Why Are Nerds Unpopular?

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WHY ARE NERDS UNPOPULAR? On the latest episode of the SGU an audience member (it was a live recording) asked about the youth culture today and why kids don’t seem to be interested in science, or much else of perceived intellectual value. I basically responded that this question is thousands of years old – every generation, apparently, has felt this about the youth of their time. Things are not necessarily getting worse, although confirmation bias and a narrow perspective may make it seem so. The generation question aside – this also raises the question of how to make science and skepticism more popular in general, but especially with the next generation. A listener then sent me a link to the following article: Why Nerds are Unpopular. The author writes: I know a lot of people who were nerds in school, and they all tell the same story: there is a strong correlation between being smart and being a nerd, and an even stronger inverse correlation between being a nerd and being popular. Being smart seems to make you unpopular. But why? Basically, the author argues that smart kids invest their time and energy into the things that they like. Meanwhile, being popular in high school is a full-time job, requiring a great deal of time and effort – time the nerds are unwilling to commit. I found his argument unconvincing. The article goes into many other issues, about the roots of teenage angst, that you may find interesting, but I want to focus on this primary point – nerds are unpopular because they don’t invest time in being popular. While this is likely to be one factor, there are others that I can readily identify from my own experience. The answer, as much as there is one, is multifactorial and there will be a different mix of reasons in different kids, different schools, and different cultures. First, let’s not avoid the obvious – many nerds are socially awkward.

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