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Why Nerds Are Unpopular
EducationPosted by michael on Tuesday February 18, @01:09PM
from the half-sterile-and-half-feral dept.
AccordionGuy writes "Paul Graham, who's known for his writings on Lisp and other Lisp-like languages as well as his essays on combatting spam has taken a bit of a detour from his usual topics. His latest essay is one that's a little more personal and that we can all relate to: Why Nerds Are Unpopular . It's a lengthy but engaging writeup of that chamber of horrors we call high school and why being smarter than the average bear is more of a liability than an asset during that stage in life. It's food for thought for those of us who've already been there, done that and been stuffed into lockers by the football team and it should give some hope to those who are going through it right now."


MSittig (246604)
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The Simpsons already solved this... (Score:5, Funny)
by BTWR (540147) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:12PM (#5328795)
Lisa Simpson found that it was a pheromone that caused people to beat up nerds! (This effect, of course, could easily be neutralized by spraying said bully with vinegar).

go ahead... make me a friend or foe...
[ Reply to This ]
Embarressing (Score:5, Funny)
by DChristensen (98850) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:13PM (#5328811)
It sucks still being stuffed in the lockers byt the football team, particularly because I'm the principal of the high school.


I was like, "Wow, I'm at the Oscars or something," but then I was like, "No, I'm at Macworld."
--Ellen Feiss

[ Reply to This ]
Not always unpopular (Score:5, Insightful)
by Vollernurd (232458) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:14PM (#5328827)
It was the cse at our school, like all other schools, that the Geeks were singled out for "special" attention. However, that attention was infrequently hostile, and if you had the wit to deal with it (a decent put-down, offer people help in classes if they asked for it, laugh at their jokes if necessary, etc.) you soon got the respect and the social acceptence that came with it.

Essentially, merely "being Geeky" was not enough to attract hostility, even from the footballers, but it was poor social skills aggravated by what the "geek" percieved as persecution.

Simply laughing it all off is usually the best way to deal with it.

It's like your parents used to say (shyeah! like /they/ knew) "Ignore them and they'll soon get bored."
Smokey, this is not 'Nam, this is bowling. There are rules.
[ Reply to This ]
i'm not even trying to be an ass here.... (Score:5, Insightful)
by smd4985 (203677) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:15PM (#5328828)
but if i had a quarter for every 'popular' kid from my HS class that later served me my meals at Uno's, Bennigans, etc., I'd be one handspring treo richer.

and yes, if you haven't guessed yet, i'm a nerd ;) .
[ Reply to This ]
Paul Graham is wrong (Score:5, Funny)
by iomud (241310) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:16PM (#5328849)
It's because of his lisp.
[ Reply to This ]
You guys are SO missing the point... (Score:5, Insightful)
by sheyal (319005) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:54PM (#5329300)
Half the replies on here are whining from folks about how "elitist" nerds are. NONE of you even think to ask how that attitude a) may have been adopted by nerds or b) if that's just yet-another social stigma populated by anti-nerds (ya know, like, way back in, like, high school?)

Nerds weren't just the smart guys who used computers. They were kids in band (yes, I was) or theater. They were ANYone who liked to learn, and not all of them were "unbathed savages" as one particular must-have-been-a-jock pointed out.

So many people on here are JUST like the adults of today: so EAGER to blame the problem on the victim. How many of you actually understand the point? How many of you went through the hell that is 7th, 8th, and 9th grade? No, the blame OBVIOUSLY must be that smart kids don't bathe. That's it.

News. I bathed, I wasn't particularly socially unsmart, I was actually somewhat big (180 in 9th grade, and that wasn't fat). But I got crap too. Sure, after 7th grade no one had any guts to actually fight me (it helps when you're four inches taller than everyone), but the hierarchy was clear. And I wasn't alone.

So, instead of modern day American society, where it must ALWAYS be the minority person's fault, or the woman's fault, etc., why don't we OWN UP to the problem and try to fix it, rather than shove it under the carpet and pretend it doesn't really happen like so many American adults of today?

[ Reply to This ]
one of my few regrets from HS (Score:5, Insightful)
by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:57PM (#5329340)
I wasn't exactly popular, and in fact was a pretty big-time nerd. However I still picked on the kids 'nerdier' than me because I was too immature and insecure and just plain ignorant to know what I was doing was the same exact thing that all the 'cool' people were doing to me.

That's it. Not missing out on 'prom night', not missing out on beer and sex and all that (which came in the dozens later). The only thing I look back on and regret are the few times when I snapped and put down people who I felt were even 'lower' than me. God, I hope they are kicking ass out in the real world and I hope they don't give me a second thought.

