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Nerds: Then and Now

Up until I was about 13, when my exposure to social media began (with Pinterest), I thought of a nerd as someone who was super smart about typically boring stuff like mathematical equations or scientific formulas. The images that accompanied this definition in my head were the characters Arnold and Cody from Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (amazing show, but that’s an article for another day)… in schoolyard terms, a dweeb. I consumed media–shows, movies, and books–that told me the negative connotations of being “a nerd”. 

However, after I started visiting Pinterest and Tumblr in my teens, my vision of who a nerd was changed; I eventually grew to think of a nerd as someone who knows a lot about a particular subject or topic, whether it’s science or comic books. Tumblr and Wattpad and fanfictions sites are a huge part of why being passionate about things are viewed as a more positive thing instead of being marginalized into the loser/dweeb image. Awkwardness was and is celebrated, and being “weird”, whatever that means, is the new normal. I grew to think of myself as a nerd, and I was proud of it, unapologetically embracing my various interests. 

I still consider my subscription to the label a testament to my knowledge and the kind of things that I enjoy: fairy tale retellings, old movies, writing, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, musicals, Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, English, media studies… the list goes on and on and on, and all of it feeds my own self-image as a “nerd”. Even my best friend calls me “nerd” as a term of endearment. “Nerd” does not have any negative connotation for me anymore; instead, it actually makes me feel a little more confident and secure. 

To seal the deal, I looked up the official and unofficial definitions of “nerd” to see 

how accurate my different visions of nerds were. Merriam-Webster.com’s definition of “nerd” is basically what I thought of as a 12-year-old and is as follows:  “an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person[,] especially: one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits”. However, I also looked it up on the Urban Dictionary website, and everything I read correlated with my current idea: that nerds are normal, everyone is a nerd about something, and being a nerd can be your superpower. 

Anyone who is passionate about something is a nerd in some regard. So be passionate. 

Collect Funko Pops, or coins, or books. Watch your shows, try your makeup, and sew your clothes. Write fanfiction novels, draw comics, and compose music. 

You do you, and do you proud. 


Love, Natalie, a nerd. 

Natalie is a writer and a double major at Wesleyan. She is also the oldest sibling in a large family and a nerd. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys reading, baking, hammocking, and watching fantasy/sci-fi.
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