Nerd rage is bad for your brain

Everyone knows that person. They’re the one groaning loudly in the theater, rolling their eyes at music on the radio, and lecturing everyone at the table about the inferiority of some book or TV show or video game. At their best, they’re an annoying downer. At their worst, they seem incapable of truly enjoying anything. The wrathful nerd has become a staple of nerd culture. And as nerd culture has experienced a recent boom in popularity, so have we seen the rise of nerd rage.

(And I know most of you won’t read past the header image, but yes, I realize James Rolfe doesn’t count. The Angry Video Game Nerd is a character. But he’s literally the only person who comes up in a Google image search for “angry nerd”.)

I often think nerd rage should have a qualifier on it, like, “part of a balanced breakfast”, the same way cereals really mean, “we expect you to eat these highly processed sugar flakes in moderation.” Nerd rage is something we shouldn’t spend a lot of our time participating in. Frankly, it’s not very good for you, and eventually, it can permanently alter the way you see the world.

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The brain responds to any stimuli. Positive, negative, neutral, all of it. However, it responds stronger to negative stimuli; some research indicates this might be a leftover from primitive life, when it was a way of keeping us from engaging in behavior that might get us killed in the wild. This explains why we seem to hang on to negative emotions longer than we do positive ones.

But the more negative stimuli we encounter, especially when we’re young, the more our brains become hardwired to respond to it. Just as with positive thinking, negativity improves connections between synapses that support negative thought processes. Essentially, consistent negative thinking strengthens the brain’s ability to think negatively, while dulling its ability to do anything else.

But this isn’t a call for us all to just start being super-happy and act like that fixes everything la la la. Nor should this be used as an argument against those pushing for real social change. (I can see it now: “There’s nothing wrong with representation in the media, you just can’t see the positives.” Just… no. No, no, no… no. The word “victim” has become a bad word on the internet. Yes, your brain can be wired to feel like you’re the victim in every situation, no matter how ludicrous. Elliot Rodger certainly proved that. That doesn’t mean actual victims are “playing the victim card”, and the vast majority of the time, this is a tactic used to dismiss social problems that ought not be dismissed. So shut your face about it.)

What I’m saying is that our feelings and patterns of behavior can actually be a self-perpetuating cycle. That’s great if those feelings are happiness, empathy, and a tendency to look at things realistically. But if the emotions you’re dwelling on are anger, negativity, and cynicism, that alters how you perceive the world, in a very bad way.

This can happen to anyone, but I’ve seen it a lot in nerd culture. I’ve watched people grow up and change from poking fun at movies and games to having explosive anger problems and wallowing in self-pity, alienating everyone around them. They see bad movies and games as personal insults and just another sign of how horrible things are “these days”, all the while seemingly oblivious to how unhappy they’ve become.

Caption contributed by Magdalen

Hang on, lemme finish this angry glare…. nnngghhhhh

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with negativity. Negativity is a natural response and it shouldn’t be ignored when the situation calls for it. But indulging in unnecessary dramatics is actually quite stressful over time for your mind and body. Not only can it lead to an inability to see the positives in anything, it can even cause you to subconsciously seek out negative aspects of a situation. So making it a part of your daily routine is pretty unhealthy.

What’s worse is that pop culture has for years glorified cynicism as the calling card of the “cool people”. Movies and TV love to remind us that babies are disgusting, children ruin your lives, and marriage is a ball and chain that keeps you from exploring other possibilities. Also, if you don’t make video games or skydive for a living, your job sucks and is slowly killing you. No wonder so many of us nerds are terrified to grow up and become adults: The media makes it look awful.

We all want to be the smirking protagonist who can’t be bothered to get passionate or incensed about anything. Responding to all problems with a “hmph” as they strut away casually. I’m looking at you, all anime ever. We admire this type of character, ignoring the fact that they’re displaying all the signs of having serious depression. They’re not so much rebels as they are miserable jerks.

