About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


Nerd Q&A: Why are Nerds So Good at Games?

Gamerscore - Rihanna Xbox Live
Here's a fun question:

Why are most nerds excellent gamers?


That's really all there is to it, but you know I'm not just going to give the short answer.


Nerdism: May the Force be with You

KylaBorg - Han Solo

With The Force Awakens coming out soon, you'll hear this phrase a lot, but it's been a major part of nerd culture, and a significant piece of popular culture for nearly forty years now.

Most people realize the origin of "may the Force be with you," even if they haven't seen the Star Wars movies--it's as common as Yoda, Darth Vader and light sabers--but it's worth talking about why this nerdism is such a big deal to nerds, why it resonates across popular culture in general, and why you still don't typically hear a non-nerd saying it.


Why do Nerds Like Star Trek?

hobvias sudoneighm - Chief Engineer
One warning before I go any further: there are a lot of nerds who don't like Star Trek (and they probably enjoy Star Wars), which is fine, but never assume that all nerds are Star Trek fans.

It may seem self evident why nerds like Star Trek: there's faster-than-light travel, transporters that instantly teleport people from starship to planet, phasers, photon torpedoes, Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans and a host of other aliens working with or against humanity as we strike out across the galaxy.

Sure, all those things are certainly nerd candy, but there's more to the deep passion nerds hold for Star Trek than the sci-fi trappings of a low budget space western.


Nerdism: Transhuman

J.D. Hancock - Austin vs Gadget
This is a fairly recent term that's gained common use...among nerds and geeks, but it's slowly creeping into the vernacular of non-nerds. 

Not long ago you would have heard metahuman, and before that superhuman. Each word has a very similar connotation, although the specifics vary slightly. 

All three words are typically used in reference to comic book or movie superheroes, like The Flash, Elasta-Girl, Spiderman, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer who have powers or abilities, however transhuman encompasses any human who has, through evolution or augmentation, acquired capabilities beyond normal humans. This could be mythological heroes like Fionn mac Cumhaill, fictional future humans like Beatrice Prior, or even real-life people who change so much that they can no longer be regarded as merely human. (Superman and Doctor Who don't qualify because they're not human.) 

The word transhuman has become more popular recently because of technological advances that bring us closer to the possibility of extending our lifespan and expanding our physical abilities through cybernetics, genetics, nanotech and a host of other technologies that make a lot of super powers seem like a feasible concept.


Nerd Q&A: What's up with Nerds and Inhalers?

Retinafunk - Inhaler Street Art
Here's an astute question.
Why are nerds in movies and on TV always carrying around inhalers?

I never paid attention to this trope, even though I consider myself a nerd but never had an inhaler, and few of the nerds I've known in life had inhalers either. Based on my personal experience the inhaler=nerd stereotype isn't true, but it still strikes me as believable. Here's why:


Nerdism: Frak!

This all-purpose euphemism hails from the Sci-Fi Channel's reboot of Glen Larson's Battlestar Galactica. Sci-Fi replaced the original show's 1970's disco-tastic trappings with alcoholism, violence, sex, and a multitude of identity crises.

Don't confuse frak with frack. The latter has become a common diminutive reference to hydraulic fracturing, but Battlestar's frak (without the "c") predates the common use of frack by a few years.

Frak is like the Swiss army knife of euphemisms. It can be used as a verb, noun, adjective, or interjection and replaces the equally versatile yet less welcome “f-word” that teachers don't want you to use in class.


Nerd Q&A: How Do I Get a Nerd To Go Out With Me?

Pierre Willemin - Nerd Power

Here's a question I would like to see more often.

I'm a very outgoing woman but I'm attracted to a shy, awkward nerd: how do I get him to go out with me...and maybe take things further?

You may have noticed this already: the majority of nerds are, as you put it, shy and awkward. A lot of nerds don't realize they're attractive, or they're simply insecure, which means they misinterpret signals that other people easily pick up, so they don't typically make the first move.


Nerdism: Meatspace

Sergey Galyonkin - Orlovsky & Occulus Rift
Meatspace -- Refers to real-life, as opposed to the virtual world including social networks, gaming, chat and streaming video.

