Friday, April 10, 2009

Nerds Vs. Geeks

How to Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks Author Unknown

Geek habitat: note the excessive multiple monitors, Star Trek Klingon Sign, and Einstein and FreeBSD doll.

The terms "nerd" and "geek" are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.A "nerd" is someone with an extremely intense interest or fascination in an intellectual field of study (often an obscure field). Being a nerd is typically associated with intellect, as they often enjoy specializing in complicated fields of study. Nerds may also have difficulties socializing with others, as they may border on being classified as a "genius".

An alternative definition is that a nerd is often, but not by definition, very intelligent, and has "skillz," spelled with a "z" to indicate that the skill set is uncommon, or perhaps impractical. This may cover a broad range of interests, from movies, to games (video and table-top), to more practical skills such as computer science.A "geek" is someone with an obscure interest or lifestyle, but not necessarily an academic one. For instance, Star Trek, World of Warcraft, or anything that requires a vivid imagination are typical areas of interest. Geeks can vary in their interests, from fun and sometimes even frivolous things, to heavy technological influences. An alternative definition of "geek" is someone who is a nerd without "skillz."

REMEMBER: Someone who calls themselves a nerd or geek may have different definitions of one or both, or completely different or mixed definitions. These tend to vary regionally, but with variation by person as well. Furthermore, it is possible for someone to be a nerd and a geek, depending on definition. For example, people who like Star Trek may be interested in NASA level quantum physics. Star Wars fans may know everything about laser weaponry. Think about it - these kinda go together. Often being a geek leads to being a nerd, as people research areas of science and technology appropriate to their interest. Similarly, nerds can become geeks, as the obscure interest could be a prime example of their particular field of expertise.

Observe the person. Do they recite lines from "Monty Python" shows or movies, or do they occasionally throw Latin words into their dialog? Nerds are not as concerned about their level of trivial knowledge as geeks are known for embracing. Geeks often take interest in the more obscure, trivial details of life, such as noticing that your present situation is much like one from a cult-classic book or movie. Nerds will seemingly be uninterested in the details of daily life, and more focused on fantastic, scientific possibilities and the future of mankind.

Take a quick inventory of their prominent possessions, especially ones related to hobbies and other interests. Check for unusual objects, such as a dictionary of an obscure language, or a shelf full of anime figures. Nerds may be more willing than geeks to show off hobbies and possessions that flaunt their intellect, where as geeks may take pride in more obscure and unique subjects.
Engage the person in conversation. If the person fails to respond in a socially comfortable manner (ie: they make you nervous, or vice versa), you may be talking to a nerd. If they respond in a comfortable manner but appear a little 'dorky', include obscure references, and/or act silly, you might be talking to a geek. Also, nerds may speak in layman's terms for your benefit because you may not understand the basic concepts of their area interest. Geeks may speak in detail about their own interests, unconcerned with whether or not you truly comprehend it.

Inquire about the person's interests. Hobbies involving Calculus, Quantum Physics, and other theoretical sciences are good indications of a nerd, while an obsession with Japanese Manga or some form of technology puts them in line with a geek.

Example nerd interests for comparison:
Theoretical Sciences such as Quantum Physics, Fuzzy Math
17th Century English Literature
Abstract Art
Classical Opera, Rachmaninov Concertos
NASA Robotic Projects
Computer Algorithms for the SETI program

Example geek interests for comparison:
Science Fiction such as the Space-Time Continuum, Temporal Prime-Directive
Japanese Manga, Graphic Novels, or superhero comic books. Be careful: Manga/Graphic Novels are not classified as comic books. You'll get in trouble if you mix up the two when communicating with a geek.
SEGA Genesis Game Music played by a Japanese Heavy Metal Band
RobotWars, BattleBots
Building and Modding Computers for Gaming

To engage a geek or a nerd in conversation, be prepared to accept that there is something fundamentally interesting about what they obsess about. You may not fully understand why, but just accept that it is so.
Nerds may not feel the need to defend attacks against their areas of interest, since their fields are far too advanced to be toppled by simple arguments. However, geeks may find the need to defend their interests when attacked. The interests of geeks are often ridiculed or put-down by those who do not fully appreciate them. For nerds, they know that their interests are beyond normal peoples' understanding, so they just accept that as a natural phenomenon.
Some nerds believe that their interests are of "potential value to humanity as a whole, although humanity doesn't know it yet".
Geeks may have the uncanny ability to find something valuable and worthwhile in what is dismissed by most as trash. That is certainly a talent.
It is incumbent upon the general populace to continue attempting to integrate geeks and nerds into society. Be patient. It is worth the effort.

Geeks are well aware of their 'geekiness'. Many geeks are even proud of being a geek, hence the launching of sites such as, LifeHacker, Gizmodo, and Engadget. Therefore, do not ever challenge a geek's level of geekdom if you wish to converse with them. Likewise, do not question the intellect of a nerd, lest you be shunned from their conversations.
Many nerds and geeks are introverted, and some are even asocial. They may even not want to talk to you at all. Be patient when conversing with them.
Don't assume that geeks and nerds only have one interest. A Trekkie, or Anime enthusiast may also play football, or the electric guitar. Geeks and nerds are often well-rounded, interesting people just like YOU! Take care not to brand them as freaks, or weirdos. They're just different. Diversity in society is good! It's what defines us as individuals.
Nerds are clever, and witty. Many geeks are very clever too. Don't treat them like idiots just because they like the sci-fi channel, or know the Constitution in Latin.
Nerds and geeks do not want to be 'converted' into 'popular' people. do not assume this. It's not like the movies where all they do is worship the popular kids. They're not scared of popular people either. Many believe themselves to be on a higher level to the general population - you must accept that a common theme in science fiction, a topic that most nerds and geeks are interested in, is the advancement of humankind. Their interest, be it a TV show or movie or board game or comic, probably details how humans are evolved creatures in the future, with a better understanding of life and the universe. So don't go acting better than a nerd or geek, because chances are they'll deem you an non-evolved, primitive form of human life.
Some people consider this backwards, and instead think that nerds have obsessions with nonacademic things, such as Star Trek, and that geeks have interest in things more like physics, and computers.
Always be sure to know the local definition of geek/nerd, as some geeks/nerds are adamant about one placing or the other.

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