Nerd Culture Elitism


by Shawnie Kelly (@DearShawnie)

Nerds are not typically the first group that comes to mind in reference to entitlement, superiority, and other forms of snobbery. Most notably, nerds have been the antithesis of all things “establishment” with their general disregard for outside opinions on what is or isn’t cool, what is or isn’t acceptable. Gaining mainstream acceptance hasn’t been an issue, because origins of all things nerd are firmly rooted in anti-mainstream interests. The “nerd revolution” of recent years—marked by thousands flocking to things like Comic-Con, and access to more nerd-friendly entertainment than ever before — has contributed to a decidedly unpleasant shift in nerd culture. Nerd elitism is threatening to re-label an otherwise positive community, and we should snuff it out before it spreads.

What do I mean by “nerd elitism,” you ask? Simply put, this phrase can be applied to any of the following situations:

– Someone being asked to prove their nerdiness to one or more people due to lack of sufficient evidence.

– A female’s interests being questioned by other females due to her physical appearance, i.e. being too “hot,” or not hot enough, or anything in between. (Girl-on-girl crime is a real thing! Let’s stick together, ladies).

– Someone being asked to slowly exit the vehicle and show their nerd I.D. after failing to recall the episode number of their favorite Star Trek moment.

– One person challenging another person to a nerd-off consisting of Jedi trivia and a Dance Dance Revolution throw-down. (I made this last one up, you guys… mostly for mood-lightening purposes, and also because it seems SUPER fun).

This “prove yourself worthy” sentiment is strange coming from within the nerd community because it is and has always been just that — a community; it’s a place of belonging for like-minded individuals that formed as a direct response to feeling underrepresented, or even to some extent, unaccepted elsewhere. To turn that place of acceptance and belonging into a members-only club is hypocritical to say the least. That being said, everyone should probably have at least one Members Only jacket in their closet because they are bomb dot com. But probably not as bomb dot com as our very own Nerd Tech Jacket! SHAMELESS PLUG.

On top of being hypocritical, nerd elitism is just plain illogical. Being nerdy is subjective. One person is nerdy about one thing and someone else is nerdy about another thing, and no one person can fit “nerd” into a perfectly defined box. The Steve Urkel stereotype is dead and gone; it’s been replaced with the most diverse group of individuals of any community, and that’s something that we can all be proud of.

No need to panic, the upside is that this isn’t an out of control problem. Most nerds are not like this! I’m thankful to be associated with such a positive organization like The Nerd Machine, where it isn’t about who ranks highest on the nerdometer. The very reason I wrote this article is because you guys are so cool, and I know you can spread the word throughout the larger community. Leadership is important wherever you find yourself, so why not start with this? We don’t want the 10% elite getting too loud or they’ll drown out the 90% of cool people that wear their nerd badge proudly, and without judgment of how anyone else is wearing theirs.

But obviously, the most important thing in all of this is that we won’t be able to take over the world until we form a united front.

Cheers to you, nerd army!


  1. AlexisNovember 5th, 2012 at 11:09 am

    I couldn’t agree more! I have been watching Star Trek since I was a wee lass (and it was the only thing worth watching on the one English channel when I lived overseas) and have seen all the episodes multiple times at this point. However, I’d be hard pressed to come up with exact episode titles if asked. People should be able to enjoy “nerdy” things in whatever capacity they choose.

  2. Theresa AkinsNovember 5th, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I agree 100% enough said! Go Nerds

  3. Michael SatumbagaNovember 5th, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Awesome article! I completely agree about this “nerd cred” thing. Though I enjoy that nerds surely have shaken the original social convention of what a nerd is. And I take pride in who I am. I have noticed as you have that we’re still constantly butting heads with each other. Apple vs Android, Xbox vs PS3 vs PC etc., and testing each other’s nerd cred. I don’t believe in that stuff. As much as I enjoy the word nerd I don’t think it’s a definition. That’s why I love the Nerd Machine’s statement, nerd = passion. I’m passionate about a lot of things. Something’s not so much. But just because someone is lacking in something i.e. never seen the Goonies or Firefly or Star Wars, don’t game, don’t table top or whatever is a measure of someone’s nerd cred doesn’t means they’re not a nerd.

  4. DdLovNovember 5th, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Kudos!! Love the article!
    I get flack because I’m a non-glasses wearing, blond haired having outdoorsy girl that doesnt game much at all. Not for lack of desire, I would love to kick some virtual ass! I am just not ‘gifted’ in that area……. I suck really bad. Lets just say if gaming was a school kickball game, I’d always be picked last…… AND I’M FINE WITH IT. I am however a vault of ‘off the wall’ movie/TV and cult genre information plus some. If stuff at my job would stick like that stuff, I’d be CEO. Let your geek flag fly whatever color it is!!!!
    PS – Jedi trivia & DD Rev sound like a blast! I’m in!!

  5. MarcusNovember 6th, 2012 at 1:29 am

    I have been seeing this for awhile and it has always struck me as funny. On the other hand like most communities we hate casual fans and people who on the surface are just using us just to get ahead. My feeling has always been everyone is a nerd about some thing and there is room enough for everyone.

  6. MaddieDecember 12th, 2013 at 3:50 am

    First of all, the article is awesome. Thank you, I’m glad someone finally said that. And yeah there is a bunch of hypocritical.. beings constantly saying ‘you’re not a NERD because this and that, and you can’t do/like this and that because.. something’, I think if you feel you are a nerd – so be it, no one has the right to judge you, you know? I was recently ‘corrected’ by this one guy: ‘You aren’t a NERD you are more of a GEEK girl, coz you don’t have to do anything with maths..’ I was like:.. okay?I consider myself a nerd so I am one. ‘Nerding’ is about being passionate about something, and I don’t think that liking maths or not [and I actually DO like maths 🙂 (or at least I used to when I was still in school)] or whatever, has to do anything with whether I am a nerd or not. I like certain things, I am considering myself a nerd and hell yeah I’m proud of it. Besides, nowadays terms like ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’ overlap and I don’t think it is THAT important which group you belong to as long as you’re true with yourself and know exactly what your place is, it’s fine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And thanks to the Nerdmachine we have our place as a community of nerds, our own ‘brand’. And as it was said, there is room for everyone, every ‘kind’ of nerds, as long as you believe in it, you’re a part of it. It is idiotic that some people still do the selection: ‘Oh, you are a nerd and you’re not’, ‘you’re not a REAL nerd because this and that’ what does that even mean? You can’t prove one’s ‘nerdness’ and also, it is physically impossible to know EVERYTHING, we learn our whole life, we discover different things in different periods of time, we nerd about things our whole life, have new passions and interests. It changes. Don’t let someone exclude you from being a nerd, no one has such right.

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