Meatspace is a fun word that plays on the growing irony of how we have to define our realities. The term originates in science fiction (particularly cyberpunk) as the antonym of cyberspace. We don't use the word cyberspace much anymore, but nerds still like to toy with accepted convention by bending terminology to our whims. Until this century, virtual reality was a science fiction concept, and the most advanced examples of it were clunky toys that no one took seriously. 20th century humans didn't have to preface a meeting with non-virtual, but 21st century people spend a significant amount of time immersed in some sort of digital facsimile of life.

This nerdism hasn't broken into the mainstream yet, but it's more and more applicable every year as people regularly use online services for making friends, chatting, gaming, dating and nearly any other interaction that used to happen only when two people were within touching distance of each other. We're already at a point where it is sometimes necessary to clarify if something happened online or in meatspace, and it's likely we'll soon have to specify that our friends join us at the Starbucks in meatspace, rather than using their smartphone or Oculus Rift.


Nerd Entertainment: Games

Thomas Quine - Games Table
Games have been around as long as people, possibly longer, since even animals play, and everyone is familiar with how much fun (and how frustrating) games can be, but nerds often become heavily involved in games that other people may not have even heard of. Sometimes this involvement can seem obsessive, but there’s a deeply rewarding aspect of gaming that encourages this level of involvement, and games provide a safe context for social interaction that can grow beyond the playing surface.

All games have certain characteristics that make them appealing, even if they might look odd at first glance. If you're willing to give them a chance, you might find that you enjoy the same things your nerd friend does. There is a solid sense of achievement when you beat a game's level, or manage to overcome the obstacles and win, something that is less tangible in real life. Story is a large part of many of the games nerds prefer—although the plot might be thin in some of the tabletop games or paintball—and it's the sense of progression from one plot point to the next (again, often difficult to find in real life) that adds to the sense of achievement. Games that involve multiple players offer an opportunity to socialize around a common interest, and compete without fear of long term fallout. Of course, plain old fun is a huge part of the attraction.


Nerdism: One of us. One of us.

Still from Tod Browning's Freaks
It can be a little creepy to find yourself surrounded by a table full of nerds clacking their cutlery and chanting “one of us” but this eerie ritual is usually intended as a sign of acceptance, a way for the group to embrace a new member.

While it’s entirely benign, when done properly the chant should raise goosebumps, for good reason. It originates from the bizarre 1932 horror film Freaks, a movie that illustrates the gaping chasm separating the beautiful people from the weirdos. Which explains why nerds have co-opted the mantra. 

The film stars a cadre of real life side-show performers who portray an ersatz family of circus freaks. When the beautiful trapeze artist Cleo marries one of the circus midgets, the rest of the freaks welcome her into their midst during an unforgettable wedding banquet scene. The freaks begin tapping their knives and forks on the table and chanting
One of us, one of us.
Unfortunately, Cleo doesn’t want to be a freak and throws a glass of champagne at them.

(It’s probably best if you don’t follow her example.)

If you want to impress your companions, chant along:
One of us, one of us.
Gooble gobble, Gooble gobble.
We accept her, we accept her.
One of us, one of us.
The chant has shown up repeatedly in popular culture, finding its way into The Simpsons, South Park, Orange is the New Black and even The Wolf of Wall Street, so  you might have seen it in passing, but now you know its secret origins.

One of us…


Nerd Q&A: Am I Smart Enough to Date a Nerd?

mliu92 - Not in Oz
I'm not sure how many people have this question and are afraid to ask, but I've heard variations on it over the years:

I really like her, but I'm worried that she's more intelligent than I am and we'll be incompatible.

He's always talking about things that go way over my head.

Sometimes she's telling me about concepts and I literally have no idea what she is talking about.

I'm worried that he's only with me for my looks.

I wonder if a more intelligent person might be better for her.


Behaviors Nerds (and Everyone Else) Should Avoid

J.D. Hancock - Rebels Suck
While you should never be ashamed of your nerdiness, there are a few behaviors that have unfortunately become nerd stereotypes that nobody (nerd or non-nerd) should engage in. Here are a few tips on being a better nerd, a better human, and helping the rest of the world view nerds in a positive light.


