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It Gets Better for nerds, too.

August 26, 2011

Photo by Elisa Moro

When I was in high school, I met my best friend sophmore year when I overheard a conversation about comics. I spun around in my seat and asked the girl speaking, “You like comics? Do you read Generation X?”

The girl, a brunette freshman, brightened and responded, “Omigod, I LOVE Generation X!”

Instant friendship. It was something I sorely needed.

I don’t need to tell you that the school social scene is difficult for the kids that are different, in this case the nerds. But a new study and book, Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by  Alexandra Robbins, reminds us that the outcasts really shine once they get the hell out of high school.

Robbins followed seven self-described outsiders at public and private high schools for a year and concluded that what makes kids popular—conformity, aggression, visibility, and influence—won’t make them happy or successful after they graduate. She distinguishes between perceived popularity, when peers say someone is at the top of the social hierarchy, and actual popularity, when peers report actually liking someone. Her book focuses on the former, a state that Robbins says tends to evaporate outside of the high school gate.

In good news for nerds everywhere, what makes people unpopular in the hallways of high school, mainly an unwillingness to conform, tends to translate into success as an adult.

So that girl that chased you down the hall that one time to yank on your hair with all her strength? Or those popular girls who nicknamed you “Crackbaby?” Or that jerk who hid your bookbag in the ceiling tiles in the men’s room? (Only a sampling of my HS years, kids. I have some stories that are much much worse.) Those people are probably unhappy and unsuccessful today. It’s apparently true that the popular kids really do peak in high school. Karma, bitches.

My best friend and I would often spend our weekends drawing and reading comics. I remember pointing out one Saturday night that all the popular kids were probably out drinking, having sex, doing drugs, and getting into trouble. My BFF nodded, and we went right back to our comics, perfectly content with each other and our place in the world for that one moment outside of school.

(Thanks to RebeccaAmyTodd for the link.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 26, 2011 11:51 am

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. As a (non-practicing) educator, I do get very concerned that high school students think that that is how real life is. All of my friends- successful, happy people all-were marginalized or worse during high school (I used to have shouts of “FREAK!” follow me down the halls). We recently went to a White Party thrown by the former cool kids, and left after one quick drink to return to our small group and discuss what our new favourtie TED talk is, what part of the Game of Thrones books we are all at, and how cool is it that Neil Gaiman is adapting American Gods for HBO…and were much, much happier in our small, geeky group. I hope all high school weirdos like us can be confident that once you get through high school (and, quite honestly, university wasn’t any better), that big, beautiful geek brains will mean many years of success and happiness. And more importantly, true friends that celebrate and appreciate all of your little oddities, and are comfortable sharing their own. Happy Friday!

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