Why are “nerds” and “weebs” so power-hungry?
I’ve been an insider to both communities. This is not a prejudiced opinion piece, because I’ve experienced what I’m talking about first-hand.
This is an 18+ article, be warned. Parental guidance is recommended.
Don’t worry, I’m not referring to every person in these alternative communities. I’m talking about a phenomenon that is just a bit too prevalent in them. It’s not “weird” in and of itself, since it’s part of human nature. What I find weird is the fact it thrives where, in theory, it shouldn’t. So, keep calm. I’m not out to get anyone.
The reason I’m fixating on two specific communities (which often overlap) is, first of all (as I’ve already said), I’ve been to them and have my own stories to tell; Secondly, a lot of the people in these communities pride themselves in being underdogs who somehow survived the cruel world of highschool — so they’re the last place where I’d expect to find bullies because, in theory, isn’t everyone traumatised? Isn’t every “nerd” and “weeb” sick of that shitty high school dynamics? NONETHELESS, they become the bullies and power-hungry people in the spaces they created. What’s up with that?
The short answer (since a lot of you don’t read my articles fully, and that’s ok) is that we’re having a bit of an Animal Farm phenomenon going on. Instead of wanting to build safe spaces AWAY from the toxicity these “nerds” and “weebs” once experienced in teenagehood, they opt for continuing the legacy of their high school bullies against their fellow “nerds” and “weebs” in a toxic dom-sub dynamic because vindication is easier (and more pleasurable) than pursuing fairness.
The long answer follows:
Social awkwardness can have many roots.
I think this goes without saying, but I’ll remind you of it anyway: not every socially awkward person is into “nerd” and “weeb” stuff. I’ve met classical musicians, authors, farmers, and even (believe it or not) sportspeople who were either autistic or just very introverted for other reasons. They’re great at what they do! But when it comes to social interactions… As the internet slang goes, welp.
Perhaps to blow some people’s minds even more — not everyone who IS into “nerd” and “weeb” stuff is socially awkward. I know extroverts who enjoy these things (and end up pursuing sales, acting or TV presenting careers in this ever-growing industry we now call “pop culture”).
The world is made of grey areas, love it or hate it.
This is why I said, and will repeat: I’m not talking about EVERYONE in these circles. Far from that. I’m referring to a specific group of socially awkward “nerds” and “weebs”. But although this specific group of people isn’t the majority, it begs the question: why ARE they so power-hungry, if in theory they’re most comfortable having alone time? Isn’t that like shooting their own feet? Why do they feel this burning need to keep overpowering and “one-upping” each other, just to complain about the aftermath of their choices later on?
These questions puzzled me for a long time. Now, I think I’m starting to unravel an answer. I could be wrong, but this is a starting point nonetheless.
Comics and Anime villains have one thing in common.
No, it’s not just the fact they’re fictional. That’s surface-level. I’m talking about a deeper thing they have in common.
They’re drawn differently: comic villains are stereotypically ugly (or unsightly in other ways — I mean, Harley Quinn is definitely pretty, but her PSYCHOPATHIC STARE would scare you). On the other hand, anime villains can seem a lot more nuanced because they’re sometimes conventionally beautiful AND well-versed in social etiquette (just look at the elegant bad guys in Sailor Moon); But they’re not nuanced. Not at all. They just look like it on the surface.
Villains from the pop culture in both sides of the world, both East and West, have one thing in common: they’re overt. They show off, and even go on monologues (which became a TV trope in and of itself — the evil monologue) about their masterplan whenever they can get away with it. We always get the feeling that these villains aren’t just after the objective they say they want; they’re also desperately looking for validation. This makes them seem pathetic, easy to hate, and also… Eerily similar to the mental image a lot of “nerds” and “weebs” have when they think of a high school bully.
It’s almost as if certain people think you can only be a bully by being overt and stand-offish. So if you maintain an image of “prim, proper and polished” communicator, they think, they’re free to be as unethical and dishonest as they want. Don’t worry, that’s not villainesque [without the monologue and flashy cape]. The mangas and comic books I’ve read don’t account for that. Yeah, right…
The bullies these people dealt with in high school were all standoffish jocks and rich girls who made “your ma” jokes and humiliated “the nerds”. A villain couldn’t ever be covert and complex, coming from a working class background, could they? Nahhhh… Let’s just hold on to that image of overt, standoffish, privileged villain, and roll with it ad infinitum.
