I have two reactions to this:
1) I love the idea of “read more books and be nice to nerds.” I know from personal experience that the loneliest thing in the world isn’t being alone; it’s being surrounded by people who don’t get your jokes and references, and who make you feel crazy for being interested in the things you’re interested in. I’ve been there at a few different times in my life, and it’s a long slow path to insanity. I relate.
2) At the same time, I have a hard time relating to a writer who self-identifies as a victim because he sees people following celebrity news, and because his friends give him weird looks when he fails to read the tone of the conversation and makes references they obviously won’t get.
The reason people picked on Ross wasn’t because he was smart or educated. It’s because he was socially tone-deaf.
You can be a nerd and not be like Ross. You can tune into your audience’s wavelength, and make jokes that’ll make them feel smart. You can make new friends who aren’t obsessed with celebrity news, and who actually want to learn. You can — oh my God — just tell people about the ideas you love in your favorite books, and discuss those ideas with them.
There’s a popular fan theory about the movie Idiocracy: It’s not poking fun at the “stupid” people at all — it’s actually poking fun at the audience; all the self-described intellectuals who see the modern world through the lens of such broad, exaggerated pastiches, instead of taking the time to get to know other people as individuals, and to understand why those people like the things they like.
Society isn’t going down the toilet because people are getting stupider — it’s falling apart because people aren’t taking the time to understand people who are different from them.
Maybe the anti-intellectual celebrity news followers won’t take up that burden. Maybe they’ll keep labeling us “nerds” in their own broad pastiches.
In that case, it’s our responsibility as nerds to do what we nerds do best: study this culture, understand it inside and out, and find ways to communicate with it.