[ Reply to This ]
It's a lot simpler than that. (Score:5, Insightful)
by DunbarTheInept (764) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @02:00PM (#5329369)
The reason for the bullying in school as opposed to out in the "real world" has nothing to do with maturity. The reason bullying stops after people leave high school is that high school is the last place where you are actually forced to spend time with people you don't have anything in common with. After you "get out" you no longer have to spend time with people you don't like just because they are geographically nearby and living in the same school district. And it goes both ways - the bullies are no longer forced to spend time with the people they don't like, and so their anger toward these people fades too.

I suspect that if you took about 1,000 random adults, and forced them into a program where they have to spend 7 hours a day in the same building, doing the same activities with each other, for four years straight, that even among the "mature" adult population you'd see bullying problems resurface. And NO I'm not talking about working in an office or a factory, because that's not a random sampling of adults.


Don't label something "offtopic" unless you know the topic well enough to tell what's on topic.

[ Reply to This ]
Re:Laughing Last (Score:5, Insightful)
by saintlupus (227599) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:16PM (#5328854)
Het, when I get out of college, odds are there will be jobs of 50k and up just waiting for me, while the jocks are slaving away at some factory somewhere, or still asking if they want fries with that, they can be as cruel as they would like, just gives me more things to chuckle about when things in my life go right.

And this would be a great example of why people think geeks are a bunch of elitist assholes.

"Is it true that you have to do good before people will pay for a look at your bones?" --Firewater
[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Helpful? (Score:5, Insightful)
by Frymaster (171343) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:21PM (#5328901)
(http://frymaster.dyndns.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday December 05, @12:02PM)
wait a minute... i have to take responsibility because the football team stuffed me into a locker? that sort of "blaming the victim" mentatlity has lead to some serious backlash [disastercenter.com] in the past.

yes, i am a leftwing whiner [dyndns.org]

[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Ummmm no... (Score:5, Interesting)
by TechnoVooDooDaddy (470187) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:21PM (#5328904)
I've been in the software engineer game for over 10 years now... almost all of my collegues have either switched fields or taken a 30-40% paycut to stay in it. (Switching fields takes a paycut too btw)

the market is FIERCE now with out of work software engineers.. What makes you think your odds are so good Mr. No-Professional-Experience?
I sadly think you're in for a rude awakening once you hit the market.
[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Laughing Last (Score:5, Funny)
by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:23PM (#5328928)

Het, when I get out of college, odds are there will be jobs of 50k and up just waiting for me

Looks like you'll be doing Graduate level work at Hard Knocks U.


It's the queers. They're in it with the aliens. They're building landing strips for gay Martians, I swear to God

[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Not as Smart as You Think You Are (Score:5, Insightful)
by MKalus (72765) Alter Relationship <mkalus&swma,net> on Tuesday February 18, @01:27PM (#5328975)
The smarter bears washed on occasion, and learned to carry on a conversation.

I think the problem is that "smart" the way it is mostly defined is "booksmart" and that is nothing that really just happens, anybody can be booksmart if they just put their mind to it.

I guess the big problem still is that people never really defined intelligence in the first place and this "The more intelligent people like us" makes me wanna puke mainly because this elitist thinking is why people do despise us as well, heck who wants to feel dumb? No one, and who wants to feel weak? Exactly no one again.

A little bit less telling yourself how great you are and a bit more admitting that even YOU are not perfect (despite your high IQ) would go a long way I would guess.

Of course that's all academic my HS time was hell as well.
If you want to e-mail me, use my PGP Key.
[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:elitism... (Score:5, Insightful)
by Xthlc (20317) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:28PM (#5328992)
I agree. I think that, while there is often a strong one-way correlation between nerds and smart people, the inverse is not necessarily true.

Some of the smartest people in my high school were NOT nerds. True, they didn't take some of the ridiculous college math courses that we nerds did. However they did get straight-As and took AP courses in the natural sciences, history, calculus, languages, etc. They were usually involved in some kind of varsity sport that had a low jock-factor (like tennis or soccer). While they were popular, they seemed to float above the social hierarchy, never taking part in the beatings or humiliation but never exactly seeking a nerd with whom to hang out. They generally got ridiculous scores on their SATs and went on to the Ivy League.

They were popular because they weren't pretentious, they were self-confident, and they knew how to talk to somebody without scaring or boring the shit out of them. Which none of us geeks quite had a handle on yet . . .
[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Jealousy (Score:5, Interesting)
by Bonker (243350) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:33PM (#5329058)
(http://www.furinkan.net/ | Last Journal: Tuesday October 15, @08:35AM)
When I was in high-school, I was probably in Class 'C' in terms of popularity. I was smart enough and could manage the dorkiest of behaviors that would have landed me in the 'D' group, but was smart enough to actively hide those behaviors. The fact that I'm 6'1" and looked like I belonged on the football team even though I never played sports was probably a mitigating factor. I was still, however, the recipient of much derision and abuse. Strangely, to this day, ten years later, I remember many of the names and faces of the people who were responsible for the abuse.

