Words by Cam Higgins
Between getting shoved in lockers, our lunch money taken, and swirlies, nerds have had a historically tough go of it. It’s only fair that the pendulum of karma would swing back the other way. Indeed, we’re living a golden age of nerding out.
We’ve got comic book heroes dominating the silver screen and cultural conversation. It seems like ancient history when these were the purview of the isolated fanboy. Video games are what literally everyone does. Secretly, even jocks like the playing the game FIFA more than soccer. We’re more comfortable with our online selves than our actual selves, prefer cyber sex to real sex. Adderall, a drug designed for intense solitary focus, is the defining millennial drug.
Formerly, these would be the unfairly maligned qualities of the ‘nerd.’ Yet all of these qualities are the new normal. Athletic violence and aggressive social interaction are no longer in vogue. We approach traditionally masculine pursuits and displays with raised eyebrows. No one’s happy to see a passel of cornfed bros cruise into their favorite neighborhood bar.
The nerd — the thoughtful, imaginative and considerate, the electronically connected human — is the new cool. Yet that’s still kinda superficial.
On a deeper level, what this golden age of nerding out is about is just that: nerding out. Nerding out being the process of losing oneself in a passion project or binge learning about a topic, binge watching an interesting show, binge reading a dope book. With the advent of electronic music producing, the democratization of voice on the internet, it’s never been easier to explore new communities or go deep on a passion project.
This is the flipside of the social technology’s most maligned aspect: that while it gives us the illusion of connectivity, tech is actually diminishing connection and drawing us into inner worlds of projection and miscommunication. That’s a highly valid criticism. However, every coin has a flipside.
These isolating qualities of current tech situation give us great creative power. Instead of battling for gallery space, upstart artists go straight to Instagram. Poets post verse to twitter. Even the broiest users make creative memes to share. Technology is facilitating a deep creativity. Indeed, it’s making creativity cool. And serious creativity is inherently nerdy: solitary, thoughtful, focused and never over-confident.
Screaming drunk about sports stats at the bar doesn’t sound all that dope in comparison. Nerd should no longer be understood as a pejorative. Bro, on the other hand, once an all-powerful category, is the butt of jokes in the the same way nerds were in high school.
The nerd renaissance is nearly complete, and we couldn’t be more stoked.
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