We are not special: The nerd’s appeal to pity

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Bitter nerds make up a large portion of the nerd community. These people struggle to self-analyze and have a strong need to protect themselves from any criticism. They resent that they’re lonely and often blame women for their lack of sex lives.

[Note: If you are a nerd, but do not fit this category: good. You don’t need to send me an essay-long email about how you’re not bitter. Do not send me your memoir about how hard things were for you growing up. If you can’t control your urge to inform me that you’re not a bitter nerd, you might just be a bitter nerd.]

I recently posted the following series of messages on my Twitter.

This came from a place of frustration. I realized during a conversation that I genuinely feared the reactions of nerds to my content. I feared it in a way I never felt about any high school bully. The anxiety over backlash and internet tantrums had actually kept me from writing my feelings, posting videos, and saying what I really felt on more than one occasion. All this from a demographic who rallies around violent games being a form of free speech. And it pissed me off.


The subsequent reaction to my tweets blew up my Twitter feed for a bit. The majority of responses have so far been positive, or at the very least introspective. The negative reactions were… less than constructive, as they tend to be. In instances like this, negative responses tend to spiral down a crap chute that I like to call the nerd’s appeal to pity.

Arguments that fall under this heading generally take the form of…

“I was bullied in the ‘80s and girls didn’t like me.”

“Women only like Neanderthals.”

“I was never given the opportunity to work on my social skills, that’s why I’m like this.”

The recurring underlying theme here is of course the word bitter nerds hate most: Entitlement. Along with privilege, they hate these words because they cast criticism on one’s behavior. And criticism of any kind can’t be tolerated because bitter nerds are actually the most sensitive people on earth.

For all these people complain about the over-sensitivity of social justice advocates, the fact is I don’t seek them out and never have. Social justice advocates are not the one posting endless, whining YouTube comments on my video about Game Grumps. They see any criticism they receive as the cruelest, most undeserved attack on their poor widdle selves, while at the same time seeing any criticism they give anyone else, no matter how toxic or abusive, to be totally justified. It’s just them exercising their free speech, and gosh darn it, they’re proud!

But back to appealing to pity.

Although these people can be frustrating, their problem is really just having a deep-seated sense of persecution that they’ve carried into adulthood. Combined with feeling entitled to women’s attention, and therefore not obligated to improve themselves, this breeds resentment.

It’s impossible to get through to someone like this until they first understand that they’re responsible for themselves and what they say and do. They must be open to the idea that they’re flawed and capable of improvement. But they’re also hypersensitive to anything that might resemble snark, anger, or sarcasm. Replying in any of these ways will result in them doubling down on their feelings of persecution.

Bitter nerds love to consider themselves misunderstood anti-heroes. I’d like to point out that this is a pretty common coping mechanism, one I fell victim to in my own youth. It gives you a sense of identity and shields you from the sting of criticism. As in, “I’m not a loser, I’m just misunderstood. They don’t get how special I am. And that’s fine as long as I am super-duper special.”

The problem comes when you’re confronted with the reality that so many other people have also suffered in exactly the same way. People we thought “had it all” struggled just as much as we did, if not worse.

Case in point, my boyfriend.

We are not special: The nerd's appeal to pity

Stupid hot guy… I bet he traveled the world with the money he made being popular in high school.

If I had met him as a teenager, I would have never spoken to him. I would have never even considered talking to him. He was cute and on the soccer team and had legs like Chun-Li. Guys like that didn’t go out with chubby, nerdy girls who drew Sailor Moon fan art in their notebooks. He might as well have been a different species.

But the reality was, he was taking so many AP classes at such a young age that he could barely connect with anyone in his school. As he puts it, “The older kids didn’t like the younger kid showing off, and the kids my age didn’t relate to me because I wasn’t in any of their classes. I felt like I was completely alone. I had some friends, but I didn’t feel like I was part of a group like everyone else was.”

Learning this was kind of mind-blowing for me. I was so absorbed with how everyone dismissed me and how bad that made me feel that I was totally oblivious to the fact that high school sucks for everyone. If you were fat and ugly, like I was, you were an invisible loser. But if you were beautiful, then fat, ugly girls like me would resent you forever. You can’t win. And the first step in escaping this persecution complex is realizing that we were not the only ones suffering. And no, our suffering wasn’t worse or somehow more important than others. We are not special.

Appealing to pity only proves that you’re still operating the same way you were in adolescence. It’s a self-centered and extremely flawed attitude that has no place in modern conversations about politics, social justice, or gaming. I implore you all, as a fellow nerd, to grow out of this. I know it’s hard to stop. After sitting in a certain chair for long enough that butt nook is pretty damn comfortable. It soothes us to think that we’re the real victims, because it takes all the responsibility off of us to change our behavior. But that’s a coward’s approach to the world. It’s time to take up the sword, put on our big kid pants, and start acting like the heroes we look up to in our games.

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