So if intelligence in itself is not a factor in popularity, why are smart kids so consistently unpopular? The answer, I think, is that they don't really want to be popular.As ever, the best revenge is living well, and I, for one, feel that it has served very well indeed. While this quote doesn't actually represent my experience, it does strike a chord and offer a reflection on an experience distilled:
If someone had told me that at the time, I would have laughed at him. Being unpopular in school makes kids miserable, some of them so miserable that they commit suicide. Telling me that I didn't want to be popular would have seemed like telling someone dying of thirst in a desert that he didn't want a glass of water. Of course I wanted to be popular.
But in fact I didn't, not enough. There was something else I wanted more: to be smart. Not simply to do well in school, though that counted for something, but to design beautiful rockets, or to write well, or to understand how to program computers. In general, to make great things. - Why Nerds are Unpopular
"Personally, I got beat up every day after school for six years. Being the class reject during grade school did wonders for my patience. I spent the entire time reading and plotting revenge."
-Crasher, 13th Gen
And then there's this:
For example, teenage kids pay a great deal of attention to clothes. They don't consciously dress to be popular. They dress to look good. But to who? To the other kids. Other kids' opinions become their definition of right, not just for clothes, but for almost everything they do, right down to the way they walk. And so every effort they make to do things "right" is also, consciously or not, an effort to be more popular.This directly reflects my own experience. I just plain don't care about fashion. I want to look good, but only insofar as you have to not look like an idiot in order for people to listen to you, and insofar as I want my wife to be happy to be seen with me when we go out. That is about it.
Nerds don't realize this. They don't realize that it takes work to be popular. In general, people outside some very demanding field don't realize the extent to which success depends on constant (though often unconscious) effort. For example, most people seem to consider the ability to draw as some kind of innate quality, like being tall. In fact, most people who "can draw" like drawing, and have spent many hours doing it; that's why they're good at it. Likewise, popular isn't just something you are or you aren't, but something you make yourself.
The main reason nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about. Their attention is drawn to books or the natural world, not fashions and parties. They're like someone trying to play soccer while balancing a glass of water on his head. Other players who can focus their whole attention on the game beat them effortlessly, and wonder why they seem so incapable. - Why Nerds Are Unpopular
Something I often hear when I come home from work is my wife saying "you know that doesn't match." And the thing is...I don't. I just cannot subconsciously internalize what it means to "match" when the rules change every year. (Can't we just all vote on a series of RFCs on what matches and be done with it?) If the clothes still fit, and aren't threadbare, why can't I just keep wearing them?
As a thirteen-year-old kid, I didn't have much more experience of the world than what I saw immediately around me. The warped little world we lived in was, I thought, the world. The world seemed cruel and boring, and I'm not sure which was worse.And I think we'll leave the excerpts there. The entire essay is worth the read, a considered and compelling characterization of the modern teenage circumstance.
Because I didn't fit into this world, I thought that something must be wrong with me. I didn't realize that the reason we nerds didn't fit in was that in some ways we were a step ahead. We were already thinking about the kind of things that matter in the real world, instead of spending all our time playing an exacting but mostly pointless game like the others.
Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they're called misfits. - Why Nerds Are Unpopular
An old friend and comedian gets the last word.
"The secret to happiness is pissing off the people trying to hold you down by enjoying life."
(With a tip-o-the-hat to OpenLeft.)