Nerdy and I Know It
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Nerd (noun): an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a non-social hobby or pursuit.
Being classified as a nerd has meant a lot of different things over the years. In grade school, it was a deadly label to be given (almost as bad as cooties), a marker of being a teacher’s pet. In high school, it was that group of kids who hadn’t quite figured out the timing of showers and hair-cuts—these will also be the ones who later own half of the economy and leave their adolescent oppressors wondering why they can’t get a job. In college, being a nerd means that on Halloweekend, you decided to find a pair of fake glasses, booty shorts with suspenders, and a comically designed name tag. And all of these are better than the first definition for nerd on dictionary.com that I purposefully did not lead off with because it’s really quite rude (“a stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person”) and more than a little contradictory to the current iteration of the nerd paradigm.
I especially would not want the final one to be our working definition since I would argue that Boston is a city full of nerds.
First, there are the computer science and video game lovers who are nerds a la The Big Bang Theory. These folks emerge from Cambridge’s Google headquarters and the vast array of online start-ups to rove about at PAX East (the east coast version of the highly successful Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, in Seattle) where they can beta-test and explore avatars to their hearts delight. With over 160 booths, the 2012 rendition was clearly well-received by technology-oriented Bostonians, of which there are many, given the growing size of the Innovation District.
But there are also a great deal of professional nerds—that is to say, those who fit the first definition presented here because they are “single-minded” and “obsessed” with whatever field they are in, be it marketing, culinary arts, social media, or saving the environment. Boston continually pumps out citizens who are incredibly focused on a singular cause in their lives, which explains why the city is so vibrant and random.
Take, for example, tomorrow’s closing ceremonies of FutureM. This five-day marketing conference bonanza considers itself the idea hub of all of the best movements that will revolutionize the way we not only market items, but also interact with the world. Quite a task for a conference, but it is telling that they picked Boston for this “futuristic event experience” (as it is described on their website): “Boston is a forward-thinking city. We’re always innovating, and FutureM celebrates that. FutureM is not an event. It’s not a conference. In fact, there’s nothing like it anywhere else. If you think you don’t have time to spend away from your desk—think again! FutureM will get you so inspired, you’ll accomplish your next two weeks of work in just one.” So I stand corrected on classifying it as a conference, but the point remains that Boston is passionate even about something as intangible and offbeat as marketing.
Throughout the year, there are events for every single passion imaginable: HempFest, food truck festivals, the Boston Book Festival (I’ll just throw in a plug for my own brand of nerd and say this was my favorite event of 2011), anime conventions, the Boston Music Conference, and a mammoth number of others. This nerdom is part of why Boston shifts so quickly, defying definition or stereotype outside of our accents, addiction to Dunkin’ Donuts, and masochistic love of the Red Sox.
Or maybe this is all just an elaborate justification for realization that I, too, am most likely a nerd. I really just want to pull others in with me when I set off for the BBF again on Saturday. If there are a few more Boston College sweatshirts in the crowd, maybe I can hide from that realization just a little while longer.