This column ran in today’s inside beat, the weekly entertainment section of The Daily Targum. That neat photo of me ran above the column, meaning my face is now famous.

Whether you’re a freshman involved in your seventh ice-breaker of orientation, looking for an easy way to start a conversation at a party, or just chatting at a bus stop, there is one no-fail topic for people our age: old school Nickelodeon.

Before you throw your newspaper computer down and announce to everyone that you remember “Rugrats,” take a moment to read on. This is not a column remembering the good old days. Instead, I’m attempting to help the Rutgers Internet community raise the level of intelligent discourse surrounding the programs we all remember.

Which leads perfectly into rule number one: Everyone remembers Nickelodeon from their childhood. There is no need to start conversation by asking a group, “Hey, remember old school Nick?!” The only reason for not remembering is if you didn’t have cable as a child. If that’s the case, kindly excuse yourself from the conversation. After the non-cable people have exited the discussion, it will be assumed that everyone knows what you’re talking about.

The second rule is perhaps the most important: Though it is fun to remember these programs, it’s not OK to simply shout their names back and forth and say “Awww!” when someone mentions your favorite. This is the lowest form of Nickelodeon chat, and is usually engaged in by people who don’t actually remember anything but the names of the shows.

Rule number three: Not every show on Nickelodeon was great, and the network is not horrible now. I’m not here to tell you that your childhood was a waste – rather, you’re probably misremembering part of it if you think “Salute Your Shorts” was anything but awful. Go ahead; try watching it now and enjoying it as anything but campy nostalgia.

The sad truth is, many of the shows you grew up watching were terrible. It’s fine to remember those days fondly. But be careful when you say, “’The Amanda Show’ was so great, all Nick shows today are terrible,” because you’re lying. “Amanda” was a miserable show; “SpongeBob,” “The Fairly OddParents” and “The Naked Brothers Band” are some of the best shows they’ve ever had. It’s hard to accept sometimes, but everything wasn’t better when you were a kid.

So what should you do if you really care about the Nick shows you enjoyed as a child? Enforce these basic rules wherever you can. If you hear people breaking any of them (especially the second), step in and declare that you hate one of their beloved shows. Their initial shock with throw their conversation off course, at which point you may redact the statement, then help direct them to a more meaningful discussion. It’s tough to be a TV grump, but they’ll thank you in the end.

It’s great fun to debate the merits of old Nickelodeon shows. If you think “Hey Arnold!” was better than “Doug,” and can explain why, then there’s no need to waste everyone’s time with mindless sessions of yelling show names. All of us who actually remember the great (and not-so-great) programs of our past will be more than happy to talk about it like grown-ups.