Caption contributed by Magdalen

Fuckin’ sheeple with their conformist Rice Krispies treats…

This narrative is only encouraged by the idea that happy people are either ignorant, deluded, or just plain faking it. Cynics love to paint happiness as a two-dimensional facade, something disingenuous that should be avoided. And those who are genuinely happy are simply conforming to societal pressure. This is pretty hypocritical, as cynics themselves are often unwittingly conforming to the cool character type.

The worst part about this is you can get to a point where you can’t help it anymore. It’s better to get out of the habit while your brain is still malleable and capable of large scale changes. I know many of us want to be the next Angry Video Game Nerd or Yahtzee, but most of us just end up bitter assholes.

You have been warned.

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  • Joseph Patrick

    Thank god my profession focuses on positive psychology. It keeps me in check with having an upbeat, positive attitude. I also remind myself not to get too invested in nerdy shit. Mainly because it’s just feels like a waste of time debating with someone online over comic books. Twitter was my biggest enemy as I found it very easy to indulge in angry vents over other forms of social media. If anything deactivating it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.

  • Here:
    https://www.google.com.mx/search?hl=es-419&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1135&bih=444&q=nerd+rage&oq=nerd+rage&gs_l=img.3..0.1114.2667.0.2860.9.6.0.3.3.0.209.635.2j2j1.5.0….0…1ac.1.54.img..1.8.639.lbelmpuDlvQ

    Pictures of nerd rage not involving James. Try harder next time, James is a cool guy.

    • Wizkamridr

      I’d rather watch his videos than the guy with glasses.

      • Doug tends to be hit or miss for me; but I agree I like James’ work better, I think he does a better job on his videos.

    • Magdalen

      yeah

      • I don’t know why but that picture cracks me up. XD

    • John Wilson

      Try something from this video!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYuF3T7s7XY

    • Thanks for the tip about using this “Google” thing to search for images! Just out of curiosity, which image from that link do you think we should have used instead?

      • I’m pretty sure you’re smart enough to let the author of the article choose. ;)

        • CaptainCalvinCat

          On the other hand – the AVGN has a great potential for iconicity, so he will be recognized, that’s good for the article.

          • It will at the very least work as clickbait, which I personally find kind of tacky since the article isn’t about him.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Which is acknowledged by Nycea herself. ^^ But – I think, – the AVGN is one of the most quintessential depictions of a nerd, if you don’t want to resort to the stereotype – which would be depicted as following: pimply, overweight, wearing hornrims and still living with the parents.

          • JD

            I never got the part about still living with parents means nerd.
            nerd usually means smarter then the average person, and degrees that get good paying jobs.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Well, the way I understand the sterotype, the “Living with the parents” does not equal “business-economics-wise smart move”, but “immature childlike person, who does not want to take responsibility.”

            That’s the way, writers, who use that stereotype, see us.

          • MichaelANovelli

            Only if there are good paying jobs to be had…

          • I know that. Meh, there’s always Urkel, but the audience of this site may not know who he is.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            If you know that, why do you bring it up?

          • Because of the same reason why you are asking. Because we can and I am not using foul language while doing it nor insulting anyone with it.
            I’m sorry if it bothers you, but that is your problem alone.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            I’m not bothered – I just can not get, why you adress something, that is already adressed in the article. ^^

          • Because the skull works in mysterious ways. :P

  • CaptainCalvinCat

    Great article!
    I have to admit, this “accentuating the negativity” of that sort of stuff, is something, that is causing me to roll my eyes. Why can’t we just enjoy something, even if it might not be that gloriously good? Why do we have to say “yes, I know, that the movie is bad, BUT I like it nonetheless.” in order to shut those “but this movie is sooooo baaaaad”-people up?

    Take “Batman and Robin” – I really and wholeheartedly enjoy it, and yet people nag and bitch and moan and say “But it is a bullshitty movie, look at the Nostalgia Critic, look at his review.”
    Or take Star Wars – Episode 1: When I said, that I liked it, people were quick to point me towards the RedLettermedia reviews.

