We are not the Specials: the Nerd’s Appeal to Pity

Bitter Nerd: A portion of the Nerd community. These people struggle to self analyze and a have 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 do not 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 cannot control your urge to inform me about how you’re not a bitter nerd- you probably are a bitter nerd.]

I recently tweeted out 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 content, and saying what I really felt on more than one occasion. All this from a demographic who rallies about free speech in violent games. And it pissed me off.

The subsequent reaction to it blew up my Twitter feed for a bit. The majority has so far been mostly positive or at the very least introspective. The negative reactions were… less than constructive, as they tend to be. In instances like this negative reactions tend to spiral down 1 of 2 different crap chutes. So here’s a handy guide that may help you pinpoint the particular issue you’re dealing with.

Appealing to pity

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

“I was bullied in the 80’s 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 overwhelming message here is of course the word bitter nerds hate most: Entitlement. Along with privilege, they hate these words because they cast criticism on their 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, I don’t seek them out and never have. Social justice advocates are not the one sending endless, whinging comments to my video about Game Grumps. They see any criticism they receive as the cruelest, most undeserved attack on their poor widdle selves. While 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, they’re 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 responsible for improving themselves- this breeds resentment.

It’s impossible to get through to someone like this until they first understand that they are 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 and lone wolves. 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.

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

Case in point, my boyfriend.


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

If I had met him in high school 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 nerd 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.

“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’re fat and ugly, like me, 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 the specials. 

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 perception that has no place in modern conversations about politics, social justice or gaming. I implore you, as a fellow nerd, we all seriously need to grow out of this. I know it’s hard to stop. After sitting in a specific 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.

Why does the Internet hate TumblrKids?

I’m not sure if it’s ever been verified statistically that Tumblr is made up primarily of teens. But that’s definitely the story we tell ourselves.

“They’re just stupid kids. They’ll grow out of it, preferably before they can vote.”

There’s plenty of things to hate online, but the social justice tweens seem to bring a lot of focused ire. Why? We know NAMLBA is still a thing right? Well I have a theory…

They’re obsessed with labels.
When we were younger there was boys and girls, gay and straight. Most of us had very little understanding, if any, that a broader spectrum existed. Now we do and exploring this has been a really positive experience for many. Cis or nonCis? Cool. Trans, gender queer, asexual, pansexual, non-binary etc. We’ve discovered a completely new language to help people feel more accepted in society.

The problem is teens seem to ruin everything. Whenever a group starts to become larger and more accepted, inevitably smaller groups begin to splinter off. The labels obsess over minutia and eventually we get things like “demisexual” to refer to someone who only likes to have sex with people to whom they are emotionally involved. Well grats, kiddo, you’re fucking normal.

(edit: I’ve been corrected on Twitter by someone explaining that Demisexual is someone who can only be aroused by someone who they are romantically involved with. This is however, the way someone claiming to be Demisexual explained it. Which actually shows how much people minced these labels.)

This practice seems bizarre to us because our teen years were all about rejecting labels. At least we thought they were. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

You’ll never convince them they’re wrong
The internet is a double edged sword. On one hand it’s allowed disenfranchised groups to finally have a voice. People of color, trans individuals, and the LGBT community now have a platform to speak out against bigotry. They can also give people an insight into what it’s like to live in their shoes. Visibility matters.

On the other hand, it allows people to cloister themselves within an echo chamber wherein they are never challenged. Allowing naïve and shortsighted ideas to fester into full blown movements. No one is talking to each other, everyone is talking at each other.

You’ll never convince these teens that screaming at people wont solve anything. For some reason this is something one has to come to understand on their own. And most importantly, it’s not really about solving a problem, it’s about the righteous feeling they get from aligning themselves with a movement.

They’re stupid and we know it
One of the most frustrating things in retrospect for a lot of adults is how ignorant we were as teens. The world was a sea of adults telling us we were stupid. The harsh reality being of course that most of us were stupid. We had over-simplistic and self absorbed ideas about the world. But as we grew up, we put away our war drums and found ourselves with a deeper understanding of events. Most of us, at least. Some of us are still beating at “9/11 was an inside job” drum.

It’s really hard to watch someone go down the same road and hit the same embarrassing bumps as you did. They embarrass us by proxy. Especially since the internet allows all of their social justice ramblings to be preserved eternally as a testament of their teenage angst. And that’s really all it is: ANGST.

The self centered angst of the Social Justice movement
I’d like to go on record saying I think social justice is a good thing, nay, a great thing! Bringing attention to people who are under represented is important if we’re going to move forward in society. Calling out bullshit in the media that reinforces racism, sexism and homophobia is good.

What’s not good is co opting a movement and using it like fashion accessory. Appropriating words like “trigger warning” and using them to describe anything that makes you uncomfortable or upset. Demanding everyone accept you for who you are while screaming at everyone else about who they are. Throwing textual tantrums at anyone who challenges you and calling it oppression.

This is where most adults begin to see red.

These kids… these young, mostly white, and despite their best efforts straight kids don’t know anything about oppression. Furthermore they don’t care about actual oppression, the type that you read about in the news. They only care about the madey-uppy oppression that they feel is thrust upon them unfairly.

There must be thousands of Tumblr pages by now but no matter how they spin it, the underlying theme is the same: YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME.

This is where we pull back and reflect.

It’s a phrase we’ve heard before. One we screamed at our own parents. Somewhere down the line we lost sight of the fact that these are kids. Young people who are grappling with the age old dilemma of wanting to be part of a group while remaining different and special. And in their quest to do so will take labels and movements to the most fanatical extreme.

This is why we hate them… because we were them. Sure, it was a different flavor in the 80’s and 90’s, but the fool’s quest for self validation still rings true. I predict that a large portion of these teens will eventually grow up, as we did, and realize how self absorbed and petulant they were being. They’ll keep their core values of social justice and acceptance. But they’ll drop the self centered tragedy and focus on more productive writing.

Most of them, at least.

Just as we have a few stragglers who never really left the teenage cave, they too will have the awkward experience of running into someone from high school whose still on Tumblr calling people “cisfags”. It is an inevitable, surreal experience.

So let us end here on this note, give them their time and space. Yes, they’re annoying. But so were we once. Hopefully we’ll meet again someday. Preferably not on Tumblr.