Saturday, May 27, 2017

A High Functioning Gamma Explains High School Popularity

An interesting essay from a Gen-Xer , who almost gets it but then at the last minute sheers away from facing the truth.

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.


Typical Gamma view. But let's see where he goes with it.


Why? To someone in school now, that may seem an odd question to ask. The mere fact is so overwhelming that it may seem strange to imagine that it could be any other way. But it could. Being smart doesn't make you an outcast in elementary school. Nor does it harm you in the real world. Nor, as far as I can tell, is the problem so bad in most other countries. But in a typical American secondary school, being smart is likely to make your life difficult. Why?

Okay here he is being out of touch. He clearly and obviously never went to high school in Japan for an outstanding example.  Bottom line it is the same everywhere.  Moving on...

The key to this mystery is to rephrase the question slightly. Why don't smart kids make themselves popular? If they're so smart, why don't they figure out how popularity works and beat the system, just as they do for standardized tests?


Now this is actually a good question. He gets the answer wrong but his question is a good start.

One argument says that this would be impossible, that the smart kids are unpopular because the other kids envy them for being smart, and nothing they could do could make them popular. I wish. If the other kids in junior high school envied me, they did a great job of concealing it. And in any case, if being smart were really an enviable quality, the girls would have broken ranks. The guys that guys envy, girls like.

This is why I say the guy is a high functioning Gamma.   He knows the answer isn't envy.

 Scalzi for an outstanding example still puts everything in terms of envy. Anyone who dislikes him must secretly envy him. For the Gamma male high school never ends.


In the schools I went to, being smart just didn't matter much. Kids didn't admire it or despise it. All other things being equal, they would have preferred to be on the smart side of average rather than the dumb side, but intelligence counted far less than, say, physical appearance, charisma, or athletic ability.

So if intelligence in itself is not a factor in popularity, why are smart kids so consistently unpopular? The answer, I think, is that they don't really want to be popular.


Here, he almost gets it.

If someone had told me that at the time, I would have laughed at him. Being unpopular in school makes kids miserable, some of them so miserable that they commit suicide. Telling me that I didn't want to be popular would have seemed like telling someone dying of thirst in a desert that he didn't want a glass of water. Of course I wanted to be popular.

But in fact I didn't, not enough. There was something else I wanted more: to be smart. Not simply to do well in school, though that counted for something, but to design beautiful rockets, or to write well, or to understand how to program computers. In general, to make great things.

At the time I never tried to separate my wants and weigh them against one another. If I had, I would have seen that being smart was more important. If someone had offered me the chance to be the most popular kid in school, but only at the price of being of average intelligence (humor me here), I wouldn't have taken it.

Much as they suffer from their unpopularity, I don't think many nerds would. To them the thought of average intelligence is unbearable. But most kids would take that deal. For half of them, it would be a step up. Even for someone in the eightieth percentile (assuming, as everyone seemed to then, that intelligence is a scalar), who wouldn't drop thirty points in exchange for being loved and admired by everyone?

And that, I think, is the root of the problem. Nerds serve two masters. They want to be popular, certainly, but they want even more to be smart. And popularity is not something you can do in your spare time, not in the fiercely competitive environment of an American secondary school.


At this point, he digresses for a bit while betraying his ignorance about life in other countries' school systems. The next few paragraphs are edited out....

For example, teenage kids pay a great deal of attention to clothes. They don't consciously dress to be popular. They dress to look good. But to who? To the other kids. Other kids' opinions become their definition of right, not just for clothes, but for almost everything they do, right down to the way they walk. And so every effort they make to do things "right" is also, consciously or not, an effort to be more popular.

Nerds don't realize this. They don't realize that it takes work to be popular. In general, people outside some very demanding field don't realize the extent to which success depends on constant (though often unconscious) effort. For example, most people seem to consider the ability to draw as some kind of innate quality, like being tall. In fact, most people who "can draw" like drawing, and have spent many hours doing it; that's why they're good at it. Likewise, popular isn't just something you are or you aren't, but something you make yourself.


These last two paragraphs, he gets it right but in the next two he gets it wrong.

The main reason nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about. Their attention is drawn to books or the natural world, not fashions and parties. They're like someone trying to play soccer while balancing a glass of water on his head. Other players who can focus their whole attention on the game beat them effortlessly, and wonder why they seem so incapable.


The secret king who only uses his mind to contemplate higher things is now making his presence felt.  What nerds cared about deeply in those days was Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings plus Dungeons and Dragons.  Nerds had their own hierarchy about these things with the Sci Fi fans looking down on Fantasy fans.

Sure nerds are planning ahead to college but so are the kids at the top of the popularity ladder.  

Even if nerds cared as much as other kids about popularity, being popular would be more work for them. The popular kids learned to be popular, and to want to be popular, the same way the nerds learned to be smart, and to want to be smart: from their parents. While the nerds were being trained to get the right answers, the popular kids were being trained to please.


Edited for further digression on his part....

