Separating Geeks from Nerds

There's been a new fascination over the last few years with geekdom or nerdism; mainly, the idea of being incredibly knowledgeable and serious about a particular subject. In short: it's become fashionable to know stuff and to have other people recognize it. In the Bay Area, it's so desirable to be a person who knows things that people will practically fight over who gets to reveal their knowledge first! 

"Wait wait, don't tell me!"

"I know, I know, I know...." (cutting you off mid-sentence)

We've seen plenty of that in the wine and spirits world over the last decade with passionate drinkers referring to themselves as cork dorks or whiskey geeks, wanting to let you know how passionate they are about their interests. But let's not confuse these people with nerds. There's a massive difference between a real, honest, classical nerd and someone who one day decides to get into booze and call themselves a geek.

First off, a nerd doesn't go around talking about what he or she does. They don't brag on social media. They don't try to convince you of anything, really. Why? Because they're too busy enjoying whatever it is they're being nerdy about. Nerds do things for themselves, without thinking about social acceptance, to such an extent that they become nerds. Hence the term.

Secondly, a nerd by definition is someone who is socially awkward. They typically avoid the public eye. They tend to remain in the background, a wallflower, watching the world around them, but generally a bit timid when it comes to participation.

Thirdly, nerds are almost invariably nice. I was walking back home the other day after picking up food downtown and I saw a fifty-something year old nerd racing a remote-controlled truck in a parking lot near my house. He was having a blast. I told him I didn't think they still made those things, and he preceded to ask me if I wanted to try it out with a huge grin on his face. 

Then there are geeks. The geeks have taken the second definition of "nerd" (someone single-mindedly obsessed with a hobby) and turned it into a game of one-upsmanship. Because when you're constantly trying to show someone what a geek you are for wine or whiskey, is it really about the hobby?

I don't think so.

Modern geekdom in many cases is a bastardization of nerdism. The only one-upping nerds care about is the kind in the photo above. Real nerds back in the day practiced that trick over and over again until they got it down. Modern video game geeks, however, watch it being done on Youtube first, then copy it and take a photo for Instagram.

In no way are nerds and geeks the same thing anymore. It's the simple difference between true passion and artificial acceptance.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll