Nerds, Geeks, and Dorks


As a self-confessed nerd, I was somewhat dismayed to see Ferdinand’s attack on nerds. His Roissy like attack roused my defensive (a bad nerd trait apparently) spirits. On reading the piece I realized that we may not have been thinking of the same thing.

Here are my definitions (or at least how I tend to think of the descriptions). I will admit that, like others, I do use them interchangeably, but below is my best attempt to differentiate between them.

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning in general. The nerd is interested in more abstract and academic pursuits. These interests may or may not be technical. They may, or may not, be obscure. They are more likely to know quite a lot about quite a lot but not necessarily to the huge depth (see: Geek). They may tend towards introversion, but that is not their defining feature. This version does not match the rather dour one given in Ferdinand’s post.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular subject or subjects. Often these will be technical or obscure. Geeks will tend to know their subjects in incredible depth and detail, far more than a normal person could bear.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations and interactions. They may, or may not, be a geek or a nerd. They may have perfectly normal interests and knowledge but just find social expectations difficult to comprehend.

Where the confusion comes is that often these are mixed. Many nerds also have particular subjects they are geeky (detailed expertise) about. Many geeks also have a general interest in subjects outside their area of expertise (nerdy). Due to their introspective nature, many geeks and nerds also have trouble with common social interactions.

All three tend towards introversion but it is not a necessity. A nerd’s love of big ideas and more abstract thoughts may go against the grain in a society that prefers more concrete small talk (or at least prefers big ideas and abstract thoughts in small doses). The geek’s extreme focus on narrow technical arenas may alienate others (or at least cause them to drift out). I find it hard to really see how these traits threaten society. Even the dork’s awkwardness is hard to see as anything other than an annoyance (at worst) or an amusement (at best).

On the post:
I am not even sure what Ferdinand is railing against. The particular post he mentioned was much like many of the rants we suffer on the Internet. That it happened to come from a Gizmodo team member is largely irrelevant. It is not unlike many meltdowns that we see from non-nerds. Indeed, the report he links to is just as bad in its own way. That report is full of the self-satisfied snark that passes for wit in many places. Both the linked report and Ferdinand’s post partake in the look how clever we are smugness that they appear to decry.

Even the picture he uses does not seem to illustrate his point.

Alpha Nerd?

Alpha Nerd?

You could just as easily read his pose as calm, assured, and alpha. Indeed, if Johnson ran a PUA site, that is probably how it would be described (wouldn’t Johnson be an appropriate name for a PUA?). I am not really defending nerds; mostly it would be better to not be one. I am certainly not defending Joel Johnson; it was a silly hissy fit. I am just surprised to see nerds attacked as the source of all, or indeed any, evil. Indeed a nerdish interest in ideas is what attracts many to blogs like In Mala Fide, Roissy, Sailer, et al.

I suppose it does prove the point that beta/omega males can expect no support, even from other males.


8 Responses to “Nerds, Geeks, and Dorks”

  1. Hope Says:

    Nerds and geeks are beloved elsewhere in the world. Not in the US.

  2. Ferdinand Bardamu Says:

    The particular post he mentioned was much like many of the rants we suffer on the Internet.

    So, bloggers whining about how MEAN their commenters are is common?
    [DU: Snarkiness and a petulant tone certainly are. Long rants against other Internet entities are. I will grant you that I have not done a count specifically of bloggers whining about how MEAN their commenters are but the tone is not uncommon.]

  3. Default User Says:

    I suppose there is always that prey-on-the-weakest that seems to be part of human and animal interaction. However, even in the US, nerds and geeks are not really that hated. The may lack the social cachet of jocks, but at worst they are ignored (of course: “the only thing worse than been talked about. . .”).

  4. Φ Says:

    Have you seen this venn?
    [DU: I had not seen that before, thanks. It is a pretty good diagram (although it differs from my descriptions) to illustrate the differences. As a nerd it look like I am at the center of it all.]

  5. chic noir Says:

    *chic noir swings open door and comes struting in to the maison de dafault*
    Hello darling, missed me 🙂

    *chic noir bats eyelashes*

    default I am not really defending nerds;
    why not?
    [DU: because like everyone else the have their good and bad points]

    mostly it would be better to not be one.

    why because of what other people think??? phuck ’em. the key to being cool is to make other people want to be you or like you. and how do you do that… project confidence.
    [DU: Whether we like it or not what others think about us does matter. We need the cooperation and support of others. Poor social skills (which I don’t suffer from) and a reserved nature do hamper a person’s development to some degree. There are plenty of thoughtful, smart, and sociable people. But being a nerd is not the worst thing in the World either.]

  6. chicnoir Says:

    defualt Whether we like it or not what others think about us does matter. We need the cooperation and support of others

    Okay I see your point here but to worry what others think to the point that it becomes crippling is problematic and hampers your enjoyment of life.
    [DU: Despite what it may sound like from some of my posts, I agree.]

  7. Lovekraft Says:

    I’d say you left out Spaz, who is similar to the dork, but more ‘out there’.

    I really think this debate comes down to subjective valuation: if we judge people by social usefullness, then nerds come up short. But if we judge a person more by what they have overcome, then these people could be seen in a new light – sort of like prisoners of war, IMO.

  8. Eva Says:

    I have had a friend who is a dork. I had to drop him after 7 years of trying to interact. I was tired of trying, feeling stupid, bad and insecure everytime I was near/around him. After all these years I noticed that we had the same conversations over and over again; all shallow. I wanted that person to talk to when I feel happy or sad or joy or whaterver; he just came across as a wall. Just had to let him go.

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