What exactly is a nerd, anyway?

When I tell people I write this column, I often hear “But you’re not a nerd… I mean, you shower! You leave the house!” and so on and so forth. It’s true, I don’t completely fit the nerdy stereotype — hell, I’ve never even seen a whole Star Wars movie. But there are many different definitions of what makes a nerd a nerd, and new ones are forming every day.

As your “nerd among the herd,” I’m writing this week to share what being a nerd means to me. I believe everyone is nerdy in one way or another, which I think is so awesome.

So, what does being a nerd mean to me? I take my definition from the Vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green. I’ve written about them before, but they lead an entire subculture of “Nerdfighters” and are pretty solid authorities on nerddom.

In a video (“Harry Potter Nerds Win at Life“) to Hank about why “nerd” isn’t actually an insult, John says: “Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff … Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.'”

Nerdiness doesn’t necessitate a lack of hygiene or a propensity to stay indoors. It doesn’t require pocket protectors or snivelly voices or Sheldon Cooper-esque pretentiousness and neuroses.

While some nerds definitely do fall into that stereotype, that isn’t what actually makes them nerdy. To me, all you need to be a nerd is intense passion for something. Anything. Whether you spent all of your break reading about the Byzantine Empire or watching documentaries about fashion magazines, if you were exploring your passions and getting super stoked on them, you are a nerd. And that rocks!

One of my favorite things about writing this column every week is that I really get to explore “nerdiness” and show you readers all the different ways you can release your inner nerd or celebrate your outer one, whether you’re a party boy playing Jeop-beer-dy for the first time, or a Whovian who discovered all the Tardis designs on Threadless and bought every single one of them.

I love John’s comment about the “miracle of human consciousness.” It often seems like we spend so much of our time bored or burned out, especially after a few weeks of break (or a few years of college. Shoutout to my fellow senioritis sufferers). Well nerdy enthusiasm can help break through that feeling. Find what you truly love, and throw yourself into it with abandon — nerdy and cool are not mutually exclusive. In fact, to me, constantly celebrating the intricacies of life and humanity is one of the most admirable things a person can do.

So go ahead and step into the nerd world. I promise you’ll like it here.

Jessica Ryan is a senior media studies major at CU. She writes about nerdy things once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.

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