Why Do Nerds Like Swords?

Phil South - Sword Girl
Not all nerds like swords.

But a lot of people do like swords, so this question's worth entertaining.

There are a few things specific to nerd-dom that imbue swords with a certain mystique:

power, history, fantasy, and legend.

Obviously, a sword symbolizes power (something appealing to anyone) especially the nerd who may have had multiple encounters with bullies who were bigger and stronger and more adept at using fists. But swords are far more than simple revenge fantasy fulfillment.

The earliest swords date back to the bronze age and swords can be found in almost every culture around the globe. A sword is a weapon, yes, but it also speaks volumes about the time and culture of its origin. A claymore boasts of a hard land where sheer force of will carved life out of the highlands, while a katana speaks of discipline and duty over emotion and self-interest.

A sword represents potential. Anyone can use a sword, just pick it up and swing, which makes swords universally appealing...and useful. But, mastering the full abilities of that same weapon involves years of training. A sword, like life, demands focus.

Generally speaking, swords are objects of legend, born between hell and hammer. A sword is more than a length of metal. It must be sharp enough to slice silk yet flexible enough not to shatter against steel. This is the magic of the swordsmith. And any good fantasy story--from The Odyssey to Morte de Arthur to Game of Thrones to Star Wars--hinges on a sword.

The edge of a sword balances life and death.

If none of that convinces you, keep this in mind when you wonder why your nerd friend has a sword hanging on the wall. When the zombies are breaking down your front door, a sword won't run out of bullets.


Wil Wheaton's Mixed Marriage

Wil Wheaton is in my top-ten list of living nerds. If you don't know who Wil Wheaton is, that's OK. He's a pretty cool guy who has some honest perspective on what it means to "come to terms with yourself". Sure, Wil had a starring role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but so did Jonathan Frakes and J. F. isn't on my list of nerds at all...because he's not a nerd. Wil's nerd cred doesn't come from his acting career, but from his passions.

So, what better guy to talk about how nerds and non-nerds can find common ground?

Even better, Wil is in what he calls a mixed marriage--he's a nerd, his wife is a normal--and somehow everything still works...sometimes with a little extra explaining. I'll let Wil give you an example.

I'm sharing this video because it proves that, no matter what anyone tells you, the gap between nerd and non-nerd is pretty narrow. It's not an impediment. In fact it keeps us talking, it makes us interesting.


Nerd Specializations: Bookworm

Tim Parker - A Good Read
A book nerd is fairly easy to spot: just look for the book (or several) in her hands...and hundreds more waiting patiently for her at home. A book nerd's body might be sitting in a subway car or on a park bench, but his soul has traveled through the narrow paper gateway into other worlds and times. Hard-core book nerds will wait hours in line to get their first editions autographed by the author, not because the signature increases resale value, but because the writer's ink on the paper imbues the book with peculiar power...the woman who wrote these words spilled this ink on my book while I watched. The book nerd's ability to escape into an alternate universe can make her seem unreachable at times, but if you join her in that world you'll find that she's happy to take you on a guided tour and show you every secret it holds.


Nerd Q&A: How Much Do Looks Matter?

Performer by The Lost Gallery
Here's a question I see a lot, both from girls, boys, women and men. In some form or another it boils down to, “how much do looks matter?”

I'd love to tell you that looks don't matter, but that would be a lie, and I'm not going to lie to you. They matter. Everyone knows this is true, and anyone telling you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

(Unless the person is visually impaired, in which case you can skip down to the hygiene section.)

Looks matter to everyone, even you.

That's right. I said it, and I can hear the plaintive, “but looks don't matter to me at all!” Just stop. You're not fooling anyone.


Nerd Specializations: Brainiac

Brainiac by Bixentro
This is the nerd who single-handedly mops the bar floor with competitors...on trivia night. A brainiac knows intimate (some might say useless) details about anything you can think of, can tell you on what day March 15th will fall in 2179, and knows how to convert a broken microwave into a death ray. 