A few weeks ago, I went to a new-year's party with my wife. One of her cooworkers happend to be married to one of those indviduals. I recognized him immediately and had to stifle thoughts of beating him senseless.

We got to chatting. He 'knew' me from somewhere but couldn't place me. I eventually led him around to where he remembered me. Then he asked what I did for a living. I'm a computer professional for a large financial company with my title on a placard. I explained the nature of my company's business and exactly what my job responsibilities were.

He cut glass for a living.

I smiled, and laughed. I told him that sounded like interesting work.

What do you do for fun? he asked me. I write, draw, paint [furinkan.net] and play the occaisional computer game. Geeky stuff. Nerdy stuff.

He coached a YMCA football team. He couldn't play football anymore himself since he tore a tendon his last year of high school.

"You must really like kids," I said.

"Not really."

It was petty and cruel, but I grinned like a jackal the rest of the evening. Payback is best served 10 years later.
Irony is receiving a spam entitled 'Tired of getting junk mail?'
[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Well, where to begin (Score:5, Insightful)
by mao che minh (611166) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:45PM (#5329195)
I don't know about all of that. I wasn't unpopular by any means in highschool, and I remember there being plenty of really smart kids that came to all of the parties and stuff. In fact, the top 5 or 6 students of my class (you know, those 5 or 6 girls and guys that are always class president, straight A students without even trying) were very popular. I used to see at least one of them every weekend when I was out. These people, even though they were extremely bright (one, a guy named Scott I think, even works at IBM as a programmer now, so his pal told me the other day) and "geeky" found it easy to integrate socially.

The real geeks were not the extremely bright, but rather the extremely akward. The punk rockers, the goth kids, the vampires (who were usually also homosexual), the over-excited white guy that acted black but had no black friends, the "only thing I'm good at is sports" guy, the group of fat girls that tried to dress provactively, the surfer wannabes, the skater wannabes, et cetera. Most of the geeks weren't very bright at all, and certaingly weren't elitist.

War is a racket [fas.org]

[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Helpful? (Score:5, Insightful)
by Otter (3800) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:49PM (#5329246)
(Last Journal: Tuesday February 04, @11:19AM)
People need to take a little bit of responsibility for their own lives rather than chalking everything up to "well, I'm going to get picked on because everyone else in the world is so much stupider than me."

As far as the "Why Nerds are Unpopular" link goes, I mostly agree.

On the other hand, the "stuffed into lockers" link, goofy though it is, makes a good point. In the adult world, you're liked more or you're liked less. But, if every day when you come home from work, a pack of more socially elevated adults beat you up, gave you a black eye or bloody nose, stole your money and shredded your papers, society doesn't consider that boys will be boys fun. Those people would go to prison.

It's not obvious to me why that's something a seventh grader should be expected to suck up and blamed if he can't deal with it.
Read my journal! [slashdot.org] Comment!

[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Helpful? (Score:5, Insightful)
by jedidiah (1196) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:55PM (#5329317)
American society is blatantly anti-intellectual. Most academic institutions prize athletic ability over intellect even despite the fact that they are meant to foster the latter. People in general don't like to made to feel inferior.

The essay was wrong in one important aspect. There is an administration imposed heirarchy in high schools. This is based on athletic performance and petty contests of us vs. them. School administrations invest considerably time and energy in promoting the whole athletic bread and circuses.

That said, it doesn't really matter that people end up being cast out. That is not such a bad thing. The problem is the ensuing abuse that often manifests itself in violence.

You should not blame victims for being forced to attend what really is a glorified prison with all of the beatings and occasional killings that implies.
GUI: Path to enlightenment or straight-jacket?
[ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Re:Helpful? (Score:5, Insightful)
    by evilpenguin (18720) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @02:52PM (#5329993)
    Everybody needs to learn that the goal of society is to get the best out of every member and to make life better for every member. Every member. Society is not improved by aligning oursleves into subgroups bent on damaging or disparaging members of another group.

    In practice, this means the obvious: People shouldn't abuse nerds. But it does also mean the less obvious. Nerds shouldn't belittle stupid people who are bigger than they are.

    I actually learned this in college: "Do not get into political arguments with drunk football players." Call it Schwarz's Law. The truth is, it is easy to get along with people. We would all do better if we could just learn to shut up when we want to say or do something hurtful or angry. Yes, "jocks" can be brutes, but there is a smug and confrontational brand of "intellect" that enjoys rubbing other's ignorance in their faces. This is a kind of "nerd brutishness." You can be an intellectual brute. In the mind of the knowledgeable person, all s/he is doing is stating facts. But the superior physical strength of the brute is just a fact as well. How can the brute be blamed and the "nerd" remain blameless?