    Let me enjoy the movies, I want to enjoy, I let you enjoy the movies you want to enjoy.

    • I can enjoy the Nostalgia Critic or the Agony Booth skewering movies I like, while still liking the movies themselves. So, thanks for the links, folks. Now I’m being entertained even more by the movie you don’t like.

    • Wizkamridr

      The fanboys said I can’t or else.

      • CaptainCalvinCat

        Which is why I never gave something about that, what the fanboys would be bitching and moaning about. ^^

    • Wizkamridr

      I enjoy some of the movies MST3K made fun of. Mainly the ones from japan.

  • E-Bon

    I like to think that I’m the type that ‘enjoys nerd rage in moderation’, though just going by my own feelings probably isn’t the best indicator that I am.

    Honestly I’d never want to be the ‘smirking protagonist’, I’d much rather be the background character making a silly face that gets noticed by an eagle-eyed observer.

    • Wizkamridr

      I’d be the useless guy running the other way.

    • Jonathan Campbell

      Well, none of you can be the smirking protagonist, because the smirking protagonist is ME!

      Though, I actually am quite passionate about things, I’m just quiet about it most of the time.

      I have “hmph`ed” sometimes, though. I confess to that.

      Used to think it was cool.

  • Wizkamridr

    I love all the nerd rage in regards to the upcoming blue boyscout vs frowny face movie.

  • I wondered about this topic sometimes while I was going to TWoP regularly. By reading their negativity week after week, was I unintentionally ruining my enjoyment of my TV shows? Ultimately I figured that must not be the case. If I was still committed to the show enough to view each episode AND later read someone else’s reactions to it, then I was still a fan. It may sound weird in a comment at the Agony Booth, but I don’t usually spend time watching things “ironically”.

    Really, more than likely I liked the show a lot, but I disliked particular characters/storylines (…or reality show contestants who were selected for their outrageousness). I was fine with someone else criticizing those same weaknesses, as long as those weaknesses didn’t end up dragging down the whole show. I’ve seen a lot of Star Trek, and my level of fandom is the same no matter how many times the Agony Booth slams the worst episodes.

  • jokmank

    “We all want to be the smirking protagonist who can’t be bothered to get
    passionate or incensed about anything. Responding to all problems with a
    “hmph” as they strut away casually. I’m looking at you, all anime ever.”

    Every time I wanted to give up on anime, that was the reason. (Then I watch something like Chi’s Sweet Home and everything’s OK again :))

    The secret to nerd sanity is a healthy balance between real world interaction and internet interaction. Because internet is all about clicks, and everybody tries to formulate a unique opinion about things, which unfortunately usually results in those obnoxious articles like “you’re wrong for liking this and I’m gonna tell you why!” or “Why is this unimportant thing secretly the most important thing ever?” (I used to like you, Cracked, what happened?), and so if that is your main input of other people’s opinions, then of course you’re gonna get pissed off!

    • John Wilson

      Clickbait is what happen to Cracked. We need to make “Happy Cracked”!

      • Magdalen

        Side note: I enjoy a website called HelloGiggles.com, it’s sort of like Cracked only it actively tries to not ruin your day.

        • jokmank

          I’ve never heard of that one. It looks interesting. Also, I love Clickhole.com, Onion’s parody of clickbait sites!

          Also, there is already Happy Cracked – it’s Seanbaby’s website.

  • Jonathan Campbell

    Lets make someone happy, then.

    Reply here and make somebody’s day; give POSITIVE feedback for a change. Counter the negative stuff.

    For example:

    “Brodsky, you ARE the smartest.

    Liefeld, you ARE an artist.”

    You can be anything you want to be,

    Don’t let anyone tell you different.

    • “Anyone who’s ever had a GOOD comic published. It could be your turn.”

  • Wizkamridr

    “We all want to be the smirking protagonist who can’t be bothered to get passionate or incensed about anything. Responding to all problems with a “humph” as they strut away casually. I’m looking at you, all anime ever.”