Hurt people hurt other people — this is a common saying because, well, it describes a common phenomenon. But somewhere along the way, it got lost in translation before reaching the places where “nerds” and “weebs” gather to talk about what IS a villain and how to defeat them.
If you want an example of what I mean, just look at the leaders in alternative communities, who they are, how they behave, what they do.
If you’re new to the scene, and found my blog through alternative spirituality and/or Neopaganism, let me break the news to you: there has always been overlap between that, and other underground communities in other areas of knowledge. Back in the 90s and early 2000s when I was first exploring the Occult, I already knew about the existence of anime, comics, gaming communities, the growing Harajuku fashion scene, etc. Among consenting adults (I hope?), all these communities sometimes overlap with kink as well (and this “interesting” overlap with kink goes back further than the 1990s, 80s, or even 70s. See Sarah Lawless for a brief history of modern Neopaganism). It’s in fact very rare to stay in the dark about the existence of all these other “underground” scenes when you’re into ONE of them (as is my case — primarily just interested in underground spirituality). So, no, I’m not going off-topic with this odd article about pop culture in a blog otherwise dedicated to spirituality.
You see, I am a bit of a unicorn. I’m the kind of person you don’t see very often: not only am I friendly and approachable to my “normie” readers (a mix of Christians and atheists), but I also don’t care a whole lot about appearing special BECAUSE of my uniqueness. Quite on the contrary: I’d rather search for relatability with other people and try to make content that will be helpful to more than just one Internet clique.
Most of the other people I’ve met through underground communities, however, are a lot more isolationist and tribalist than I. They probably disagree with (or even LOOK DOWN ON) my approach because they’re far too used to isolating themselves in a small impenetrable bubble. So, when this bubble inevitably bursts (because conflicts are part of the human existence…), they react with a lot of despair. This could be one of the factors behind their hunger for power (even, sometimes, to the detriment of common sense) within their own communities: since their coping mechanism carried forward from a less-than-ideal high school experience in the past is to isolate in neat little cliques of close-knit friendships… They need to make that last as long as possible. And the only way to make that last as long as possible, is to become authoritarian and a bit cult-like; DESPITE the fact they tend to be introverts (or at the very least not crazy about showing off) and aren’t really interested in “power and influence” for the same reason a “normie” would be into these things.
After all, when the roles of “dom” and “sub” are clearly defined, and there’s no flexibility or level ground ever, we get an illusion of control and tranquility. This is all good and well in the BDSM scene because they make it explicit (and therefore, consent is easy to give or withdraw), but it’s not as productive when it accidentally seeps into other spheres of life — subconsciously, of course. I am not blaming-and-shaming anyone. This is a blind spot.
Then, when someone like me joins and apparently disregards the carefully stratified alfa-beta-omega-what-have-you hierarchy… The leaders see it as insolence, and come after me (but never overtly, oh no, that’s too “comic villain”. Covertly instead. Through triangulation, gossip, deliberate misinterpretation to frame me as a bad person, etc). Time and again.
Perhaps these “underdogs” are going off of a misguided assumption about how the world works: they think the reason they were excluded and bullied in high school is because they are INHERENTLY outcasts in this cruel world (insert sad melody of violins and other dramatic ambience here); Whereas in fact, what REALLY took place was a common toxic dynamics which is ever-present in human communities because it stems from human nature itself: the neurotic urge to boss around and control others in order to avoid being controlled. Dog-eat-dog and all that sort of shit. And this dynamics has nothing to do with their inherent value or meaning as individuals on planet Earth. But go tell them that. They’re not willing to listen.
They’ve already “married” the romantic idea of underdog who escapes to a quaint little cave to protect themselves and their own from this dramatically unfair world we live in. How tragic! How… aesthetic.
Either way, they don’t see how they’re causing their own problems or feeding their own ever-growing need for more and more control. No, they’d rather point fingers at outsiders who disagree that isolationism and rigidity is the best way forward. That’s ironic for a people who united under a tenet of respect for non-conformism in the first place. How very Animal Farm-y of them. But who am I to comment…
That’s how you get Neopagan cult leaders, (now defunct) Livejournal mods, discord mods, reddit mods, goth and Harajuku “queen bees”, overly invested RPG masters, and the list goes on.
They’re not everyone in the scene, of course not… But don’t you find it alarming how these power-hungry people exist in EVERY underground scene? Every single group regardless of nationality, has one. That’s not a mere coincidence.