    I'm not saying that any assault is EVER justified. I am just saying that if the "nerd" were a truly smart person, s/he would realize that certain behaviors provoke and that those behaviors can be managed. In fact, it is possible to enlist a mass of people to your own side through the application of skills in human relations.

    I remember in adolescence, however, believing that this compromised my "individuality." I remained separate and I had a truly miserable experience. And it is not like my stand helped me in adulthood. In fact, it was not until I began to learn:
            1) Not to correct people just because I knew they were wrong.
            2) Not to criticize
            3) Not to order people around
            That I began to succeed. The only way to get someone to do something is to make them want to do it. Does telling people they are wrong, or telling people they are stupid, or telling people to do things make them want to do it? No. It makes them defensive, angry, and resentful.

            Now, to anyone struggling with these issues in school now: Yes, you are smart. Yes, you do know things, and you are excited that you know things. I'm not telling you to change anything about yourself. However, if you will just ask yourself a few questions before you speak, I hope you may make your life easier and you might enjoy yourself more.

            How would I feel if I were this person?
            Is this person going to be better for what I am about to say?
            Am I lifting this person up, or am I trying to raise myself by lowering this person?

            The brutes should ask themselves these same questions. In fact, we would all be better off if we did. In fact, I should probably have asked myself them before I wrote this! As I said, I'm new to this way of thinking myself. But if you are young and having trouble getting along, please, I ask you to think about this now and not to wait. Of course, everyone else should be thoughtful of your feelings too, but your behavior is the ony one under your direct control. And when you begin to select what you do and say in such a way as to lift other people, you will find that they give you what you want.

    Will what I say or do help this person to be their best?

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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Re:Helpful? (Score:5, Insightful)
by Computer! (412422) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @01:58PM (#5329353)
(http://etv.nbc.com/ | Last Journal: Wednesday October 16, @01:12PM)
It seems the kids who get picked on the most are those who think quietly to themselves, "They are all stupider than I!"

Oh, yeah? In my school, disabled kids got picked on. Foriegn kids got picked on. Kids that weren't very athletic, or bright, or rich got picked on. Kids with bad skin, or greasy hair, or a birthmark got picked on. Did these things really not happen at your high school, or are you just pretending they didn't?

If you fall off a building, go real limp, because maybe you'll look like a dummy and people will be like hey, free dummy
[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Alternate subject: (Score:5, Interesting)
by Dr. Evil (3501) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @02:02PM (#5329386)

"Why people with social problems lean towards academics"

Whether they excel at them or not is an entirely different matter. Enough people on the site have said it... there are plenty of people out there who were dumb and unpopular. I knew of many people who were intelligent and popular too.

I know... imagine that... academnically-smart, creative, athletic and popular people?

I've got a bunch of uber-geeks sitting near me right now. They're fully grown. Wow they're awful. I cringe when they eat their soup with their mouth open. I cringe when they loudly complain on the phone about the arrangement of books in bookstores. Their body-odour wafts over here from time to time. I feel like yelling sometimes, "if you would just stop sputtering spitballs, farting in my cubicle, talking about your superior intellect, RPG characters and fantastic technical skills, you might have a better job and more friends." Unix admins... ugh. These guys don't even like eachother.

They only bug me so much because I don't tell them to f-off and let me get my work done. People in that state get lonely and just want somebody to talk to... so they cling.

It's inhuman for me to tell them go get lost, and it is in poor taste. So I put up with them. Some of them are not too bad, they're just not used to the local culture... others are born-and-raised locals, dumb as bricks, no matter how smart they tell me they are.

What kind of idiot walks into your cubicle, reads your screen, tells you about the latest miniatures they painted, farts, and just stands there?

[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:People like to be ignorant (Score:5, Insightful)
by kgarcia (93122) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @02:05PM (#5329417)
I'll bite.

People like knowing things. They love aqcuiring new knowledge, and learning about things. I've explained many things to 'bev' from accounting, and she understands them ok as long as I explain in terms she can understand. If you tell her "Your TCP/IP protocol couldn't interface with the samba server, But I found out that you mis-configured your network settings, so I set up DHCP to connect to the correct DNS server and now everything works ok". Of course she's gonna gloss over.

Everyone has their area of expertise. I'm sure bev could go off about the Financial reports and tax law so fast I would be flat on my ass, but she still takes the time to slowly explain things to me so I can understand them. Do the same for them. You'd be surprised. Just because we have knowledge 3 levels above someone, doesn't mean we have to speak to them 3 levels above their understanding.