    Not every anime character is grumpy like Vegeta. I probably only watch 10% of all anime out there, so I’m not saying your point is wrong. The ones I watch usually involve a hero who is a complete idiot.

    • Anime leading men tend to be pretty binary in that regard. They are either the faux emotionally untouchable badass (Batman-esc), or they are the super upbeat ultra powerful guy (Superman-esc).

      Then there are the slice of life guys who are hapless fuck-wits who are led around by their dicks, chasing any one of a group of ball busting manipulative women. Which is pretty sick.

      • Wizkamridr

        Goku, Goku and not Goku. I find the last type funny. Just me.

      • CaptainCalvinCat

        Rocketboy, I give you Conan Edogawa. He is not the emotionally untouchable badass, neither is he super upbeat, nor a hapless fuck-wit.

        • I would argue that if he had not been magically turned into a child his default “real” self would be a Batman-esc.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Naaah – look at the first episode, that would be his default real self, if he wouldn’t had been poisoned and turned into a child. He would’ve been the “saviour of the japanese police”, awfully full of himself …. so, more a Batman/Bruce-Wayne-Mashup.

  • W.C. Wit

    This is why I’m not a fan of the word “overrated”, because it’s essentially an excuse for bitter people to get mad about the fact that lots of other people like something they don’t.

    • It would be better to say, “I wish it were not so popular, as I do not like it. It’s popularity will spawn more works of similar tone and make that I will similarly dislike.”

      • I wish people would use the word “overrated” the way I do; I don’t use that word if I think something flat out sucks, I just say it sucks. Overrated to me means “good, but not THAT good.” I mean, we’ve all been there right? Gone to see that movie that all our friends love, and has a score over 90 on MetaCritic, and is getting Oscar buzz in the technical categories if nothing else, and our response was, “That was OK. I’ll probably watch it again when it goes up on NetFlix. Doubt I’ll buy the DVD though. Now where did I park?” Yeah, you liked it too, but you’re not entirely sure what all the fuss is about.

      • Wizkamridr

        I wish the overrated Batman wasn’t so popular. D.C. needs
        to stop acting like he’s their poster boy/ golden boy/ mascot. Bitterness not
        included.

        • Jonathan Campbell

          Batman IS their poster boy / golden boy / mascot.

          I mean, its him and Superman, but Batman is selling better (to the best of my knowledge) and “DC” stands for Detective Comics, not Action Comics. Batman is DC born and bred, and is the one who is bringing in all the cash these days, and the one who has done best on the big screen.

          So yeah, the Bat is the man.

          • Wizkamridr

            Batsy is more popular because most people think the blue boyscout is boring. Batman and Wolverine are “cool”. Superman is “lame.”

          • Jonathan Campbell

            Regardless of why he is more popular, he still IS more popular. And that isn’t because DC have made him their poster boy; he is their poster boy because of his popularity.

            And while Superman is awesome, Batman is ALSO awesome.

          • Wizkamridr

            I’m not going to get into some nerd/geek fight over Batsy. I don’t dislike the character, I just don’t care. I wasn’t impressed with the last film,and have zero desire to watch lil wayne’s upcoming tv show.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            Fair enough.

            Funny- I was disappointed the last film too and don’t much like the look of the new tv show either.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Yeah, I liked Batman, when he was not Mr. Grumpy-Face (i.e. the Adam West Era, Batman & Robin) – I don’t think that overly “standing there, being stoic and not emotion else” is that kinda cool.

    • Wizkamridr

      Batman is so overrated.

