Whatever your opinion on the potential sexism inherent in the “idiot nerd girl” meme, it’s impossible to deny that “nerd” and “geek” culture have found their way into the mainstream. Interests which were once mocked and shunned as the pursuits of greasy, socially-inept teenagers are now worn as badges of honour, or more specially, faux-faded superhero t-shirts and mass-produced cosplay costumes of honour. There is no “geek card” or barometer of nerdiness against which to measure ourselves, but there is no denying that the current popularity of the subculture has led to some pretty irritating behaviour from the (both male and female) borderline hipster types who don a pair of lens-less glasses, watch a single episode of Star Trek and then post on Twitter about how “nerdy” they are. Things like...
\#1 – Wearing t-shirts they don’t understand
Wearing a t-shirt stuffed with Marvel characters when you haven’t so much as read a comic is like wearing a t-shirt of a band you haven’t even listened to. Buying a t-shirt with comic book characters (or any other nerdy pursuit) on it isn’t like buying a pair of designer jeans. You might be doing both because it thinks it makes you look cool, but the t-shirt sends off a message to genuine members of that subculture that you’re one of them. When they approach you and ask you who your favourite Marvel character is and you respond, “err... The Green Lantern,” the geek-rage is entirely justified. You’re just a poser.
\#2 – Say they’re a nerd
Lest we forget, the term “nerd” isn’t traditionally one of endearment. It’s basically a playground insult, a way of belittling people who don’t share your testosterone-fuelled hobbies and happen to wear funny glasses. That’s one of the reasons that real nerds don’t introduce themselves as a nerd when they first meet people. Nerds don’t need to identify themselves with a giant neon sign; their nerdiness just become more and more obvious the more time you spend with them. Saying you’re a nerd just means you have so little personality that you attach yourself to a disparaging title like it’s a life-raft. Real nerds are called nerds by other people.
\#3 – Claim nerdiness through familiarity with Star Wars/Trek...
Star Wars and Star Trek are two of the most easily identifiable subjects of nerd uber-fandom, largely due the obvious costumes, ubiquitous quoting and their pretty substantial pop-culture profiles. The problem is that knowing about the most popular elements of nerd culture doesn’t make you one. It’s like saying you’re a movie buff because you once watched the Shawshank Redemption. In either case, all you’ve done is watch a popular film. This doesn’t make you a sci-fi nerd or a movie buff; you’re still just an ordinary person.
\#4 – ... But constantly misquote or mis-reference it
Misquotation and flawed references are one of the key signs of a fake nerd. He or she is fully aware that to take on this role, they must be passionate enough to talk about their interest a lot, and that quotes are passed around like trading cards. So, searching his mind for that one time he saw an episode of Star Trek (but was busy reading BuzzFeed), he pulls a spurious reference out of the back of his mind or patches together a quote from arbitrary words that Leonard Nimoy once said. To him, the nerdy grooming behaviour is going well, until he is reminded by some annoyed fans that no, Worf isn’t in the original series, and the line isn’t “the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.”
\#5 – Learn about being a nerd from “the Big Bang Theory”
“The Big Bang Theory” is one of the potential causes for the increasing prominence of nerd culture, but learning about being a nerd through that show alone is about as inadequate as learning to swim by watching a video of a fish. It’s plainly obvious when a self-proclaimed nerd explains something like the Doppler Effect in the exact same words Sheldon uses or only knows very specific things about comic book characters that the information has been sifted out of a Big Bang Theory episode for later regurgitation. Nobody thinks you’re a nerd, you just watch a popular and accessible sitcom.
\#6 – Repeat common misconceptions
Common misconceptions are the sort of thing you’ll happily correct people about without getting annoyed. It doesn’t irritate you if an ordinary person, for example, quotes Sherlock Holmes as saying “elementary, my dear Watson” or repeats the oft-cited-but-non-existent “Beam me up, Scotty.” You’ll share your trivia and they might make a vaguely interested noise in response. This all changes when that person identifies themselves as “nerdy” about a given topic yet still makes these mistakes. If you call Link “Zelda” but still claim to be a “total gaming nerd,” everybody immediately hates you.
\#7 – Wear glasses they don’t need
Here’s a quick guide to determining whether or not you’re a poser, borderline-hipster, wannabe-nerd or just an outright idiot: if you’re wearing thick-rimmed glasses without lenses in or non-prescription ones, you are. Shockingly, glasses don’t really make you intelligent, nor do they make you a nerd. Glasses either mean you have genuine visual problems or you have an undiagnosed lack-of-actual-personality problem.