[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Helpful? (Score:5, Insightful)
by JordanH (75307) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @02:06PM (#5329431)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Monday April 29, @06:08PM)

    I seem to recall that the people who took the most shit in high school were always the whiny, elitist, "I'm-smarter-than-you" types.

You are really a piece of work.

First, you prejudge the article without reading it [slashdot.org].

You know, where you say:

And I'm sure its going to do nothing but reinforce lots of negative stereotypes and Katz-style whining.

Now, you blame the victims for being whiny, elitist, "smarter-than-you" types.

I don't know, maybe my experience was odd. When I was in High School, the nerds stayed as far away from the types who might pick on them as possible, but were accosted anyway.

What I seem to recall is that those who inflicted violence on nerds were also those who told sexist jokes, treated women as objects and had the least tolerance for the mentally handicapped. How's that for a generalization? I think it's an honest portrayal, though.

In any case, I fail to see how someone's whiny, elitist, "smarter-than-you" attitude could ever justify physical abuse.

    Provoking a bear twice my size by poking it with a stick doesn't make me a victim when it mauls me. It makes me a fool who should have watched what he was doing.

We're not talking about bears or other wild animals here. We're talking about physically abusive people.

In the adult world, someone who responds to perceived slights with violence is not excused away.

Give us an example of what these abusive nerds were doing to provoke these poor jocks? Oh my gosh, did they whine? Did they act smart in Science class? Well then, they had it coming to them!

No wonder we have such trouble with education these days. Anyone who acts 'elite' is targetted for violence.

I suppose when a woman gets beaten by her husband, you would want to check the wife to make sure she wasn't being whiny. She might have it coming to her, right? At least, that's how you remember it? The wives who got beaten usually are asking for it?
Careful! Don't mod me up because you think I'm Jordan Hubbard [slashdot.org]. I'm not he!

[ Reply to This | Parent ]
I don't quite agree: the school DOES matter (Score:5, Interesting)
by Ethelred Unraed (32954) Alter Relationship <john@@@grantham...com> on Tuesday February 18, @02:12PM (#5329504)
(http://www.grantham.de/ | Last Journal: Wednesday February 19, @02:10PM)

I think his point in the article was pretty accurate.

Summary for those who haven't read it: American public schools tend to be little more than prisons, with large classes and indifferent teachers, where the kids are more or less left alone to create their own sub-societies (with all the "Lord of the Flies" cruelty that ensues). The nerdy types aren't totally expending their efforts on popularity (unlike most others), so they end up on the bottom of the heap.

This describes the public junior high school I went to perfectly. Education was really a joke there; the main thing was to keep us little darlings under lock and key for some hours while our parents worked, and if we learned something, so much the better (if we didn't, oh well). I got pretty badly picked on, partly for nerdiness (I was taking college-level math at the time) and partly for just being very different (I had just moved from rural Virginia to urban Minnesota).

Before my 9th grade year, I toured the public high school that I was supposed to go to, and immediately my radar told me that I would probably not make it out of that place alive (or at least with all my bones intact). Football stuff everywhere, with glassy-eyed teachers who really didn't give a damn. The other school I could have gone to had just become the first in Minnesota with metal detectors and had a rep for open gang warfare.

I begged my parents to pay for a private school. Somehow, they scraped the money together through loands and so on. (Thank God for my parents.) The first I went to, a boarding school near my parents' home, was a disaster (buncha spoiled rich kids whose parents had dumped them there and never visited them -- Lord of the Flies, Mercedes Edition).

The next year I went to a small, recently founded K-12 private school, where my class was all of 25 students, and where the teachers were all basically rebels from another private school who where determined to make a better school. The kinds of things described in the article just didn't happen there -- the teachers actually gave a sh*t about us, and we didn't feel like we were in some kind of penal colony.

A lot of the reason the school was better was the small class size (harder to have a crushing pyramid hierarchy when you've only got a small number of students) and the teachers actually got involved like *teachers* and not *wardens*.

Another reason is we didn't have jocks. We didn't have a football team, though we did have soccer. And the school's pride and joy was its Quiz Bowl team (hey! I was on it! State Champs in 1989!). Those who had high SAT, PSAT and ACH scores were also publicly praised by the school director (who, by the way, spent lunchtime serving the students corn so he could personally chat with each and every one). So knowledge and nerdiness was actually rewarded, and there was actually positive contact between staff and students.

Sadly, since then the school has grown dramatically (their reputation spread like wildfire, and soon they had huge demand for the school), and the director retired, so I tend to wonder if it has fallen to the same problems as other large schools. But it can be done -- a school in America where nerds are actually valued. I just am very grateful my parents scraped together the money for the place -- otherwise I probably would have spent more time in lockers than in classrooms...

The school, by the way, was Mounds Park Academy [moundsparkacademy.org], if anyone's interested.

