Sunday, September 1, 2013

What Does it Mean To Be a Geek or a Nerd?

I have been curious of late as to whether I am a geek or a nerd.  The words have been used so interchangeably that it is really hard to tell which is which.  I have always looked at my personality and considered that if there is a clearly defined difference, I very well may have my feet in both camps.  Upon investigating, I have come to learn that there is a very clear line and now I know exactly where I stand.

Here is what I have found out about nerds.  They are more likely to be obsessive about reaching a goal.  A nerd will be very intelligent and more introverted, spending time trying to find a scientific understanding of the human race rather than worrying about current topics and specifics.  They are the chess players, strategy thinkers, and gameboy wielders.

Geeks on the other hand are more likely to obsess over things.  They are the collectors and fanboys of the world, loving their favorite movies, shows, and books with all of their heart.  They are more interested in current events and are more likely to be extroverted.  Geeks are the board game, MMO players, and group activity lovers.

One giant thing that they both have in common is their passion.  No matter what, you will always find that one is not more passionate about the things that they love and obsess over than the other.  Most of them, at least the ones that are strongly one or the other, are also incredibly picky about the distinction between geek and nerd.  Thank you,, for the venn diagram below.

One thing that I found in my search was a recent study into the subject.  That's right, someone did a study on it.  Now that I know the difference, the person who conducted the study is most likely a nerd.

The study was done by a man named Burr Settles, a data scientist.  He began with a set of beginning definitions so that he did not blur any lines in the gathering of statistical information.  The definitions were as follows:
  • Geek – An enthusiast of a particular topic or field. Geeks are collection oriented, gathering facts and mementos related to their subject of interest. They are obsessed with the newest, coolest, trendiest things that their subject has to offer.
  • Nerd – A studious intellectual, although again of a particular topic or field. Nerds are “achievement” oriented, and focus their efforts on acquiring knowledge and skill over trivia and memorabilia.
  • Both are dedicated to their subjects, and sometimes socially awkward. The distinction is that geeks are fans of their subjects, and nerds are practitioners of them. A computer geek might read Wired and tap the Silicon Valley rumor-mill for leads on the next hot-new-thing, while a computer nerd might read CLRS and keep an eye out for clever new ways of applying Dijkstra’s algorithm. Note that, while not synonyms, they are not necessarily distinct either: many geeks are also nerds (and vice versa).
Once those rules were defined, he then began the arduous task (only arduous if you are not a nerd) of searching Twitter, sifting through millions of tweets that included any words that were used at the same time as either 'geek' or 'nerd'.  After compiling that list, he combined each word with the rules that he had started with and the frequency with which they appeared, then graphed them according to whether they were more nerdy, geeky, or closer to the middle of the road.  The findings were exactly what I would have thought them to be before I had a better idea of the definitions.

And there it is.  After studying it I found that I was right about myself, I am right in the middle.  I have strong tendencies in one direction or the other depending on the subject at hand, but there I am.  I also realized that most of my friends are very much the same with a few exceptions.

One thing that I learned about the difference that will help to define a little more quickly is language.  I had never really thought about it before, but there is a strong distinction between the words used during conversation by those more on one side of the fence or the other.  The best example is from an article I found on
  • A nerd might say "That's an overused Foley. The SD must be lazy."
  • The geek would say, of the same thing, "Oh! I love how Peter Jackson uses the Wilhelm Scream in every movie!"
So there it is.  I am curious to hear, especially amongst my friends, where you find yourselves.  Comment below and let me know where you stand after learning these set of definitions and whether or not this is different than your own previous definitions.

'Til next time.

Llama Llama