What do you think of when you hear the word nerd? Has that definition changed for you as you’ve evolved? For many of us growing up decades ago, the term was often used as a pejorative, meant to indicate someone who had trouble with conventional social relationships at the behest of socially awkward hobbies.
How times change. Now, nerd is often worn as a point of pride, and rightly so. Not only are modern generations raised on computers, video games, and other hobbies, but it seems that hobbies that were once considered the realm of social outcasts are now lauded by people across society. Just as it should be. Even big action stars like Henry Cavill will unapologetically talk about his love for Warhammer 40,000, or Michael B. Jordan will talk about how much he loves anime.
So, how did the nerd stereotype become moot, and what does it indicate in the modern world? Let’s explore that below, as a sort of victory lap for those cool nerds who have been vindicated, knowing their only crime was liking cool stuff before everyone else:
The Rise Of Video Games – Gamer Culture
Video games have always been popular to some degree since their inception, the technology is just that engaging. Since then, it’s become the largest entertainment industry on the planet. Iconic characters permeate our lives. From Lara Croft to Max Payne, from the Grand Theft Auto cast to the enduring Nintendo characters we all know and love, video games have become more mainstream than ever before.
It’s incredible how this format has at once been accessible and opened up others to more niche hobbies. From the aforementioned Warhammer opening people up to strategy gaming to Baldur’s Gate 3 serving as a crowning title of 2023 introducing many new people to D&D, it’s not hard to see how once niche hobbies have now become standardized. They also permeate other industries as well. In other words, nerd culture is now “the culture.”
Tech Literacy As A Social Norm
Some might suggest that the older internet of homebrew websites and hobbyist pages was much superior to the modern standard of centralized platforms like Reddit and Instagram, but the truth is that tech literacy, at least in part, has become a social norm through and through.
It’s perfectly acceptable for someone to geek out about photography thanks to using some of the shooting modes of their iPhone and filters on Instagram, and we shouldn’t dismiss those who come through more accessible methods into their hobbyist approach.
The Nerd Approach To Welcoming & Fostering Community
While nerds may have once been social outcasts, through that they learned the value of welcoming people from all walks of life. From being inclusive and championing diversity, communities were built from the ground up, through wholly authentic means.
This tradition remains today, where everyone from every ethnic background, culture, education level, and economic background can engage in most hobbies, with investment being the main issue (a joking comment in a miniatures subreddit goes that the hobby is inclusive to everyone, except those with a thin wallet).
It’s hard not for a welcoming community to grow and develop itself over time, especially if it’s a refuge people enjoy spending time in. The truth is that life is big, sometimes worrying, and often challenging. More than anything, it’s unpredictable. That’s why many of us find deep joy and refuge in our hobbies, where we can engage in games, fiction, or escapist enjoyment without having to worry about those difficulties, or can learn new things about ourselves in a safe environment. Turns out, that’s relatable to almost everyone.
While used to put people down, looking into the modern meaning of the word is quite revealing. “Nerd” means caring about something, being interested in a topic, or having a great deal of knowledge and expertise in a field. It’s hard not for a term that describes an objectively good attitude like this to end up becoming a healthy descriptor. Moreover, nerds, are still people. They practice self-care like anyone else, be that using purple shampoo on brown hair, meditating, exercising, or whatever else. What matters is your character, not how much of a social butterfly you are.
Now, most people are proud to be nerds. They’ll show off their collections, their gaming scores, or whatever else they find interesting. It’s cool to show someone models you’ve made, games you’ve designed, or experiences you’ve enjoyed with others. How this was ever considered embarrassing shows a real lack of imagination, and like many narrow-minded views, sooner or later they become redundant. Although, back in the day it was just more difficult to form larger spaces like we can now on the interwebs. Double-edged sword really, though that’s a whole other conversation.
We hope you continue to find the confidence to let your nerd flag fly high!