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My view of "Nerd" and "Geek" culture

Updated on May 2, 2013

Initial Points

So as you can tell by the title, this is about what I think of a certain culture. You might notice on the URL address to my previous hub, that I was trying to tie something like this to it, but I decided to make them separate articles instead (also HubPages apparently doesn't let you change the url address once you've got the first title locked in, hopefully they will change that in the future, that, or I'm too dumb to figure out how to do it). Anyway, I'll be making a few references to my previous hub, but nothing too big, so you don't really have to read it to figure out what I'm talking about. The link will be below this first body of text.

Also, (like my previous hub) I will almost always put a parenthesis on the word "nerd" or "geek" because for one I don't like using those words too much unless completely needed. Secondly when I talk, that's how I feel comfortable saying it most of the time (with air quotes) so if you don't like it... I really have no solution except, please don't hate me.

My Credentials

So, if you haven't already gotten what this part of the article is about reading the header, it's about my credentials. For credentials, I pretty much mean the things I think that made me weird in society as well as the things I guess people consider to be "nerdy." In a lot of ways, it's my life story. You don't have to read this part of the article if you don't want to.

First off, I'm an Asian American male (sorry if my profile pic made you think otherwise). For any of you who do not notice, people like me are pretty discriminated against. From what I heard through my friends in high school, the reason is pretty much that they do not know what I'm thinking or if I even speak English (which apparently they got from the way I look). As for the Non American Asians, they always did not seem to like me because it might be to them, I'm a spoiled rich American who has no interest in his roots. If not, we really just do not have too much in common. The funny thing is that being male is what made it much harder to make friends. Every other non Asian at the school wanted to get to know the exotic little Asian girl but just wanted the guys to get out of the way. At least that was my experience in a rural high school. So I think my Asianness (is that even a word?) made me kind of an outcast.


I did live in the city as well where I had a group of Asian American friends but, I didn't really have the same interests as them and always spent my time at home. This is where I picked up too many hobbies for my own good. One of the first things I picked up was Anime. For those of you wondering, my first anime was Doraemon which I watched when I was four. My dad rented it once in a while from the video store with the awful Chinese dubbing, but hey, I was a kid so I thought "Look at that funny blue cat who has a giant mech in his front pouch... CUTE!" The first anime that really hooked me was, like many other people, Neon Genesis Evangelion. I was 11 at the time and now that I think about it, I shouldn't have been watching that, but hey anime girls in really tight plug suits, why not. I moved on to watching Trigun which I think was more appropriate for my age and then from there, I started watching more and more. I even watched Yu Gi Oh whenever I could catch it on TV. Eventually I landed on the first Gundam series I ever saw which was Gundam SEED.


Since I watched Gundam SEED, I have gotten a bunch of model kits. I think I have around 40, mostly High Grades but over 10 masters and 1 perfect. Since I started watching anime, reading manga eventually happened. I also never really listened to any music at all before this and I decided to forget English music, people get too judgmental about what one person or another listens to and started listening to Japanese and Korean music almost exclusively. I haven't really stopped doing that, but I haven't really gotten any new Japanese or Korean songs either.

One of my friends had also gotten me heavily into video games by giving me Final Fantasy VII and playing Neo Geo Emulators. Fighting games and RPGs were what I loved in my youth. Eventually I just started training seriously on Marvel Vs Capcom 2 on the dreamcast, I did okay against my friends, but I wasn't too great otherwise nor am I currently but I still enjoy these games.

Currently, I have gotten really into a bunch of TV shows. I used to be all about the cartoons and anime and TGIF, but people have to expand. I've only watched the 2005 series of Doctor WHO, I'm hoping to watch the original 1963 series at some point when I have more time. I have what I think is an unhealthy obsession with Community and really don't like Big Bang Theory (As you can see from my previous hub). I've been to several anime conventions including AX and going to Otakon soon. I've read all of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series. I'm currently trying to get through the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I've also read two of the Ender's Game series and read the original book like six times. Finally I have a Playstation 3 which I enjoy.

I'm not sure if I got everything (most likely not) or if any of this is relevant, but you readers can be the judge of that and now on to the main article.


Differences

I want to separate the two words "nerd" and "geek." I think technically they can be used interchangeably, at least that's how it seems like most people use them. Even though that may be true, I think they can be separated. Now I know that these words probably have some kind of Latin roots or something, but I'm going to separate them based on observation.

The word "geek" seems to be used more for specialists. Like a person who can be a car geek (I won't use quotations for this because I don't seem to have a problem when a word comes before it.) or a band geek. However, it doesn't sound right if you say like band nerd, it's just rough on the ears. It also seems to be the more common word that people use to self proclaim themselves. An example of this is people calling themselves anime geeks after watching one episode of Naruto. Even more used is the word "otaku" which is a derogatory term for someone obsessed with something. Now mostly it is used in Japan for people obsessed with Anime and Manga but it can be used for just about any kind of obsession. People who call themselves "geeks" often do so after they do something in a said category and put the word behind "geek." Things like medieval geek or poetry geek are some other examples. In non self proclaimed examples, there are theater geeks who specialize specifically on acting, stage setup, lighting, etc. They do everything they can to make their production the best it can be. There is also another side to the word "geek."

Even though a "geek" seems to be a specialist, I also think they have a place in the mainstream world. Sure there are Pokémon geeks who can EV train the hell out of their Pokémon for a specific purpose and knock all of yours out in less than eight attacks. However, there are also political geeks who can tell you everything that every candidate said in the last election and analyze every little detail about that speech. The word "geek" seems like it can be used for everything and can be used to influence society. An Engineer is a "geek" who has potential influence on the technology of society. There can be media geeks, fashion geeks, any kind of geek really. A geek can even more easily blend in with other people. A basketball stat geek will do extremely well at a sports bar. In the whole category of "geeks," I believe there are many who can fit in with the rest of society just because their specialties do.

