It pains me to write this post. Not just because people I know and generally respect are going to see themselves reflected in the statements I’m about to make and will inevitably take offence at them — but also because merely broaching some of the topics I’m discussing here will trigger the very behavior I’m complaining about just as surely as saying “Bloody Mary” three times in front of a mirror or mentioning Mike Daisey on Twitter will summon them from the depths of Hades. Nonetheless, the time for silence is over.
Nerds ruin everything.
There, I said it: nerds ruin everything. From science fiction, to technology, to food, to personal grooming — once the nerds arrive in force, things go to shit.
What I’m talking about here is a very specific characteristic of nerdhood: the compulsion to not only over-analyse and pick apart any aspect of human existence to the point that there isn’t a single iota of joy left in the thing but to righteously and arrogantly proclaim that their personal preference vis-à-vis that topic is the one and only correct opinion.
Case in point, and the final example that drove me to the keyboard: Recently on App.net there was a “debate” — running for at least two days — over fucking peanut butter. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t welcome a robust discussion about nut butters. I actually quite enjoy people sharing their opinions about things. Often during such discussions I’ll learn about something that I never knew about — this is a good thing. What isn’t so good is the inevitable declaration from some nerd that their preference is the only valid one, and everyone else is an uneducated Philistine. One could argue that the App.net discussion was all in good fun — and for some parts of it I’d agree with you. Unfortunately the nerd obsession with holding the One True Opinon™ comes through in many of the responses.
Sadly this shit isn’t limited to App.net nut butter debates. It permeates the very fabric of online discussion.
I don’t think regular readers of mine will have any problem recognizing this behavior in discussions about technology. CLI vs. GUI, Mac vs. PC, iPhone vs. Android, Google vs. Apple. This shit happens so often in the tech world that my Angry Mac Bastards cohorts and I coined a word to describe the mindset: Highlanderism. It’s rarely enough for a technology, product, or company to merely do well. It must utterly dominate any and all competitors. Similarly, the average technology nerd is all but incapable of accepting that someone might make a different choice than them. Apple users are “fanbois” who only care about looks and don’t use their tech for “real” applications. Android users are “freetards” who just want something cheap and can’t appreciate the divine products that sprung, Athena-like, from Steve Jobs’ forehead et cetera, et fucking cetera.
In my experience, though, the absolute worst offenders when it comes to this shit are food nerds, or “foodies” as they are sometimes called. Take this Serious Eats article about making the “best” grilled cheese sandwich. Now bear in mind we’re talking about grilled fucking cheese here. Any definition of “best” will be highly subjective but that’s not what I want to point out here. What I want to highlight is the utter fucktardery of some of the comments. Take this gem from commentor JRWStormy:
This is why, regardless of the fact that I love a lot of what goes on here, I’ll never take Serious Eats, um, seriously. You can’t call yourself a food blog, and a “serious” food blog at that, when you’re such fanboys of “pasteurized processed cheese food.” It comes up all the time at A Hamburger Today, and now there’s a Food Lab post (by a Beard Award nominee, no less) advocating for the use of fake “cheese.” If the government requires them to put the word “food” on the label so you’ll know it’s food, it’s not food.
Oh Lordy! How could these heathens recommend “fake cheese”. Ignoring the fact that processed cheese, while possibly not up to one’s delicately honed foodie tastes, is by no means “fake” the original article—in the next fucking paragraph—goes on to recommend Gruyère, Compté, Fontina, Taleggio, Brie, or any young cheddar. But no, a cheese that doesn’t live up to some random twat on the internet’s refined tastes was mentioned…HEATHENS!!
I could go on. It would be trivial to find uncounted examples of this shit in forums, blog posts, and social media discussions by the thousands; but what’s the point. I despair of changing this behavior, but I’ll try with this advice:
Nerds, you who feel so passionately about the trivial shit that most of the world gives no fuck about, hear me. Understand that other people may hold different opinions than you without it reflecting on your choices. Understand that people’s preferences are shaped by many factors. If someone prefers cheap supermarket peanut butter (laden with “bad stuff” though it may be) or chooses to make a sandwich with Kraft Singles that does not make them a horrible person. Maybe they like the taste of Jif because it calls to mind the simpler times of childhood when the very last thing on their mind was the ingredients list on their PB&J. Maybe they like a good old grilled Kraft Single sandwich because it reminds them of the lunches their now-departed father made them as a kid. Who fucking knows, and more importantly it ain’t yours to fucking judge.