Rise Above The Nerd Hierarchy

Those who have been around for a while might remember the image below. It’s a flowchart setting up a hierarchy of geeks, with published sci-fi and fantasy folk at the very top and furries of various kinds at the very bottom.

It’s obviously satirical, and the creator even took care to establish that it’s based on how geeky some fans consider themselves in comparison to others. To a certain extent, however, I see that some fans desperately want to institute an actual hierarchy within various geek and nerd communities.

In the anime community, it manifests as a subtle, but pervasive insistence that some anime are worthwhile while others aren’t, or as a passive or active discouragement of certain kinds of fan behaviour. If you watch cute girl anime or obsess over anime in the same way the cute girl anime fan crowd does, you’re put lower on the hierarchy than anime fans who like Akira and Cowboy Bebop.

They say there are two ways to build the tallest tower in the city. The first way is to build your tower until it stands above everyone else’s and then keep building. The second, and easier, way is to knock down every tower that’s taller than yours. The hierarchy paradigm that occurs in geek and nerd communities is a prime example of the second method.

Passionate people are too wrapped up in their love of their fandom and media to be concerned about what’s going on in other groups of fans. Conversely, dispassionate people are insecure about their fandom and media and, as a result, make the media other people consume and the ways in which they consume it their business, for the purpose of making themselves feel better about what they do and how they do it.

The mindset becomes “Those people who like things I don’t like and do things I don’t do are having more fun than I am. I have to remind them that what they like and do is garbage so I can look and feel like I’m having more fun than they are. Maybe, just maybe, if I do that enough, more people will come on-board with what I like.”

It’s a toxic way to grow a fandom, for sure, but that’s how the hierarchy mindset operates: Stomp fandoms underfoot so your fandom looks “cooler,” or even to just discourage people from joining fandoms you don’t like for fear of persecution. Plenty of people on the internet don’t like furries for some reason, so as a result furries are constantly placed lower on the totem pole than other fandoms.

The solution to the problem, however, is deceptively simple.

Do what you do.

The funny thing about shaming is that it doesn’t work on people who refuse to be shamed. If you enjoy yourself engaging in whatever fandom activity you engage in, there’s no reason to let insecure, dispassionate people discourage you from diving deeper. Simply put, they’ve got personal problems to work out and you don’t need to be involved with that.