The Year of the Nerd

By RYAN STEWART  |  December 24, 2008

Each day, aggregator sites like and would be flush with new pro-Obama (or anti-McCain/Palin) articles. Someone even merged pro-Obama fervor with LOLcats and managed not to completely derail the campaign in the process. How nerdy is Obama? What other candidate would have ignited a firestorm of controversy by listening to music on — horrors — not an iPod but a Microsoft Zune?

Obama's victory for intellectualism was so sweet in part because it came at the hands of an opponent who, according to an eye-popping Rolling Stone article, had led a bratty, fratty life, who remained a gambler, and who couldn't even be bothered to learn how to use e-mail. But even worse was his running mate, Sarah Palin, who came to personify the concept of a high school–esque "jockocracy." Palin, whose biggest asset was supposedly the way she appealed to the common man, wound up with a 51 percent unfavorable rating just days before the election. Unpopular? Guess that makes her, too, a . . . nerd!

Live . . . from Juneau
Somewhat ironically, it was anti-nerd Palin's ascension that allowed another nerd to achieve her greatest prominence yet. Tina Fey's ready-made impersonation of Palin — Fey played the Alaska governor as a cross between Marge Gunderson from Fargo and the Miss Teen USA contestant who got stumped by the map question — helped propel Saturday Night Live to its best ratings in more than a decade. Better ratings naturally followed for her perpetually under-appreciated NBC sitcom, 30 Rock. Fey may not actually be a total nerd, but watching 30 Rock, it's hard not to wonder exactly how much autobiography is in her eccentric, nebbishy alter-ego, Liz Lemon. It doesn't really matter, though, whether or not Fey (like Lemon) actually was a Dungeons & Dragons dungeon master in college. She's a smart woman who's finding success with a character who quotes Bugs Bunny cartoons and used to be in a marching band — she gets claimed on the "nerd" side of the ledger. The fact that she writes, produces, and stars in the best comedy on television is simply another triumph for geekdom.

How tweet it is
If 2006's champion was YouTube and 2007 was all about the ascension of Facebook (at least among the already-out-of-college set), then 2008 easily belonged to Twitter. Twitter is like a blog for those ADD-riddled oversharers who want others to know exactly what they're doing at any given time, but can't be bothered to complete a sentence because they've already moved on to the next thing. In Twitter, your posts, or "tweets," cannot exceed 140 characters, so you're limited in what you can say. Some people use it to cut to the point, which can spur some pithy discussions.

It has its legitimate applications — people can use it to give real-time updates of events, making it particularly useful for reporters. Others just use it to give us a glimpse into their lives, letting us know about their desire to become UFC fighters or how awesome the Blackberry Storm is. (Those last two, by the way, were culled from the Twitter feed of one Shaquille O'Neal, the NBA legend who might be the biggest must-read on the entire Internet these days.)

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