At any rate, even though I tend to be leftish politically, I think the above is a pretty good argument for school vouchers. The public school system in America is so screwed that the only solution is to nuke it flat with vouchers, and let the parents and students sort it out through the market.


Ethelred [grantham.de]

Although the Senator insisted he was not drunk, he could not explain his nudity.

[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Ill tell you. (Score:5, Interesting)
by Tackhead (54550) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @02:16PM (#5329557)
> Because nerds dont WANT to be popular. What advantage is there to being popular? I mean really? The more popular you are the more people hate you. You have no advantage or incentive to want to be popular. Nerds dont seek popularity because there is no value in it.

It's a hard concept to communicate, too - that you don't want to be popular, because you don't see "popularity" as anything worth having.

I was a nerd/geek at the "D" table. My most fucked-up high school memory was when a girl from the "C" table who demonstrated she was deliberately faking wrong answers on the tests to lower her grades, lest she end up at the "D" table) confided suicidal thoughts to me.

As I recall, my response (what the fuck, any statute of limitations has long since past, it was long ago that it probably was legally OK for students to just deal with shit like this amongst themselves, and hey, I was a minor and therefore too dumb to know what I was doing :) was something like this:

"You went through the trouble of making two sets of answers - one for me to read, and the ones you ansewred on the multiple choice test - so I could know you weren't bullshitting me. Fine - we'll compare answers when we get the tests back, and then talk."

(After the marks came back, and her "real" answers were almost 100% right, and her actual score was in the 70% range)

"OK, you weren't bullshitting. You told me you were thinking of wasting yourself because nobody liked you when you were smarter than they were, and you asked me how I put up with it. Well, OK, no bullshit - I don't care who likes me and who doesn't. I stopped giving a shit what the rest of 'em think back in public school, because every time they insult me for showing 'em up in class, it just proves I'm better than they are. "

"Not different, BETTER. I don't wanna be like them. If being what they are means being like them, I wanna be as much unlike them as I can be."

"Now finally, this suicide stuff. Life sucks for me, too. So I'll see your test answers, and if you're not bullshitting me, I'm gonna do what I think is 'wrong' thing - I'm not gonna rat you out like our parents and guidance idiots have all told us to. If you wanted to get ratted out, you picked the wrong nerd, and you'll have to find someone else. But in return, you're going to do what you think is 'wrong' -- you're not gonna off yourself for the crime of being smarter than the rest of the fucking morons in this class, no matter how badly you want to - because IT'S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO DO."

"You wanted to know how I dealt with it, there it is - you're the one who's gonna have to choose whether to live or not. I can't stop you either way, but I choose to live because I don't wanna give them the satisfaction of knowing they beat me."

I have no idea what happened to her; other than that she kept her end of the bargain. I didn't know her that well to begin with and we never really spoke after that; all I know is that she didn't off herself in the remaining four years of high school and graduated with "B+" grades just sufficient to get her into university, though she was probably capable of "A"s.

On my darker days, I like to think I did something good. It's reasonable to presume that if she survived high school, she survived university, and found her way to cubicle-bound conformity along with the rest of us.

On my lighter days, I reflect back on the "better" part of the rant and realize that that going to university is a wonderful cure for nerd megalomania. Nothing like sitting in a room with 130 people and being told "Most of you were A+ students in high school. That ends here. You're still just as smart as you were six months ago, but you're in a room of people, all of whom who are also just as smart as you were six months ago, or they wouldn't be here." in your first Calculus class, and then having t

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    Re:Ill tell you. (Score:5, Insightful)
    by octalgirl (580949) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @04:41PM (#5330988)
    when a girl from the "C" table who demonstrated she was deliberately faking wrong answers on the tests to lower her grades, lest she end up at the "D" table

    This has always been far too common in young girls it is un-cool to be smart/look smart/act smart. Schools have struggled with this for years, and have improved greatly in some areas like more sports for girls, and special programs to get them involved in technology. Unfortunately a lot of parents still dont get it though, and the trend for the most part continues.

    I don't care who likes me and who doesn't.

    It seems everybody says that in high school. But as much as the need to talk themselves out of caring what others think, deep down they always do. Its possible your family support was much greater than hers. All too often, the parents again, it is not too important that the girl gets educated properly, hey shes just going to marry someone who is.

    If being what they are means being like them, I wanna be as much unlike them as I can be.

    Good for you, to think that way in high school. I myself tried, but I think I was 25 before I actually got it.. On a side note, I raised a daughter, and watched her tank through high school, even though I knew better. But I spent a lot of time reminding her of her strengths, and that she would leave all of these so-called friends in the dust. It does help the family support. She is all As now, and very career driven. She is indeed, leaving her friends in the dust.

    I like to think I did something good.