The "nerd" on the other hand, seems to be the explorer. They seem to have no specialty but rather a great understanding of a wide variety of things. A lot of times the things they understand are connected and can enhance one another. An example is a "nerd" who likes films. That person watches a lot of films but also understands story structure, cinematography, special effects and many other aspects of what makes a good film. This person could also be someone who loves playing video games but also uses the expertise gained from movies to really analyze the things that make the game work in terms of effects on the viewer. "Nerds" seem to be people who can use different skills they learned from other interests in order to enhance their understanding of a new interest. If their interests have nothing to do with each other, then they just learned something for the sheer interest of learning it and may be able to use it in the future. Even though it seems like "nerds" are amazing they aren't for everyone.

From what I see, "nerds" usually are more about themselves. They learn things because the thing piqued their interest. They can be people who learn around a certain field and use those skills to enhance all their interests or they can just like things randomly. Not to mention, they are not always exactly what society looks for in a productive human. People also self proclaim themselves as a "nerd" when they do anything at all that's weird. They do so without putting a category behind it like when someone calls themselves a "nerd" because they put on glasses. A "nerd" can be an expert in accounting but really likes playing D&D. The latter of which probably does not have too much to do with accounting. However a "nerd" is probably the best most valuable people in society even though it's not so obvious. They're the trend setters who go out and find things that interest them and eventually start something new for the rest of the world to be interested in. They can find those new things and become the first "geek" of it. Leonardo da Vinci was a "nerd" of his time and started many projects that became the basis for many inventions of modern society. The people who started the EVO tournaments were college students who also played fighting games. Now it has become a gaming phenomenon where gamers from all over the world attend.

I really don't think either one of them outranks the other in any way but rather one enhances the other. Together, they make the world much more interesting. A "nerd" explores and researches while a "geek" enhances and shows results. Either way, they are words that are used to categorize people who make progress.

Pretty much the difference between a wannabe and the real deal
Pretty much the difference between a wannabe and the real deal

My view on the meaning.

This is probably the most important part of the article and also the main point.

The words "geek" or "nerd" is the new cool. Just like kids say to their parents, you don't call yourself cool to be cool, you just... are. It's the new culture that everyone is trying to be a part of. However, trying to be part of this culture is a paradox. There is no real straight and easy way to be a part of it. You don't just beat your friends once in Smash Bros. and all of a sudden you're in. These aren't real "nerds" or "geeks," they're just wannabes who like to flaunt even the smallest victory. It's like when a fanboy pounces on another console for the smallest thing when their own has a huge list of problems. It's like when someone tells you your car sucks because it has a flat tire while their own car doesn't have doors, is missing an entire wheel and only turns on when the stars align. I've known several people who beat me once in something and they would just flaunt it like they got every single victory and I should bow to them. Of course I lose once in awhile, I'm only human. That does not make them an expert and certainly not a "nerd" or "geek."

That's the biggest problem now, those two words which were once derogatory are now words to flaunt. People use them to try to seem bigger than they really are. "Hey I took a picture of myself using my camera phone, I'm such a photography geek." Where's the collection of lenses, or the knowledge of what each individual setting does? Do you even know what the ISO setting is used for? The word "nerd" apparently means people who have popped in a copy of Twilight Princess into their Wii and didn't even get passed the title screen. People are tarnishing the culture in order to try to claim a small identity from it. The last sentence (and article title) is also kind of a contradiction to me because I don't believe there is a culture but rather individuals who are dedicated to things they are passionate about. This is also why I love Community over Big Bang Theory because they barely ever use those two words to self proclaim themselves. Jeff does use it but in a derogatory way towards Troy and Abed (Community characters). I think that's the best way to use it actually, not in a derogatory way, but rather the only way you can be labelled as either a "geek" or "nerd" is through the eyes of another.

The reason why I think that only the view of another person is what counts is in the very nature of those words. When they were originally still being used in a derogatory way, it was towards people who were passionate and hardworking towards things they cared about. These people were mostly outcasts who found solace in something else other than the things everyone else were interested in. They were people who had forsaken parties to learn a new strategy in Starcraft. They were people who only gathered with others to duke it out in Magic.They never labelled themselves because all they knew was that they wanted to get better at the thing they loved and I think here lies the true "nerd" or "geek."

A "nerd" or "geek" shouldn't have to label themselves because by labeling oneself, that person has given up what it means to be a "nerd" or "geek." It's all about getting better at something. Learning more programming languages or learning piano in order to make unique music for YouTube videos and never stopping is the right way to be one. People who know what happens to Spider-man in every universe but are still reading them again to find tiny details are the "geeks." The ones who try to do the same with Batman as well are the "nerds." People who read a few pages and make up the rest then blow it up as much as they can are the wannabes. If it is any kind of culture, it is the culture of the obsessed and passionate, there's no room for people who are only satisfied with scratching the surface. To be honored with any of those two labels, a person needs to keep working at the the things they love no matter the praise. Nothing should ever be good enough as there will always be ways to make it better. I don't think the true "nerd" or "geek" should be a person who thinks of themselves in such a categorical way but rather a person who thinks they can make something better. Whether it is making something better for themselves or the rest of the world does not matter, all that matters is the pursuit because there can never be an absolute goal.

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