Beware The Dangers of Nerd Snark!
We all know by now that bullying is an epidemic with repercussions far more severe than a simple wet head procured from a random swirly. That's why we all cling tightly to our circle of nerd-friends and fellow geeks where we will never be criticized or picked on... Right guys? Right?!
Sadly, that is wrong. There is another, even sneakier form of bullying happening now and it goes by the name of Nerd Snark. The following are real, actual quotes from real, actual people who shall remain nameless:
“I was writing my paper in the school library today, and I heard this kid request more comic books. COMIC books. I mean REALLY. At a learning institution? Please.” – The Honors English Major
“I really hate girls who wear glasses just because they think it’s cute.” - The Mutant, because apparently they could tell the exact curve of the lens and knew immediately they weren’t prescription from ten feet away. It’s one of their super powers. It's also one of the important things in life.
“UUGH. I won’t game there. They’re all a bunch of useless idiots just learning to play.” – The Dominant Dungeon Master
Geek on geek hate?! Can this really be? All of these people were legitimate nerds in their own right, and somewhat decent human beings aside from these hypercritical moments. But would you want to hang out with them after hearing this? Me neither. Nerd Snark can be hard to detect. At times, it may even feel natural, with the temptation to judge so great and the will to think critically about our attitudes so weak.
So, I implore you to let the following bits of wisdom renew your little geek soul.
No one made you the Guardian of Geekdom.
Hate to break it to you, but Odin himself did not swoop down and bestow upon you the right to discriminate and scrutinize based on your own rubric of proper niche interest enthusiasm. If he did, I’m going to need to see some proof in the form of the official Nitpicky Pickaxe of Self-Righteous Nerd Fury. Until that happens, remember this: The quality or merit of your favorite show, comic, game, book, or film does not change or decrease when someone you don’t necessarily click with starts to like it. On the contrary, the ability of various forms of art to bring different kinds of people together is a beautiful thing, and we should celebrate that kind of diversity within fandom.
Nerd Snark is incredibly unsexy.
“I love the way you obliterated that guy’s confidence for being a n00b. It makes you look so smart, important, and not at all like you’re compensating for something. I am soooooo turned on right now,” said no one ever in the history of the universe.
Nerd Snark isolates those with otherwise good qualities.
If a wizard came to me and said, “I will give you the gift of 20/20 vision and permanently rid you of those bulky +10 prescription lenses. I’ll even heal your astigmatism, but you must swear to occasionally wear fake hipster glasses for the rest of your life.”
You know what? I’d take that deal.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having perfect vision, but we do tend to feel threatened when someone with zero visual impairment starts rocking some frames. Why? Because we feel our handicap is being exploited, mocked even. But the fact is, glasses look fantastic on most faces, visually impaired or not. And who are we to tell them they aren’t allowed to enjoy wearing glasses simply because we call dibs?
“BeCAUSE! Real nerds have REAL problems.”
Alright. Well, maybe they have severe allergies? Maybe they have a speech impediment. Maybe they have battled crippling social anxiety for years and have finally come to a place where they are confident expressing their style. You would never know, because you’re too busy criticizing them over a piece of plastic.
“Well, duh. I mean, EVERYONE has problems.”
You’re right. Everyone does have problems. Obvious ones, hidden ones, or successfully conquered ones. So we need to stop acting like our problems are somehow more valid or acceptable than someone else’s.
Nerd Snark fuels sexism.
“She’s too pretty to be a nerd.”
“Girls only play sissy games.”
“Girlified nerds are just trying to get attention from boys like super flirty-pants floozies!”
So, you’re going to stare at comic book illustrations of female characters who—let’s face it—are mostly based on their impossibly sexy, feminine looks, and then turn around and say “hot” girls can’t dress how they want and still be considered nerds?
Huh. It’s so cute that you think we dress up for your attention.
Are girls just as good as guys in the geek department? Some of us are, some of us aren’t. Here’s the kicker though: You don’t get to decide which girls deserve respect. We all deserve it.
Ladies, this goes for you too. We don’t get to hate on each other, and we also don’t get to demonize men just because it’s easy to blame them for our plight. There are some wonderful, intelligent, respectful, funny, nerdy men out there. As it happens, many of them actually write for this site (Woohoo, MindHut!). A good boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend will help you pick your first comic, rewatch old seasons of Doctor Who with you, and help you buy your first set of epic armor. They do this because they are the true fans, but they also do it because they are good people.
So here’s a challenge. Next time you find yourself tearing someone apart with your oh-so-nerdiful mind, take a good hard look at yourself to find the reasons why. We’ve all done it. I certainly have. But if I’m honest with myself, the reason is clear.
Somewhere along the line, someone told me I wasn’t good/pretty/artsy/bookish/intellectual/skinny/talented/driven/strong enough.
For one dreadful moment, I believed it, and it hurt.
That part of me is now looking for something, anything to disparage out of bitter, indiscriminate revenge. It’s awful to feel like you’re not good enough to pursue your dreams, but when someone says you don’t even deserve to like something, it’s atrocious.
Snark is an ugly side of human nature, and a common cause of death for creative community. The next time I feel its icy fingers tightening around my fiercely beating heart, I will breathe deeply and repeat, “I can be a fan of whatever I want. And so can you, gosh darn it!”
It’s a very liberating mantra.
Who’s with me?