Why Do We Nerd Out Over What We Love?
The things we like can say a lot about who we are. Thanks to a study conducted in 2013 by the University of Cambridge and Stanford University, it’s now possible to measure basic personality traits using Facebook Likes. This is something companies have actually used to vet potential employees!
As it turns out, you can learn a lot about someone by paying attention to what they pay attention to. So, what about the things we love? You know, those things that make us feel all warm and bubbly inside. These are the things we totally nerd out over, explaining them to anyone who will listen—whether or not they want to.
Why Do We Nerd Out Over What We Love?
Nerding Out happens whenever someone becomes unreasonably excited by a thing. People nerd out over cars, books, sport’s teams, My Little Ponies, video games, fabric swatches, and all sorts of things.
Why do we connect to what we love in this way? Why do we form entire communities around common interests? The first answer that comes to mind is survival. But survival is only the beginning of the story.
Today we are seeing this kind of connection take place on a massive scale. Instead of people uniting under the common bond of country or kin, they are gathering around their favorite fandoms. What does this say about the ties that bind us to each other? Are we witnessing a major change that could give rise to a more peaceful future?
Survival: The Beginning of the Story
When it comes down to human evolution, it is a tale of survival and bloodshed. The strongest make their way through to fight another day. Honestly, if this was completely true, we wouldn’t be here.
There’s also a softer side to the story of our evolution: society and kinship. It is our ability to communicate, form communities, and work together towards common interests that has assured our success as a species. When our communities break down, nations crumble. So, what keeps communities together?
Shared interests; whether those interests are immediate survival, an agreement as to worldview, or something else entirely. We pass our shared interests down through the generations by creating stories. These tales hold within them the essence of what we believe to be true about the world. Before written language, these stories were shared through myth and song. We learned to hold great passion towards those things that strengthened the fragile bonds between people, or that provided us with a better way of life. Without this passion, the things that unite us would have been completely lost long ago.
But they weren’t.
Carrying the Torch: The Middle of the Story
So, why do some ideas live on while others die quietly within the pages of a history book? If what we love speaks to us as individuals, then what do the ideas we have carried forward from our humble beginnings say about humanity as a collective?
You see, there’s really no such thing as a truly new story or idea. We have been rehashing the same stories, addressing the same needs, for what seems like forever. Today, we continue to seek increasingly complex solutions to the same basic drives and burning questions of our existence:
- The meaning of life is explored through art, science, religion, social science, and philosophy.
- Competition continues to express itself through sports, war, keeping up with the neighbors, and rivalries.
- Basic survival is addressed through economies, technological advancements, and political and academic discourse.
While we’ve been singing the same song for ages, we’re often out of harmony with one another. We all have different ideas about how to approach these things, and our likes and dislikes reflect these ideas. We are passionate about them because they represent the basic materials we use to build our lives.
That’s why we nerd out over what we love. On some fundamental level, it relates to how we have learned to make sense of the world. Certain stories and ideas die because not enough people could relate to them. Sometimes, it’s because there wasn’t an interest. Other times, it was simply because the message didn’t reach the audience.
And that’s why we are living in the most exciting time since man made fire. It’s so easy to find that audience these days. We are sharing ideas at an unprecedented rate. The last time this happened, we had a period of enlightenment. How cool is that?
Coffee houses became popular in Europe throughout the late 17th Century, helping people to sober up while also creating a meeting place that superseded class and background. People from different walks of life came together to share ideas. Travelers met with locals, and new things were born. This gave rise to the period of enlightenment that soon followed.
The Fandoms that Unite Us: The End of the Story, or a New Beginning?
If you really want to see someone nerding out on an epic scale, head over to a fandom. People write amazing works of fan fiction based on their favorite tv shows, video games, movies, books, and anything that speaks to them on a deep level. The passion is palpable and the inspiration evident.
And so, once again, people from all walks of life are coming together in the name of shared interests. Not only is this happening on a massive scale, the internet gives us instant access to information. Now, when a new idea strikes, it’s easy to find out more about it.
And we see this happening all the time in fandoms. It starts with one idea, then blends with another. Fans bring together their favorite worlds and characters, creating fan fiction that spans genres. Someone who likes one fandom will probably like the other, and so the interest grows. This leads to new ideas as different communities of thought come together.
Historically, people felt the need to defend their beliefs and ideas. These were, after all, the glue that held communities together. While this still happens frequently today, this is also changing. Maybe it’s because we tell stories to each other that we know to be fiction, even if we can feel the truth behind them. There is passion, but it ties in with sense of self more than nationalism. Have we found a way to bypass our egos and connect with one-another despite our differences? Could fandoms be one small part of a changing mentality that could save us from ourselves?
Go Forth and Be Excellent
We’re carrying the torch now. We’re writing this chapter of the story. Is it time to change up the plot? Don’t take the question lightly, or scoff at the idea that things could ever get better. If passion is born from seeing the potential for survival in an idea, then we have to pay attention to the idea. We have to believe in it to gain the courage to move forward with it.
It’s easy to see what’s wrong with the world because fear is a response conditioned by our need to survive. To evolve is to learn to see what’s right. We will never make things better by attacking what we think to be wrong or scary. If you really want to change a person’s mind, you have to establish a connection with them first. You cannot communicate well with another person if you don’t speak their language, after all. The past taught us to cling to what we know to survive, but now our survival depends on suspending our beliefs so that we can learn how to live together like never before.
Can we let go of what we have learned to be in the past to make way for what we could become in the future?
Only time will tell.