  • Gallen Dugall

    Because there were things that were good, not great but good. There was certainly room for improvement and reason to hope. Then things were dumbed down, features removed and depth enshallowed, and what was good was hollowed out to appeal to a broader market. This is bad, not horrible but bad. Sometimes the next generation gives you hope by rejecting these things, and other times they break your heart by embracing the dumb. Ultimately you realize that the pendulum is never going to swing back the other way. Things are just going to get dumber and dumber and the tolerance and acceptance of dumb is going to get broader and broader. You come to terms with the great encrapening that is pop culture. It consumes all that is good only to extrude it again in warped, washed out and malformed ways. You stop getting angry and get serious about completing that solaronite trigger device.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Pendulums DO swing back, though. It’s just that however far it starts to one side, it must go equally as far in the other direction before it returns to the center. :)

      • Gallen_Dugall

        at this point it’s less a pendulum than it is a high speed projectile with a tail

        • JD

          A bottomless pit of Dumb

  • Nerds tend to focus on academic knowledge, it’s geeks who are obsessed with pop-culture… just saying…

    • Gallen Dugall

      Yeah, and remember when literal didn’t mean figurative?

      • MichaelANovelli

        Indubitably! And said differences were my bailiwick, what?

    • Magdalen

      I remember a time when people cared about the difference. That’s not today.

      • Wizkamridr

        I don’t remember the term geek being used when I was growing
        up. You were just a nerd. Just saying (with conviction).

        • JD

          The term when i was young was loser

    • I would like to start a campaign to shame anyone who writes “just saying” at the end of their comment. It is a cowardly backpedal. If you are going to write something, write with conviction.

      Don’t dip your toe into the public pool of criticism and then hop back feeling the water is too cold for your pedantic bullshit.

    • J.O

      Yeah, but what about the people who are both nerds and geeks? I’ve got plenty of professors and friends like that. What do you call them?

      • Jonathan Campbell

        Nerdy Geeks.

        Geeky Nerds.

        Neeks.

        Gerds.

        Of mixed fan-icity.

        Undecided afficionados.

        Brainstorming session!

      • Then either one applies.

    • MichaelANovelli

      It’s like calling someone a “fussbudget”. Only a fussbudget would know what a fussbudget is. ^_^

  • Toby Clark

    I’m more about Nerd Restrained Disappointment or Frustration than Rage. Except with The Last Airbender, or something on that level.

  • mamba

    So true…I have a few friends that I HATE to talk to, because they are so used to this “defending” mentality that literally every conversation, no matter what the topic, within minutes will degenerate into a passionate usually frowning “CAN’T YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN???” kind of discussion with heated passions and the like. while I’m glad they feel strongly towards their points, I’d point out that half the time I AGREE with their points…they are just so used to talking antagonistically that they talk that way ALL THE TIME, and like you said, they aren’t outwardly happy people.

    They’re only happy when proven right or complaining about stuff, and it just brings down everyone.

    • Kanonite

      If you hate to talk to them and it brings down everyone, I think it would be time to ditch them.

      • mamba

        Still holding out for hope that they will start to want to talk about other things occasionally…friends are still friends after all…

  • Falkner

    By nerd rage, I assume you mean real nerd rage. Not the “nerd rage” people like James Rolfe and other internet personalities put on for entertainment purposes. That rage has always been there, and it’s always had the same cause, nobody knew about it before because no one ever paid attention to nerds before.

  • Guest

    “Responding to all problems with a “hmph” as they strut away casually. I’m looking at you, all anime ever. We admire this type of character, ignoring the fact that they’re displaying all the signs of having serious depression. They’re not so much rebels as they are miserable jerks.

    Fuckin’ sheeple with their conformist Rice Krispies treats…

    This narrative is only encouraged by the idea that happy people are either ignorant, deluded, or just plain faking it. Cynics love to paint happiness as a two-dimensional facade, something disingenuous that should be avoided. And those who are genuinely happy are simply conforming to societal pressure. This is pretty hypocritical, as cynics themselves are often unwittingly conforming to the cool character type.”

    You are mistaking cynics for teenagers. Adult cynics know how to have fun and not regard all happy people as sheep. That is unless their conspiracy theorists or mentally ill.

  • Jasper Jones

    This was fantastic. Thank you for writing it.

  • guest

    But what if I WANT to be a cynic? What then?