Friday, June 17, 2011

Groups Are Memes

"I think a lot of people misinterpret the 'nerdfighters' philosophy as 'we are people who wear glasses and are socially awkward and love math and harry potter and english literature.'
It sort of started out that way, but since then I think the major ideology of the community has become something more to the tune of 'we are people who value rationality and sensibility as opposed to vapidity and hostility, and who promote knowledge and the furthering of information as tool to combat both personal and global issues.'
I think a lot of people get stuck in the 'peeps and things on heads and in your pants and giraffes' layer of the community and are either put off by the barrage of memetic in-jokes or simply adopt that as their entire view of the community, which I think sort of takes away from the more universal, inclusive values that the nerdfighter philosophy is fundamentally based on." - John Green

He says that as if it's only non-nerdfighters who think those things. There are plenty of nerdfighters who have the "we people who are socially awkward and love math and Harry Potter and English literature" thing, and get absorbed by the memetic in-jokes and apparent norms.

This is interesting because it shows that even if the creator/defacto leader of a group views the group in a certain way, that doesn't mean the group itself views it in the same way. Even if the "official" ideology of a group says one thing, that doesn't mean the group behaves according to it. Even if you intend for something to go one way-- be it a group, a relationship, or a novel-- once you start it, it gets a life of its own. It's not yours anymore. It belongs to the people to which you gave it (and John Green knows this-- he's written me an email about it.)

In other words, groups are memes. And they have memes within themselves. (MEMECEPTION!) Oh look-- a 3rd level of meme.


  1. Wait, it's not all about being socially awkward and loving math and Harry Potter?! Shoot!

    I think a lot of the ambiguity can be cleared up if we notice that Nerdfighters, and groups in general, don't actually exist. I think it was David Hume who said that if someone presents you with an idea, you should examine the world to determine what part of that idea is real by what you can determine with your senses. While we can find a lot of people claiming to belong to this Nerdfighters group, we cannot actually observe the group itself. Of course, I mean that in the sense of existing like you, or me, or a tree, groups are just ideas in people's minds, so it is quite reasonable that we would believe that the same group is something different to different people, because there is no external group for us to reference to resolve these ambiguities. Kind of like religions I guess (yes, I've already read your religion post)

  2. I like that, about groups not actually existing. Or at least the group exists, but its existence is the only thing that can be objectively known about it.

  3. I would go so far as to say that the belief in the groups existence is the only thing that can be objectively known about it, not the existence of the group itself. Unless of course one says that groups existing and people believing that they exist are the same thing.

  4. As long as more than one person believes in the group's existence...?

  5. It's a definition, so it's up to you, why can't groups exists that only one person believes in?

  6. I'd define a group as by nature consisting of more than one person, so if only one person believes it exists, other people can't really belong to it.


Talk to me.