Is Geek the New Chic? The “Nerdification” of America

Nerds becoming the most powerful forces in America
Is Geek the New Chic?

Let’s face it. Your interest in reading this article with a word like “nerdification” in the headline is just a testament to how nerdy our society is getting. Things are changing in America.  Society isn’t okay with airheads anymore.  Nerds are starting to take over the entertainment industry, the job market, the White House, our social lives, the internet…..….Don’t believe me?  Just look at the facts.

Now, the most coveted job in our country is to work for Google: the “Mecca for geeks” (where handsome 6-figure incomes are the norm). The Sexiest Man in America, George Clooney….don’t forget, he could have married anyone in the world…just wedded a nerd from Oxford University (albeit a beautiful nerd). The most successful comedy in America (and the highest-rated sitcom since 2004)–The Big Bang Theory—is about a bunch of geeks from Caltech. One of the highest paid actors on TV, Hugh Laurie, got paid a blasphemous amount of money (over $400,000/episode) to play an uber-nerdy physician on the show House. The most popular show for young viewers on Friday night—The Shark Tank—is about how people use their smarts to invent the next best thing. The Simpsons–the longest-ever running American sitcom and the most popular animated show of the last two decades—is written by a group of Ivy League nerds. The First Lady of the U.S. is a Princeton and Harvard Law School Graduate. In fact, she was Barack Obama’s mentor and advisor when he was in law school.  Who does America trust more than anyone else to rescue our computers? The Geek Squad of course. The most popular online social networking website–Facebook–was developed by Harvard nerds. One of our most beloved talk show hosts of all time—Conan O’ Brien—is a nerd from Harvard. How about Microsoft….and the 300 billion dollars that comes with it?…Yup…Harvard computer geeks laid the foundation for that empire as well.

Still don’t buy the argument? Let’s look at the new influx of online businesses. People are now scrambling to insert the words “nerd” and “geek” into their domain names or brand names in order to impart a sense of legitimacy, expertise, and trust to their advertised products and services. Sites like “nerdapproved.com” “realestatenerd.com,” “theblognerd.com” “thegeekchic” “nerdwallet.com” “nerdcoaching.com” “shoppingnerd.com’ “callnerds.com” “nerdfitness.com,” “geekwire.com,” “geektools.com,” “hostgeek.com,” and “thenerdherders.com” are sprouting all over the net and the list keeps growing.

The country’s “nerdification” is influencing our political decisions. Why was Sarah Palin rejected by so many Americans when she became McCain’s running mate? She simply wasn’t nerdy enough for our country. Palin was a successful governor. She was well-dressed, sassy, pretty, dynamic, down-to-earth and had accomplished a lot for the state of Alaska. In 2007, her approval ratings for governor of Alaska were between 89-93%. But, America was not ready for her to lead our country. A series of interviews with Katie Couric showcasing major gaps in her knowledge base rapidly went viral. Palin was unable to give Couric the name of a single newspaper she read. She could not explain why she was poised to lead foreign policy other than pointing to her state’s geographic proximity to Russia. Nearly every big name comedian had a field day portraying her as a “Barbie without brains.” Articles cropped up highlighting “The 10 Most Ridiculous Sarah Palin Quotes Ever” and “The 13 Social Studies Facts Sarah Palin Got Wrong” among many others. A February 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 71% of Americans felt Palin lacked the qualifications necessary to be President of the United States.  Palin received “the lowest vote of confidence in a running mate since the elder George Bush chose then-Indiana senator Dan Quayle to join his ticket in 1988.”

When I was in high school, kids would downplay their intellect because it wasn’t “cool” to know more than everyone else. Even in medical school–where being a geek is a requirement for admission–many students would disguise their motivation to achieve: “Oh….. I was working out in the gym for four hours last night and then went to an awesome party…oh….got soooo wasted….Oh shoot the final is tomorrow?” But those same people would be spotted in the library studying their brains out until midnight and scoring the highest grades on all the tests. Back then, it was cool to “shoot the breeze,” “hang out” and “chill” and just do nothing meaningful all the time. When I was growing up, science nerds and techies were never invited to prom, had few friends, and were just plain weird.

But somehow, I always found the computer geeks endearing.  Physicists, math geniuses, science freaks, and scrawny chess masters were all my cup of tea. I was never a Trekkie, nor did I like talking about physics all night. But, I humbly appreciated the conviction, ambition, and mental agility of all nerds.  I was an equal opportunity nerd cheerleader. I never knew that one day– just one day—my fellow Americans would wink at me and say… ..”You were right all along to believe in nerds. We were wrong to ostracize them.”

The Revenge of the Nerds sequel is back and everyone’s watching. Geeks have risen to the top and they will continue to rise. Nerds are quickly becoming the richest people in America.  Nerdy women are marrying the sexiest and most powerful men in America. Nerdy shows are taking over TV. Actors playing nerds are getting industry-record paychecks (Jim Parsons—TV’s number one geek is set to get $1 million per episode!). The top employers in America are going out of their way to recruit geeks…….Tell your kids to study hard in school.  Save your pocket protectors America…..Geek is rapidly becoming the new chic.

Leslie Mann MD
Editorial Writer for DoctorCPR.com: America’s #1 website for medical jobs + practice resources.

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