We live in a golden age of being a nerd. When I was growing up, geek activities like reading comic books, playing video games, or watching cartoons were the kind of thing that got you ignored or beat up. Now superhero movies get two hundred million dollar budgets, cartoons are marketed specifically toward adults, and professional video game tournaments draw millions of viewers (and are even aired on ESPN). We can, however, still make things better. Here on Being a Better Nerd, I will be listing the ways that you can be a happier nerd and make the entire nerd community a more welcoming place for others.
Are Nerds Out There?
Besides a lack of content, one other major problem in the past held back nerd progress: finding other nerds. The internet (probably the greatest thing to ever happen to nerdom) has made communicating with nerds easier than ever before. Between Tumblr, Reddit, Facebook Groups, and even the dreaded YouTube comment sections, it’s not difficult to find people online who love the same things as you.
What many fail to realize is that there are still ways to find people who share your passions near you and meet them in person. The classics (hanging out at a comic book shop, arcade, or bookstore) all still hold water, but I have found that there is a better way to find nerds in your area; the key is to find the inner-nerd that people in your everyday life are hiding.
The big secret is this: everyone has something hidden in them that either makes them a nerd, or shows their potential to enjoy nerd culture.
Nerds, Nerds Everywhere.
A while back, I was working at a furniture store and had a couple come in to buy a sofa. It was pretty standard, but something struck me as significant while talking to them. Every time we talked about where they were going to put it, the woman said it was going in their dining room because their living room was “occupied”. They seemed reluctant to tell me what was going on in there, but she let the word “diorama” slip out…
Folks, I recognize nerd shame. As a little back story on me, I met my wife Amanda at a World of Darkness Live Action Role Playing game. When people who aren’t gamers or nerds ask me about it, my go-to response was always to say we met at an “improv theater group”. It wasn’t technically lying, but it was definitely hiding the truth. So I have a pretty fine-tuned nerd detector.
In an attempt to get a little more insight into how nerdy they were, I asked a simple question: “Is it for gaming?” He said yes, and I asked if it was for something like Warhammer or Heroclix hoping that name-dropping some games would get them to open up. “It’s World War 2 miniatures,” he said. Not the response I was expecting. I immediately back-pedaled a bit. History is definitely not a topic I’m terribly knowledgeable about, and I saw that maybe we were different kind of nerds.
Luckily for me, he brought up that they also play tabletop games and Dungeons and Dragons. Normally, someone telling you that they love something you love is a sure-fire “in” to get them to talk you more, but D&D can be a hazardous endeavor. He asked a scary follow question in “Which edition of D&D do you play?” If you know D&D players, then you know they are VERY opinionated on the various incarnation of dungeon delving, so I had to answer as strategically as possible. “Well, I started on 2nd edition, but I’ve played a lot of 3rd and 4th.” Luckily, things worked out, and they played 4th (which I actually enjoy a lot) and after a bit of discussing in-game stories, we decided that maybe they, myself, and my wife could all get together and talk about maybe starting a game together.
After a bit of convincing that they weren’t serial killers looking to harvest our organs to make dice bags out of, Amanda agreed to meet them at a restaurant in town. When one of them made a Doctor Who reference, however, my wife made a new best friend. Now we all get together twice a month for game night, and he and I game online nearly every day.
Becoming a Nerd-Detector
If you look hard enough, and know the signals to pick up on, you’ll be surprised how many people you see every day are nerds of one sort or another who want someone just like you to share their interests with.
The biggest advice I can give in this area is to let your nerd flag fly. Never be ashamed of the things that interest you, and always try to be open to the interests of others. Some people take more coaxing that you may be comfortable with initially, but nearly everyone has some passion that they are looking to bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone when looking to expand your circle of nerd friends. Always be on the lookout for nerd shame in those you meet. People will often dodge giving direct answers when it comes to their hobbies out of fear of judgment. Remember that even though they may not like the same things as you, there is a good chance that they like them in the same way that you like your hobbies.
Tips for Meeting Nerds
So in closing, my tips for meeting nerds are:
- Spend some time at your local nerd outposts.
- Watch out for nerd shame in others.
- Let your nerd flag fly.
- Don’t be afraid to take the first step in finding out if someone loves something–and loves it in the same way you do.