Because I didn't fit into this world, I thought that something must be wrong with me. I didn't realize that the reason we nerds didn't fit in was that in some ways we were a step ahead. We were already thinking about the kind of things that matter in the real world, instead of spending all our time playing an exacting but mostly pointless game like the others.


The secret king has arrived in earnest. Nerds are unpopular because they are secretly superior. 

I was recently on Mackinac Island. For those of you who don't know, there are no cars allowed on that island.  If you want to get somewhere you go either by bicycle or horse.  It makes it a popular with some branches of the Amish.  And while I was there a group of kids clearly on the start of their  rumspringa.  Bikes are kind of reserved for adults if the Amish group in question rides them at all.  The social stratification on display was just as familiar as it was obvious.  The male at the front was clearly used to riding a bike already, he was handsome, smiling, laughing and carefree.  He was constantly popping wheelies for the fun of it.  The Amish girls fluttered around him cooing like doves.

The male at the back of the group was a cringe inducing figure. Stringy, gawky, thick glasses and a hair cut that must have literally required the use of a bowl.  His hair just screamed, Mom Haircut.  The coordination required to ride  a bike was utterly beyond him.  He could barley manage to get one foot on a pedal at a time as he would try to push the bike forward and get both feet on the pedals.  He thrashed the handlebars repeatedly over correcting in his futile attempt to find balance on this machine that he had clearly never been allowed to touch before.  He fell over and landed in a pile horse shit.   His humiliation was steaming off of him in the morning sun. 

The sad truth is that most of the kids who are easily identifiable as Gammas have one thing in common, high functioning autism.  It wasn't that they had more intelligent things to occupy their mighty brains.  It was because they didn't have a choice.

Know yourself, then seek improvement.

3 comments:

((( bob kek mando ))) - ( Give us this day our daily bait, that we may crush our enemies, see their weaksauce driven before us and hear the lamentations of their women, thank you Baby Jesus, Amen ) said...

Bikes are kind of reserved for adults if the Amish group in question rides them at all.


i'm not going to make a blanket statement as each Amish community has it's own Ordnung, but i've never seen an Amish community ( observed them in Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania ) in which the children don't ride their bikes to school. you can see dozens of bikes lined up out in front of their one room school houses during the week. i mean, sure, some will drive a cart or sulky or something but bikes are common.

likewise, on Sundays it's the parents and little ones who ride in the horse drawn carriage. 10-18 year olds ( however old, the males are beardless, thus unmarried ) often follow the carriage on their bicycles. partly, i think, simply to alleviate family crowding within the carriage proper.

the adult men who ride are typically commuting to an English day job and don't want to bother with the hassle of hitching up the carriage and then having the horse haltered and idle all day at the factory.


which makes Doofus' inability to ride that much more of an outlier.

gnossoss said...

I had to go through a de-gammafication process myself. What I realize looking back on it was that I saw what others did that worked better than what I was doing, but I was unwilling to do it their way.

I was absolutely certain that my way was right. It didn't matter if my way consistently failed while theirs consistently succeeded; that made me more virtuous in sticking to the failed road, I guess. And at the same time I resented everyone else for not reacting to my way the way I wanted them to. I definitely never asked myself what "right" meant if my actions never got the results I wanted them to get.

So he's got it a bit right, in that popularity is something that comes from your efforts; it's a skill like any other, which some are born with and others have to learn through painful practice. What he's totally off the rails about is that there's some sort of inherent conflict between not being a total weirdo and being smart.

I hung out with nerds almost exclusively up through college, and work with them all day now. Many to most of them are just unable to not shove their nerdiness in your face all the time. When I went through my red pill/game awareness experience I realized that intelligence can be presented in a positive way, and nerdy pursuits in a neutral way. (I started telling women instead of "I write computer software", which got the glassy eyes, that "I'm the villain from most sci-fi or horror movies -- I work on advanced tech.")

You don't have to give up loving Star Trek or video games or whatever, just don't talk about them all the time and make nerdy references non-stop. Honestly women don't really care what you're into as long as you like it and you're not ashamed of it, and especially if you're good at it in some way. They don't care about any manly pursuit anyway, so fantasy football isn't that different from FPSs or RPGs to them.

What my nerdy colleagues (and this guy) get wrong is that being a nerd shouldn't be your identity. There's nothing about loving Star Trek or video games that automatically makes you weird and socially awkward.

Mocheirge said...

Many to most of them are just unable to not shove their nerdiness in your face all the time.

So true -- "secret king" does not wish to remain secret.

Honestly women don't really care what you're into as long as you like it and you're not ashamed of it, and especially if you're good at it in some way.

My main hobby is board games (though I generally reject the "geek" culture that surrounds them), and one late afternoon a female co-worker stopped by to chat because she was bored. We'd been trying to get her to join us for games at lunch, but she'd always refused. So at some point I was telling her about one particular game we enjoyed, and I could tell that as I got more excited discussing it, she got more alert and interested. A week or so later she was joining us at lunch.

The "secret king" is an insidious character flaw that poisons your own enjoyment of things -- it establishes a barrier between yourself and a potential comrade. "I enjoy this, but you probably wouldn't because I know better than you."