I think most people are nerds in today’s world. But, nerd as term has been defined and re-defined a million times. This causes confusion. Something that was an insult in 1986 (2 years after Revenge of the Nerds tried to redefine it) is today a badge of pride in many circles. It can make a workplace very awkward when someone “old school” tries to tease someone for being a “nerd” and everyone (a) thinks they are being rude for trying to demean a co-worker but also (b) nerd isn’t an insult anymore.
I define Nerds as people with a casual depth of knowledge. A perfect example is sports. I am not a sports nerd. To illustrate: recently, my husband and I were watching Jeopardy and they had a category of naming a college based upon the quarterback who won some award for quarterbacks. They gave the player’s name and a hint about the school (I remember one mentioned “hurricanes”). My husband got all of them. I got none. Not even the $200 question that would be a gimme to someone who knew something about college football. I am not a sports nerd.
Now, I would argue there are some sports that my husband dips from nerd to geek. A geek, by my definition, has more-than-a-casual depth of knowledge. This is the “Music Geek” or the “Movie Geek” or the “Comics Geek” – they have in-depth knowledge. I might be a Harry Potter Geek because I not only read the books, watched the movie, & watch Rowling’s Twitter, but I went and read up on some of the mythos she employed throughout the universe (Though since I had already read Bulfinch’s Greek mythology, my reading into OTHER mythos might have been a different geekery). I have had discussions with other geeks of which Hogwarts House is the best and why they might be (I can argue any of them are best).
I do not however drop into Dork territory. I can manage my life just fine without bringing up my geekiness. Many people at work are probably unaware of just what kind of nerdity and geekery I enjoy. The person who can’t manage to avoid bringing up their favorite band, fantasy [sport] league, or comic book character is a Dork. They live their knowledge in a way I don’t (even with something like Potterverse). The person who wriggles their topic into every conversation – even when their audience is giving every indication that we don’t care. This is person who has six variations on their costume of this thing because they love it so much. The person who learns Klingon or Tolkien’s elvish language.
Now, there is definitely a positive side to dorkdom. Many a research scientist is actually a dork. They are obsessed. If you ever listen to an interview of the doctor who has spent 30 years studying some weird protein that is turning out to be the thing we all need to poop properly – thank god that person was such a dork about proteins! That level of obsession, where it invades every avenue of their life, they bring it up in every conversation is how we get Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking, Neil Degrass Tyson (I mean seriously, have you ever heard him talking – such an obsessed dork!). Thank GOD for these dorks.
Yes, inevitably, dorks will sometimes push the boundaries of propriety, because they love their dork-topic so much. I think everyone is a nerd. I believe most people have at least one place in their life that they are geeky. The girl who knows so much about shoes is a shoe geek. The guy who knows tons about cars is a cars geek. The person who plays all the FPS video games is a geek. As long as they know when to shut it off, they don’t reveal when they might actually be a dork – but remember, dorks are the ones who obsess to the point where they might push the envelope and do entirely new things (think about some of the early computer programming dorks who really pushed the bounds of what computers could do!)
Nerd, Geek & Dork used to be insults. I would argue they aren’t any more. I think it’s a variety of factors, but largely an acceptance that what someone loves doesn’t make them “bad” per say. Just because I don’t obsess about sports, doesn’t mean I have the right to make fun on those who do (I will continue to make fun of drunk sports fans doing stupid things though). I don’t mind aiming to be Queen of the Nerds – knowing a little bit about all of the things. I have a few areas where I’ve dipped into geekery, and I know there are a few places I’m actually pretty dorky… I sometime catch myself trying to wriggle my topic into the conversation.