Accidental Nerd Elitism


Patton Oswald’s Star Wars filibuster from “Parks and Recreation”

I have a couple of confessions to make. First: I’m a nerd elitist. Second: I don’t always mean to be.

A pizza delivery guy came to my door one recent night, and he complimented me on my DeLorean-Tardis shirt. He then very excitedly started to recommend the Epic Rap Battles of History video of the Doctor versus Doc Brown. I’m already a fan of the ERB series, so I smiled and told him we (my roommates who were there and myself) have seen them all. The delivery guy and I chuckled, I took my pizza, and he left. After I shut my door though, my roommates said that I was a “douchy hipster” by acting like a know-it-all when the delivery guy was just excited to share in his fandom.

In retrospect, I see their point. Replaying the scene in my head, I feel like I shut the guy down. I’m glad that the delivery guy is into the same things I am. I’m even more glad when people get excited over whatever geeky shirt I may be wearing. It’s why I wear them.

We geeks and nerds pride ourselves in being exceptionally knowledgeable and early adopters in whatever our fandoms are. Sometimes this leads to good-nature competition and discussion. Some of my best conversations with friends have been debating and arguing about super hero films. However, sometimes this leads to an unhealthy one-upsmanship and shouting matches. And also sometimes, as in this case, our obsession for all things geeky can lead to moments of  an inferred inflated superiority when we don’t even mean it. It can just ooze out at inopportune times (as most things that ooze out tend to do).

This isn’t true for everyone, but it is for some. I know it is for me. I don’t help matters with my short style of talking/writing. I’ve had more than a couple of people say they thought I’m a harsh asshole from my emails, to realize later after talking in person that it’s just how I write.

For those of us who exude a know-it-all arrogance, we must learn to recognize our unintentional elitism and keep it in check. This is at the utmost importance when meeting new people, where first impressions are often the strongest.

I don’t know how the delivery guy interpreted our encounter, and I may never know. It might just be my paranoia over people’s impressions of myself that says he took it as badly as I fear. Each time, I can only hope that I handle my next first encounter better.

Maybe I’ll try ordering pizza again soon too.

Have you accidentally offended anyone in a first impression through an unintentional elitism?
How did you handle it?
How did you learn from the experience?

Share your answers and thoughts in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “Accidental Nerd Elitism

  1. Okay, call me strange for thinking about this over night but I did. And I thought about this time, way too many years ago, that I and my boyfriend were looking at Anime and this girl, out of the blue, suggested a few titles really enthusiastically. And we responded in what I thought was a very polite way but also in a way that didn’t further the conversation. I can’t speak for this ex boyfriend of mine, but my response came from a defensive place, “You don’t think I know enough to find my own Anime?” sort of knee-jerk reaction. And it wasn’t until your post that it occurred to me, this girl was just really, really excited to see other people interested in something that she was passionate about. It sucks to think that she was reaching out in her sheer geeky excitement and that we shot her down but, just like your experience, I can learn to look at it as someone reaching out to share rather than someone implying that they know more than me. We can only be responsible for ourselves and how we react to the world around us. You’re right that self-awareness is the key!

    • That’s a great example, and thanks for sharing it! We’ve all been on the other side of that equation – the one bursting with geeky enthusiasm eager to share. We just have to remember that when we encounter someone else like that. Of course we’ll have bad days where we forget or are cranky, but it’s all a learning experience for the next time.

  2. Pingback: Expanding the Social Comfort Zone | nikoSCREAM

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