\#8 – Post “nerdy” pictures of themselves on social media
Posting a picture of yourself with glasses on or posing with a pristine Xbox controller and hash-tagging it "#nerd" is a guaranteed way to piss off the entire Internet. Much like introducing yourself as a nerd, this type of hyper-visible attempt to place yourself in a momentarily-popular subculture is as transparent as those non-lenses inside your glasses-frames. If were really a nerd, you wouldn’t be purposefully documenting evidence in favour of that definition, it would just be there.
\#9 – Claim to “f-ing love science” but know nothing about it
Another sub-division of nerd-dom is the science geek. The Facebook group referenced above is a perfect example of the problem with fake nerds – “Liking” the page is a visible and noticeable way of identifying yourself as having nerdy interests. However, if you only look at the pretty pictures posted on the page and don’t actually know the first thing about science, you’re just an annoying poser. You’ll say you love Einstein, but look at somebody cock-eyed when they start talking to you about special relativity, or whine on social media about saving the dolphins but don’t understand why looking after coral is drastically more important.
\#10 – Wear t-shirts with the word “geek” or "nerd" on it
Another form of attention-seeking “look-I’m-a-proper-nerd” idiocy is wearing a t-shirt with the words "nerd" or “geek” written on it. This isn’t even trying; at least people with comic book characters on their shirts remind real geeks of characters they love. All the word “geek” or "nerd" alone does is serve as a depressing reminder that a subculture you identify with has been transformed into an empty fashion statement.
Being a gamer is pretty easy, if you happen to enjoy spending hours upon hours mastering something which will almost definitely never be useful to you in ordinary life, that is. Gamers dedicate themselves to beating a seemingly unattainable high score or levelling-up a pixelated mage for no reason other than the sheer enjoyment of it. They seek out new games, own mammoth collections they’ll never get through and are always in the process of working their way through some imagined realm. If you say you’re a gamer geek, but the only games you play are Call of Duty, FarmVille and SingStar, you’re just plain wrong.
\#12 –Don’t put enough effort into their costumes
Dressing up for a convention or fancy dress party is one of the times it’s good to be a nerd. Pouring over seemingly irrelevant details to make the very best costume you possibly can (and doing it yourself, because nobody else cares about the details enough) is a joyous and oddly rewarding experience. The sign of a fake nerd is somebody who buys a mass-produced Spiderman costume but doesn’t realise the colours are inverted or the spider symbol looks like it’s been squashed under a mug. A real nerd notices an out-of-place seam.
\#13 – Try too hard to look the part...
If your outfits are carefully-choreographed to maximise the “I’m a nerd” vibe you’re desperate to give out, you aren’t a nerd. Real nerds don’t try, they just are. Again, the annoying behaviour comes from the desire to be identified as something other than what you actually are. If every single item of your clothing contains a nerdy reference, you’re probably desperately clinging on to something you’ll never be.
\#14 – ... But don’t invest the required time into their hobby
Being a nerd is about spending way too long doing things. You don’t really need an encyclopaedic knowledge of the bit-character in Star Wars, or the ability to re-enact pretty much the entirety of Firefly from memory, but nerds love their hobbies so much and spend so much time with them that it just comes naturally. Any self-professed nerd who hasn’t sunk way too much time into a completely meaningless pursuit hasn’t suffered for the title, and that’s one of the most irritating things of all.
\#15 – Don’t embrace people with shared interests
Fashionable, poser “nerds” are annoying; pretty much everybody agrees with that. If you’re pretending to be something you’re not – regardless of what it is – you’re probably an annoying person. However, the entire issue with the “fake nerd girl” is a symptom of a deeper problem, and cross-examining every claim to geekdom is not the way forward. If you’re truly a geek, when you meet somebody who shares your passion, you’ll giddily begin to discuss it with them, hoping to start a bafflingly complicated discussion about your favourite character or a bizarre plotline. If that person then reveals that they’re actually just pretending to be a geek, by all means be annoyed by the misleading social signals. But if you assume that they’re a poser immediately and then set about demonstrating your superior knowledge, you are actually the problem. Acting better than less nerdy people may be more nuanced, but it’s just as fake a way to claim genuine nerdiness as a lens-free pair of glasses.