Jealousy, gatekeeping, power fantasies… These things all exist in “normie” circles too. Of course they do. They’re human. They’re even instinctive and animalesque, but human nonetheless. The thing is, usually, “normies” aren’t AS concerned about being treated as the alpha because they’re already been-there-done-that in high school. It’s not to say they don’t end up acting a bit too authoritarian and controlling with whoever is beneath them every now and then… But I’d risk saying this problem happens a lot more often in the underground communities I’m discussing here. Or at least it does in my own experience.
It’s the novelty, aye? “Oh, look, we never got to experience what it’s like to be in a position of leadership before. Now, there’s a chance. Let’s dive head-first?”
If you compare the above social networks (yes, they’re all social networks. Get over it, “unique and special” people who are “above” social stuff…) — Sorry, I digress. If you compare these social networks to other ones where older people now hang out — such as Facebook and LinkedIn — and especially if you compare group mods, you’ll see a very noticeable difference in behaviour. I’m not necessarily calling “nerds” and “weebs” immature (they love complaining that people call them immature… And the drama and angsty monologues about being misunderstood ensue), but if the shoe fits, feel free to put it on.
What I’m saying is, I’ve been a mod and a normal user, on and off, in certain groups of freelance professionals. Yes, we had drama every now and then. Yes, we split and blocked each other every now and then (usually over politics or other off-topic conflicts). But it was never, EVER, simply because of “the power”. I mean, in my experience, professional groups in these “older people networks” tend to be very chill about who is or isn’t in charge, and who gets or doesn’t get to make the decisions. Drama tends to be about the decisions themselves, and how many users agree or disagree with them; it’s not about THE PEOPLE behind the decisions — who’s alpha, or became alpha, or was taken off the post and now gets to seek vindication. That is… Never a thing.
Rotation of leadership was always quite chill as well. “Who gets to mod” tended to be about who’s having extra free time at the moment; It was NOT about “who wants the glory of a power position”. Because, quite frankly, nobody cared. We were all discussing our freelance jobs. There was no room for cults of personality in there.
Same thing with in-person communities, like those revolving around fashion. With normies… Well, of course there is catty behaviour and jealousy here and there (especially where social financial status is concerned), but do people obsessively gather to pick apart each and every member’s outfit and bully them over it? HELL, NO. That’s the stuff of reality shows. It does NOT happen in real life as much. Now… compare that to the infamous EGL community, or even the cosplay community. There are entire websites dedicated to (be)rating people over what they’re wearing or even what their bodies look like. That’s the kind of thing you probably see “normie” teenagers doing at school, but definitely not the adults. But fully grown “nerds” and “weebs” somehow think it’s okay to do that.
Immaturity? Not necessarily. It’s probably just the novelty of having some semblance of power, as I said.
And I won’t even get into the merit of racism, Eurocentric and colonial aesthetic, LGBTQ-phobia, objectification vs infantilisation of women, and a plethora of other problems that apparently “nerds” and “weebs” everywhere feel free to participate in just because they aren’t overtly villains and didn’t come from a privileged position in society.
All in all, I’m a bit sick of having to mentally prepare for the inevitable cliqueish bullshit whenever I feel like talking to someone other than my cats about my unusual hobbies and interests. It’s come to a point where I’m sharing more and more of it with the normies I know at work, in the family, in pubs, and other random places, because EVEN THEIR STEREOTYPED VIEWS OF WHAT I DO feel better than the covert narcissism I’m encountering when I talk to fellow “connoisseurs”. That’s how bad the problem has become.
And it’s all because of certain “nerds” and “weebs” unwillingness to acknowledge that, as the old saying goes, “hurt people hurt other people”. Just because you’ve been the victim of bullying and/or oppression, it doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of the same against your peers. Jeez. I can’t fathom why this is hard to understand.
And just because it isn’t your overt, clear-as-day, standoffish “intention” to hurt others… it doesn’t mean you aren’t hurting others nonetheless. It’s called internalised bullshit, Becky. Look it up.
Sometimes, difficult as it is to digest, we can’t exactly have all-powerful superheroes to save the whole entire planet from oppression like we see in comics and mangas. Some problems stem from less-than-ideal instincts and urges we all have as human beings; And we’re supposed to CONTROL these impulses, not indulge in them. It doesn’t matter if you’re a goth or a preppy little “Barbie girl”; if you’re Neopagan or Abrahamic, if you’re into videogames or football. We’re all human. We all have a dark side. I don’t know the meaning of life (or if there is any), but what I DO know is that we are all blessed with a conscience and the ability to self-reflect. So maybe, just maybe, let’s put it to good use.