Monday, April 4, 2011

In Defense of Nerdfighters (A Discussion about People, Groups, and "Posers")

Okay, folks! Here's the dealio. A friend of mine on Twitter said that he thought these "Nerdfighters" that have been going around the web were just hipster "nerds". I, being a Nerdfighter, decided to rally to our defense! It was actually a really interesting conversation and I came to some interesting conclusions about people and about myself.

1. A single group of people is complex, even if they are united by a common characteristic: in this case, "nerds".  There are many people who identify as nerds, and each person has their own definition of what it means to BE a nerd. I, for example, consider myself more of a language nerd, though I enjoy other classically "nerdy" things like video games and puzzles. There are other nerds out there, though, who are math nerds. Vihart is an excellent example of this. Now, I don't know if Vihart considers herself a Nerdfighter, but I do think she considers herself a nerd, which puts us both into the same group. And yet we are SO DIFFERENT. The cool thing is, though, I can respect and even enjoy her nerdiness, despite the fact that my love is language rather than math. So not only do we need to see individual people complexly, but we also need to see groups complexly.

2. Who cares WHY other people do what they do or claim to be who they claim to be? That doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if someone claims to love Harry Potter because all the cool kids love Harry Potter. That's THEIR decision. Just because I love Harry Potter for the sake of loving it doesn't mean that I should judge other people because I think they're just Potter POSERS. If I think that Harry Potter has lost its value because other people like it for reasons I deem NON-LEGITIMATE, then I'm just as bad as people who say they like something just because it's the cool thing to like. I don't care what other people think about Harry Potter, I LOVE Harry Potter and that will never be affected by what other people think about it. Ceasing to like something because other people like it for its "coolness" is just as bad as liking something only because it is "cool."

3. I had a third point, but I can't remember what it was going to be. So, yeah. Lol.

Anyway, I just thought this was a really interesting discussion. If you'd like to see our whole conversation, I've transcribed it for you! (I did tweak a few grammatical things, fyi. Didn't change any content, just added an apostrophe here and there and elongated things like "b/c" that are necessary on Twitter. Also, color coded for your enjoyment.)

FRIEND (original tweet that sparked the discussion): Maybe it’s just me but this "nerdfighter" stuff that I see going around the net seems like just a bunch of hipster "nerds".

ME: Nerdfighters come in all shapes and sizes (and incidentally have been "going around the net" since 2007).

ME:  Not sure how you're defining "hipster," but I'm sure there are hipster Nerdfighters. I don't really consider MYSELF a hipster, though.

FRIEND:  Yah but their interest in things that are part of nerd culture seems shallow. More to be cool than geeking out over stuff

ME:  Hmm. Would you consider my interest in Harry Potter to be more "cool" than "geeking out"? Because it's definitely not.

FRIEND: Again, just impressions but these aren’t the people I think of when I think nerds (being one myself and around them)

ME: Honestly? There probably are Nerdfighters who call themselves that to be cool. But you'll get that with any group.

FRIEND:  I mean hipster as in being interested because it’s different from the mainstream, rather than legitimately being invested

ME:  I just think it's dangerous to generalize a group of very diverse people. I'd say many Nerdfigthers ARE interested in mainstream.

FRIEND:  Nah, you're legitimately nerdy about HP haha. But I’m talking people who throw out a portal joke and prolly never played it

ME:  Yeah, well that IS annoying. But, again, probably not the majority of Nerdfighters.

ME: The other thing, often jokes from specific things like video games become in-jokes between Nerdfighters who haven't played them. Like, I could say "the cake is a lie" and I get the background of the joke, but to me it's funny because other people who HAVE used it in a context that was funny and it caught on. That's true in popular culture, too, though. Lots of allusions are made to literature or sports in everyday speech by people who don't even KNOW what they're alluding to.

FRIEND: Understandable, but as someone who is personally invested in it, it can be rather annoying to see people act that way

ME:  I totally get that. Really. I would never say "the cake is a lie" because I've only heard it second hand. But you can understand why I take your hipster "nerds" comment as frustrating because I am personally invested in Nerdfighteria and am sincere about it

FRIEND:  For an example relevant to you - Imagine someone wearing some "Dumbledore's Army" shirt, but who’s never read Harry Potter

ME: See, I don't know. That might bother me initially, but when I thought about it I'd be excited to see how far a reach my beloved Harry Potter has had. I would definitely encourage them to actually READ the books, though.

FRIEND: True, but a lot of these people won’t. They just want to be part of the in crowd. When we're not doing it to be cool, but because we're legitimately interested. It kinda diminishes it imo

ME:  See, that's where I disagree. Nothing can diminish your love for something other than your own feelings. By saying that other people liking it for the sake of being "cool" diminishes the value of that thing, then you are just as bad as those who you would call hipsters who liked the thing for it's "value" (non-mainstreamness) in the first place.

FRIEND: I mean diminishes in that people like it for superficial reasons, not pertaining to its actual quality. So the average person sees it not for its actual qualities, but the superficiality that’s most readily seen

ME:  But I don't think that diminishes it. Who cares why people like it? It doesn't matter if it's superficially diminished. Screw them. Lol. Seriously, though. It might even help some people discover its awesomeness if they find it because it's "cool."

FRIEND: I just think people should enjoy things for their actual quality, not for example, because other people enjoy them

ME:  I agree with you, but since we can't change WHY other people do things, I'm not gonna let it bother me :)

FRIEND:  I get what you're saying about discovery which is a valid point. Maybe its worth having "posers" (for lack of a better term) if the one person out of 1000 actually ends up liking it because its good, not to follow the crowd

ME  Yup, that's what I'm sayin'. Take Buffy for example. Never would've watched it if it weren't popular, but I LOVE it now. And honestly? A good chunk of the reason I watched it was because other people talked about it and I wanted in on the jokes.

FRIEND:  This discussion went in a pretty different direction haha. Part of my worry is when a group caters too much to the mainstream, and by extension, loses what made it so good in the first place. Which happens a lot in consumer media

ME: It did, lol! Good discussion, though! And yeah, that is totally understandable. But people gotta make money, and mainstream is a LOT more lucrative than relative obscurity.

FRIEND: And by the end of this discussion, I'm the one thats (kinda) looking like a hipster. That’s irony haha.

ME:  SUCKAH!!! Lol :)



  2. 1. Awesome conversation...thanks for posting it

    2. Did you really say "screw them" I'm so proud LOL

    3. What does "the cake is a lie" mean? I'm dying to know.