Nerds and Geeks

My friend Fred and I were discussing an interesting topic a few months back, and it has really found meaning lately.

To a lot of people the terms ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’ are synonymous and are generally used to refer to an individual as some sort of loser or antisocial being. I would like to set the record straight on this issue, since I have been called a ‘geek’ from time to time, and in no way was expected to take offense. I myself used to think that these terms both carry a negative connotation. However, after studying the colloquial use of the terms, this is what I have found to be the case:

A geek is someone, who has an interest in computers, electronic devices, software or hardware, not as a simple user, but rather someone who is interested in how it works, what it can do, how do build it, and generally play with it; for no other reason than that it is intriguing that it even exists or that it is possible. A geek will see certain tools or pieces of software as ‘toys’ to play around with, rather than a means to an end. It is a hobby. However, an important thing to note, a geek is generally not confined to that one character trait, and if a geek were to interact with a non-geek, the geekiness will definitely take a break and geeks and non-geeks will socialize just fine. As stated earlier, to a computer geek, computers are a hobby and highly interesting and fun to play with. However that is all they are. A toy. A toy that at the same time can be useful for many day-to-day tasks, but mostly just a toy to play with.

A nerd is a slightly more complex animal. A nerd is basically a geek that lacks social skills and for the most part has lost touch with reality. Someone, for instance, who feels that there is indeed nothing more to life than playing with computers. Someone who has allowed this certain hobby to be present in all aspects of their life.

I’m sure everyone knows at least one person like this.  Said nerd will talk about his particular interest exclusively, regardless of the person he is talking to.  For instance, I know a guy once who loved working on cars.  A redneck in nature, this particular person would talk about nothing else.  I got along with him just fine, since I also am a master of the automotive arts, however when we would be somewhere and meet someone who obviously had no interest in cars, be it classic cars, race cars or other, i.e. a person who uses an automobile to get from point A to point B only, the nerd in question would continue to try to impress this person by reciting useless knowledge about how cars work, or he would talk about cars he has fixed in the past.  Seriously, this is annoying!  I have met many people like this that will only talk about computers.  That is fine if you are talking to me, but when we are getting lunch at a local diner, please, do not try to impress the cute waitress by your infinite knowledge of programming languages.

I encourage people to become well rounded individuals.  If you seriously only have one interest, that is fine, but if you insist on discussing this interest with someone who doesn’t care about it, you are a nerd.  Being a geek is okay, but just don’t let it control your life!

3 Comments

FredJune 28th, 2006 at 22:24

Well written, geek :)

RandJune 29th, 2006 at 01:56

From a geek (well, really a guru – check that one out – we leave geeks in the dust :-) ), who maybe once was a nerd – I can only agree. Very well written.

[…] A few friends of mine picked out some pretty geeky costumes for us for Halloween this year. It’s kind of a group thing. We had a lot of fun building these things and wearing them. The most ironic of all was when we were walking along and ran into OSU Linux Guru Alex. There he is as Tux, the beloved Linux Penguin. That’s me, the Windows Logo. […]

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