Although it’s basically impossible to pinpoint the exact moment a word transforms to mean something else, it becomes painfully clear when you are on the wrong side of a word’s meaning. Take for example all the men who are still living today with the name Gaylord. There are no men under the age of 65 with that name for a reason, semantic evolution!
The word Nerd has gone through quite a transition even during my lifetime (I was born in the early 80's alongside a number of questionable fashion statements). When I was a kid, being a Nerd was something you steered well clear from. There was even serious debates in the playground as to how close you should ever get to befriending a true ‘Nerd’. Due to the propaganda of films, the entire notion of being deemed ‘Nerd-worthy’ was largely predicated on a few main factors:
- How good your vision was. (The worse your vision, the thicker the glasses, the more you were clearly a Nerd)
- If you had asthma
- If you had strange food for lunch
- If you had particularly good marks in any important class such as math, science, English, or classical music
- If the teacher liked you too much
- If you didn’t understand a new trend that just caught on
- If you asked too many questions about a statement that a ‘cool kid’ made
- If you were remotely clumsy
- If you were not allowed to participate in ‘pizza day’ or ‘hot dog day’
- If your showed affection for you in a close proximity to the school
These were harsh rules, but they were the laws of the land and they were not to be contested- lest you be pronounced a Nerd yourself. Then, something strange happened- Nerds became cool!! And I’m not talking about the over-glorification of the ‘Revenge of the Nerds’, I’m talking about a cultish worship of Geeky, Dorky, Dweeby Nerds. It was sort of a surprise to us all, yet we all seemed to have gotten on the same cultural surfboard and ridden that wave towards the next phase of the Nerd evolutionary track.
Again, I can’t give a specific defining moment in history which changed the trajectory of Nerdiness, but I can give an approximate time period. The era in which Nerds found their place in history was when humanity collectively recognized that computers are NOT just for isolated and awkward individuals who dwell in their parent’s basement. In fact, eventually even the coolest kids on the block had the monumental realization that the world is migrating towards the Nerd-haven known as the internet. When the kids who were buried in their soda sipping, late night code writing, discussion forum lurking started making millions of dollars from their antisocial behavior, the world took note.
That brings me to the present.
As is the case with fads, the shelf life of Nerd worshiping seems to be coming back to a more centered and healthier milieu. We are noticing that just because you own a Tesla, are in a chique Start Up company, and have an Apple watch (this will soon be a very dated reference), it doesn’t make you a good person. With the release of the new Steve Jobs movie the world is admitting that having a Nerd balance is probably a good choice. So then, what pray tell might the future be for all of Nerdkind? Where will be the ensuing resting place for Geeks and Dweebs to call their home?
Here’s what I believe:
Nerdiness will no longer be associated to the thing that you do as classified by it’s proximity to what is popular at that moment in history. There used to be some things that were clearly deemed ‘cool’ and others that had no relationship with ‘coolness’ whatsoever. But the Nerd train is taking us to a place where we all get to participate in our own brand of Nerdliness. As the world is gradually enveloped by the internet, there is a trend towards finding your place in the nooks and crannies of that vast space. The internet can at times feel as overwhelming, so people tend to have very specific places they go in order to feel comfortable. Yes, you may explore here and there but chances are you frequent certain internet destinations over others- and this is a good thing.
When you see ‘jocks’ frequenting their favorite football team’s fan page to check out their fantasy football team’s stats, you know you are living in a time when everyone is at least a little Nerdy about something. Being a Nerd is no longer Nerdy, nor is it particularly Cool, it just kind of… IS. Once you discover the freedom in exploring your Inner Nerdiness, you can finally achieve the sense of freedom that is your birthright!
Barack Obama is a Nerd for Politics.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a Nerd for marketing.
Bored Elon Musk is a Nerd for saving the world.
Justin Bieber is…well let’s not talk about him right now…
Seek after your inner Geek and join a herd of Nerds! It is not only your right to be a Nerd, it’s your destiny!