Hello, friends. It’s the Prodigal Nerd here. It’s been long enough since I’ve published here at Nerds on Earth that I feel like a brief re-introduction might be in order. I used to publish an article here weekly, but then life happened, and just kept on happening, in such a way as to make weekly output at a decent quality level impossible for me. Greater Nerds than I balance all of life’s demands and still pump out quality material weekly (or more!), but I couldn’t. So I became the Prodigal Nerd.
And once again I find myself in a strange place in terms of my nerddom. There are lots of things I’m interested in, but because of the aforementioned life happening I feel like I just can’t consume and participate in nerd culture the way I might like to otherwise. It’s entirely possible that you, too, find yourself at a bit of a crossroads… What to watch? What to read? What to play? There are only so many available hours in the day, so how can I maximize that time?
Here are some of the principles I’ve been operating under that have helped me to make decisions about how to spend my limited time as a Nerd. Hopefully they can provide some structure for you, if you find yourself in the same boat.
How to Be a Nerd When You Can’t Do/Read/Watch It All
Release the need to do/read/watch it all
Let’s get this out of the way early – it’s not healthy to feel like you have to keep up with everything. Maybe you can pull that off when you’re young and dumb and invincible and single and working just to get paid. In 99.99% of cases, though, that won’t last forever. You simply can’t do it all. There’s too much out there. As Earth Nerd Jason says: “We’re living at peak nerd.“
Pick a medium, and mostly stick with it
I used to watch a lot of TV and movies, and play video games, AND read. A lot. Books have always been near and dear to my heart, and always will be. I will never not read books. But I just don’t have the margin to watch lots of TV (which is something I can do with my wife and kids) AND read lots of books like I used to (which is much more solitary).
So now I limit myself to one book at a time, which I read for half an hour or so before bed every night. My nerd culture consumption is now almost entirely stuff I can watch on my TV in my living room, and I’ve just had to learn to be okay with not finishing 20-30 books each year.
Avoid the urge to binge
I know this sounds counter-intuitive because so much good content is out there in whole seasons and series on every streaming platform in the world. But hear me when I say this – 90% of every media binge craze is hype. Think about it…When was the last time you genuinely missed out because you stretched a 10-episode season out over 10 days?
Of all the perceived benefits of bingeing a TV show, the only one that actually pans out is the benefit of keeping up. Let other people burn through an entire experience in 24 hours. You get to enjoy it over the course of two weeks. And you keep your sanity.
A lot of prestige-type shows are moving back towards a weekly model now, too. My hope is that we’re all slowly rediscovering how great it was to watch LOST on Wednesday night and then spend an entire week talking about it with friends, dissecting little details, making guesses and judgments, and predicting where you think the story will go, before you get the next episode. That kind of water-cooler conversation is completely lost (no pun intended, unless it raises your opinion of me) in a binge culture, along with the community that’s built around it.
The exception to the bingeing rule is The Office
At least, it’s The Office for me. It could be anything for you. But I think it’s important to have something you love that you can come back to over and over again as a sort of comfort food.
Seriously, release the need to do/read/watch it all
Find what you love, and enjoy it. Try new things sometimes, but don’t be afraid to walk away if you don’t love it. There are so many great nerdy things out there these days. You deserve to spend your time and energy only on the things you will get the most value out of. Forget about what’s fashionable, en vogue, or zeitgeist-y. That’s for younger, dumber, single-r, invincible-r nerds than me. 🙂
I hope you can hear that I’m speaking to myself with all of this, too. I’m just trying to avoid feeling like I’m hopelessly left behind in Nerd world, and to avoid feeling overwhelmed by it all.
And maybe you need that escape, as well. That is why I, the Prodigal Nerd, have emerged from my hidey-hole this month: To tell you that while FOMO (fear of missing out) is real, it is realistically impossible to overcome entirely. Everyone is missing out on something; heck, probably most things. So the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” is exaggerated. Instead, just take care of yourself. You’ll still be a Nerd. I promise.