to nerds as Falmer are to Altmer. They were once high-spirited Magic the Gathering players or Dungeon Masters, but the age of the internet has warped them into cruel, emotionless beings, who dwell in the dark within their mother’s basements. It should be obvious that trolls need to be rehabilitated before being a productive member of the geek collective.
Whether it’s games, movies or books, there is always someone telling you that whatever they like is “real”, as opposed to whatever you like. They’re the authentic nerd, and you’re just a poser. This kind of dismissive behavior seems like a reaction to the popularity of the geek chic movement, as nerds fear that non-nerds are stripping them of their identity. Regardless of its origins, this kind of insular behavior serves only to hurt other people and keep the community from growing. There is no such thing as a ‘real’ gamer or a ‘real’ TV show or movie. There are only games, television shows and movies, which people shouldn’t be ashamed to enjoy. In the end, it’s incredibly ironic that nerds, who are known for being social outcasts, are also so quick to push people away.
The Passive Aggressive Clique
The stereotypical image of a nerd is someone who has serious social anxieties or a lack of social skills, and although it isn’t always true, it is at least indicative of a large percentage of the nerd population. While social anxiety is nothing to laugh at, how one deals with one’s social anxieties is what makes or breaks a nerd. While some seek out other nerds to create a comfortable environment in which one may enjoy geeky things, others deal with problems within their friend groups through passive aggression. A passive aggressive clique emerges from even the smallest amount of drama, which leads to every nerd being mad at each other, without having the balls or social skills to communicate their feelings. If being a nerd is going to be considered acceptable, being a passive-aggressive asshole shouldn’t come attached.
The elitist validates his entire existence based on his gamer’s score, kill/death ratio or max level character. He’s better than you and wants you to know it. Does he even enjoy games anymore or has he conceded to the endless cycle of hate-spewing fifth that is solo-queue match making? No one will ever know. What we do know is that ‘that guy’ needs another hobby. Sadly, he’ll attempt to make just about any new hobby he takes up competitive. He’ll make sure he builds model airplanes better than you, plays ultimate frisbee better than you and does yoga better than you, too. Feeling good about yourself is great, but not if it comes at the cost of putting down others. It’s okay to flaunt your successes if you’re an Olympic athlete or a Nobel prize winning chemist, but no one cares how many more level 80’s you have on World of Warcraft or what rank you are in League of Legends.
If we’re going to strip being a nerd of its social stigma, we should do our best to rid the nerd community of the kind of negativity that only serves to reinforce the stereotypes about nerds, geeks and basement dwellers. For a group of people known for not being accepted by mainstream society, we should do our best to show them just how friendly we are, not to mention how awesome Star Trek is.