Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart

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You're All Invited to the Nerd Party!

people need to share, not hoard their nerdy, nerdy love

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster

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I like knowing things. Yep, I’ll just go ahead and admit it. “My name is Mike and I like to know things.” To be clear, I’m not talking about the general pursuit of knowledge. I like that, too – it’s a noble and worthwhile pursuit, and it’s the key to being human. It’s also a great justification for staying up all night on The Google, researching who’d win a fight between a gang of five pissed-off wolverines and one pissed-off kangaroo (with body armor).

No, when I say “I like to know things,” what I mean to say is that I like to know things that you don’t know. And I think many of you feel the same way. We like to be the one with the insider info. We like to be the one to tell the story. We like to be the expert. And on many occasions, if we’re not careful, this desire to know stuff makes us look like complete idiots. Know-it-alls. Odious braggarts. Paper cuts under your fingernail.

The absolute worst outcome of being a snobby, obsessed nerd is that you might turn someone away from what you consider an extremely worthwhile obsession. How unforgivably stupid is that?Why do we need to prove we know the most about something? Sometimes we’re just looking for attention. But often we’re just super excited about a particular topic. We’re obsessed with it, and when people start talking about it, we suddenly have a lot of feelings exploding from our face. We’re a nerd for it.

There, I said it. “Nerd.” What I’m describing is classic nerd behavior. It doesn’t matter what kind of nerdery you practice – from Doctor Who to sports, from grammar to music, from movies to Renaissance costumes – there’s always an intense, potent mixture of super-excitement and know-it-allness. Now more than ever, across the Internet and across the world, nerd cultures are as huge, as loud, and as proud as they’ve ever been. Why? Because people are braver about declaring their nerdy obsessions. They feel better about it.

Here’s a fantastic quotation from author John Green about nerds, pretty much just because ...

… nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff … Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it ... when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all, like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.

Being a nerd means being true to yourself and not giving a crap what other people think about it. And that’s awesome. That’s liberating. That’s fun. However, there are good nerds and bad nerds. There are those who share excitement, and there are know-it-alls who hoard it.

Recently, as nerdiness has gotten cooler, we’ve witnessed the rise of pseudo-nerds: a proliferation of people (online and off) identifying with various nerd cultures, despite their obvious cluelessness about said cultures – poseurs jumping onto the nerdwagon.

Über-nerds get angry at pseudo nerds, and I can totally see why. Having been marginalized for their nerdy obsession for some part (or all of) of their lives, how dare non-nerds simply swoop in and steal the now-coolness of it? And by the way, they know way more about it than you do.

And thus began the pseudo nerd backlash.

If you know what a “meme” is, you may have seen the “Idiot Nerd Girl” meme – pictures and text making fun of a female poseur nerd. I used to like these memes. Making fun of clueless people is an easy laugh. But now I’m an “Idiot Nerd Girl” defender. Why? Glad you asked.

I’m part of the pseudo-nerd backlash-backlash (catch all that?) because the absolute worst outcome of being a snobby, obsessed nerd is that you might turn someone away from what you consider an extremely worthwhile obsession. How unforgivably stupid is that?

OK, über-nerd, I get it. You were watching this show, loving this band, or playing this game way before this random newbie even heard of it. So what? You’re not in charge of this thing you didn’t even create. And by acting like you own it, by lording over it, you are killing it. Sharing your excitement (as opposed to being a frak face about it) will only improve it.

Sharing your intense love for an obsession only strengthens the community that surrounds it, which is what sustains it. But also! You get to live vicariously through the newbie – witnessing the joy of their discovery and reliving your own.

This process should not be threatening. You do not own this territory. You have the good fortune of sharing it with others. ‘Tis a gift, kind geeks. And the fun is in the giving.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.