    Im thinking you did something very good. If only every high school girl and boy for that matter could be given that lecture by a peer there would be a lot less confused teenagers mulling about.
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Re:Nerd != Smart (Score:5, Insightful)
by protohiro1 (590732) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @02:20PM (#5329620)
(Last Journal: Friday January 17, @01:07AM)
Hear hear! I was #1 whiner/complainer in high school. The popular kids do this and that blah blah blah. And I was right, it does suck to be a geek or a nerd in high school. But high school is tough for everyone. My girlfriend was a popular kid in high school...and her stories make me really glad I wasn't. The fact is that when you are 16 your hormones make you crazy...everything is the end of the world. Every insult is a life ending moment. Every crush is the one true love that could change the earth.

The great thing about being a geek/nerd in high school is that you end up being protected from all that. Thankfully the emotional rollercoaster took place for me in my head, and my only real response was to listen to Pinkerton real loud. I could have instead been popular and given the oppurtunity to drink my problems away, to get some random girl pregnant because my chemical addled brain thought I was in love. I could have had the choice to turn a low self esteem compensation into a fatal drunk driving accident instead of just playing the cymbals louder.

I think that nerdiness protected me from myself by keeping me locked in a reletivley pointless and banal experience, that still managed to feel earthshattering at the time. High school is tough. Its is going to be awful for everyone (basically). If you are still in high school I would make your goal to get out alive, don't take things too seriously and try not caring about the popular kids. They are just as stupid as you are. Some of them will end up not growing up and going nowhere. Other might end up actually growing up and being just normal people...or maybe even your friends.
Sig removed because it was obnoxious
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It does hurt. (Score:5, Insightful)
by HanzoSan (251665) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @02:57PM (#5330080)

When I was popular, I had people wanting to kick my ass, people who were jealous of me and I didnt even know who they are, I had rumors being spread about me for no reason, I had people talking behind my back constantly. Whats the point of all this political bullshit?

The more popular you become the harder it is to determine who your friends are.

There is no correspondence between intelligence and social ineptitude. I've known as many popular smart people as I've known unpopular smart people. Infact, most of the unpopular smart people I knew scored lower on their SAT than the popular. I realize that this is a rough estimate and that SAT scores do not directly relate to intelligence; perhaps it was just coincidence, but still an interesting statistic, none the less.

I judge intelligence not just by how well you do on tests in school, but how you live your life. If you are getting into trouble, and you are doing stupid things outside the classroom I dont give a damn if you get all As, you are stupid. IF you are doing good in life, if you dont get all As so what? You make up for it by how you live.

Alot of smart people are smart but dont know how to be social, thats because they focused too much on academics, then you have people who dont focus on academics enough, but most people focus on neither, they do a half assed job at academics and at living, these are your average people in school, you know the popular ones.

Its easy to be popular, just try to be as average as possible, but have a unique sense of humor. Dress like everyone else, act like everyone else, be stupid like everyone else, and dont have a personality, instead change your personality based on who you are around, be a nerd with the nerds, be a thug with the thugs, be an athelete with the atheletes, this is how you become popular.

But being popular only makes you hated, everyone knows you, including ignorant people who may get jealous of you, this is the downside to being popular, the other downside is no one in any of these groups actually knows you and none of them gives a damn about you, you are just a person who walks around from group to group talking to different people every day, you have no real friends.

This sucks because when you are upset, sad, or need someone to talk to about personal stuff no one is there for you, none of them will want to hear what you have to say, in fact they will most likely share it with the world if you do tell them just so they can get a laugh.

Want Linux Games? Transgaming [transgaming.com]
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Re:US only phenomenon? (Score:5, Informative)
by LeftOfCentre (539344) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @03:20PM (#5330318)
You raise an interesting question. I can only speak for Sweden which is where I was born, grew up and live.

The distinction between "nerds" and "normal people" definitely exists outside the US -- and is perhaps universal. Most people of basic school age don't spend a large portion of their free time in front of their computers coding. I think this intense focus on one particular area is where "nerds" were different from other people in their age groups.

However, and I think this is an important point, in many countries high school is a kind of trade school. In Sweden, compulsory school stops at age 15 or so. Nearly all students then proceed to a volunteer school, gymnasiet, selecting one out of 20 or so three-year education programs which suits their interests. Programs included, among many others:

The vehicle program: students were tought how to repair cars and other vehicles (and sometimes to drive them, with driving lessons and sometimes a license funded by the school).

The nursing program: students were taught skills needed to work jobs at retirement homes and other institutions that care for people.

The individual program: students that lacked motivation and sufficient grades were given a chance to catch up, aiming to apply for a regular program later on.

The electronics program: students were given basic skills in handing electronics, and got jobs such as being electricians or electronics repairmen.

The social sciences program: students received additional heavy education in history, geography and other social sciences, and got jobs that may include working for their local government carrying out investigations or other matters. People in this program sometimes would continue to college to develop additional additional skills.

The natural sciences program: students were given a very solid ground (complementing that which they had received in earlier years) in mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, material computational skills, electronics skills and computer skills. This program was largely theoretically oriented and was not meant to lead to a job directly, but provided the foundation for students to continue to college and become engineers and scientists.

This particular specialization relatively early also explains why Sweden (and other European) college degrees are shorter in terms of years than equivalent US degreees -- the basics in the profession or study of choice were already taught in high school, so college was even more specialized.

With that said however, I should point out that this specialized programs all included a relatively broad range of subjects -- but with a certain very heavy focus. The natural sciences program for example would include five maths courses, while most other programs would only have one or two. The social sciences program on the other hand would have more history and related issues than other programs. And many programs had courses shared by no other education program.

This early specialization means that nerds separate from their schoolmates aged 15 or 16 and join other people in the natural sciences program (usually) who have the same inclination for programming, maths or science. They find "equals" and the risk of being rejected is significantly reduced, if not entirely eliminated.

I did not find that my early interest in programming (which ignited around 11 or 12 years of age) caused any significant problems. Many classmates at the time were interested in gaming or the occasional programming on the C64, C128 (and later the Amiga) and joined me in technical discussions or to seek assistance. In gymnasiet, everyone around me were interested in science and technology and frequently engaged in more or less serious discussions on the topic.

As someone already pointed out, the concept of "jocks" also is alien to European school systems. People who engaged in sports did so on their own free time, it was not something the school got involved in (ot

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Re:Helpful? (Score:5, Insightful)
by enjo13 (444114) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @04:26PM (#5330889)
It's funny, you sound like you where one of the bullies. You should really take some time to actually comprehend this essay, because it's amazingly accurate.

I'm the son of an Air Force colonel which meant that I moved every two years.. so during the most trying social years of my life I move 4 times. This worked out great for me, becaues it meant that I got to re-try the social thing until I got it right.. and when I did, I found that I didn't like the person I had to be.

When I started I was a reader.. avid reader. I built things and really tried to excel in my studies. I jumped out (intellectually) to a really big lead over most of my classmates by the time I reached 7th grade... but socially I was inept and completely miserable.

By my senior year of high school I was a starting point guard, had a large number of friends, and plenty of attention from the girls. To reach that point I had traded reading and math for clothes, a bad attitude, and the occasional bought of bullying. It was funny, but as that senior year came to a close I was more unhappy than I had ever been before.

This climb up the social ladder was really eye opening. The pear analogy used in the article is really good.. When your at the bottom you think everyone but you is popular.. In fact, almost no one is truly popular. Some are just better at stepping on the heads of others. It was always an interesting game to watch. You would see little skirmishes between two kids as they attempted to climb over each other to improve their social rank. It wasn't that one or the other had more (or less) in the way of social skills.. but someone always had to lose and the loser wasn't determined by anything other than someone elses ability to manipulate public opinion. These kids didn't 'bring it on themselves', they where simply victims of someone trying to climb up the social ladder.

The funny thing was, at the top you generally didn't find head-stompers, but people who where genuinely likeable people with some visible skill, look, or something otherwise outstanding about them. It was funny to me when I realized that those people in the middle always jockeying for position could never REACH the top, no matter how much they tried.

It wasn't until college that I found the way out of the stupid game. In college I made a commitment to simply be me.. In the swirl of confusion that is the first few months of college I found that people really liked me.. for being me. I stopped being someone else, found real friendship in a fraternity (1869), met my future wife, and otherwise had a great time...

The one thing I will disagree with in this article is that others around the world don't experience this at all. The Katz pieces about 'the hellmouth' certainly proves otherwise. I spent my 9th grade year in an Italian secondary school in Vicenza. The same social hiearchy (replace Football player with Futbol player and your done) existed with the same trials and tribulations. That only fundamental difference was that kids seemed to spend less time with each other, simply because their families demanded more of their time. When they where together en masse, however, it sure seemed like any other school I went to... everyone just spoke a different language.
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Re:Ill tell you. (Score:5, Interesting)
by Have Blue (616) Alter Relationship on Tuesday February 18, @07:19PM (#5332053)
There are two versions of "popular". The first is the one you are talking about: You are liked and respected by your peers, and vice versa. People desire interaction with you and vice versa. Nothing wrong with that, we all want that.

The other kind of popular is what you get in high school, which is exemplified by the other 5-rated comment in this thread. The one where social interaction is turned into some sort of twisted game whose players value "winning" higher than their self-esteem, their health, and their future. That is what geeks refuse to be part of, and I don't blame them at all.

"The problem with computers is that they do exactly what they are told."
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