Remember that last part when you decide who gets into your bunker during the zombie apocalypse.

Braniacs may be fascinating, intimidating, or completely boring depending on what they're talking about at the time, but they are usually happy conversing about any topic you care to throw at them. 

Often brainiacs struggle with distraction--when you find everything interesting, it's difficult to focus--and can have trouble with certain social skills such as understanding why other people might not want to discuss a topic like how fly larvae can be used to calculate time-of-death. There plenty of brainiacs who do well in a group of strangers, but their concentrated efforts on developing their vast catalog of knowledge can sometimes lead to a deficiency in social graces. It's fine to let someone know if the conversation starts making you uncomfortable, but if you're too polite to tell someone the topic is boring, it's usually simple to introduce a new subject by asking a brainiac what he knows about it.


Nerdism: Don't blink.

Nina's Awesome Weeping Angel
Don't blink is a fairly straightforward nerdism that comes from Doctor Who. It refers to weeping angels, creatures that look like the statues you find in cemeteries except these statues can ruin your very existence. Imagine stone vampires with sharp fangs and sharp fingernails and sharp...everything, and they hunt in packs. And pretty much any statue could be a weeping angel. (Remember that next time you make fun of a garden gnome.) Fortunately weeping angels can't move when someone's looking at them. The only way to keep them at bay?

Don't blink.

Usually when someone utters, “don't blink,” she's referring to something scary that you need to keep your eyes on--a pot of risotto, a red dragon, a particularly antagonistic classmate.

However, there's a universal subtext to don't blink.

As Ferris Bueller put it, “life moves pretty fast,” so if you blink you might miss something. Gamers, programmers, book lovers, movie lovers, people lovers, fire fighters and race car drivers all battle eyestrain at some point because every one of us has something that sucks us in so deep that we don't want to close our eyes to it. Not even for a second.

So next time you're up to your eyeballs in something you love, remember the good Doctor's advice.

Quinn Dombroski - Don't Blink


Nerd Q & A: I'm a 15-year-old Nerd. How can I Build Social Skills?

An anonymous Quora user posted this conundrum that is a pretty common situation, so it's worth adding to the manual.

I am a 15-year-old nerd with an interest in computers and stuff. I lack social skills. What are some ways to build them?
My interests also include economics, and I'm almost engaged to computer and non-fiction books.

A previous article about Flexing Your Social Muscle will offer some advice on building your social skills, so take a look at it, but here are a few things that will be more specifically helpful in your situation:


Nerdism: Nerdcore

Nerds who rap.

Not ironic, nor a joke.
Just nerds.
Who rap.

Considering that the global population is over 7 billion, even if you said, "a nerd rapper must be one in a million!" that would be a lot of nerd rappers. I think, statistically speaking, there should be more out there. In any case, the genre exists, and it's called nerdcore.

Here's an example featuring Dual Core, YTCracker and nerdcore's founder M.C. Frontalot--all major players in the nerdcore game.


Nerd Specializations: Otaku

Niccolò Caranti - Zoro x Nami
Otaku is a Japanese word meaning a person (or people) with an obsessive personality, particularly toward manga and anime.

In western countries otaku has become the word of choice for nerds with a penchant for Japanese culture, and this is largely a self-selected term in Europe and the United States, considering that most westerners have no idea what otaku means. While otaku in Japan tend to be almost exclusively male, the typical western otaku is equally likely to be male or female.

If you're around otaku, prepare yourself for an onslaught of cartoons, comic books and endless collectible card games filled with huge-eyed characters whose hair defies gravity. Otaku can be intimidating for someone unfamiliar with Japanese culture, particularly their high-energy lifestyles and casual use of Japanese phrases in everyday conversation. Don't worry, just immerse yourself in the culture and go with the flow, you'll have fun and might learn a few things about Japan along the way.


Nerdism: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Stan Lee by Gage Skidmore
Here's a phrase that was considered cliché when William Lamb used it way back in 1817.

So why is it so popular with nerds in the 21st century?

To start off, in 1962 Stan Lee (that dude to the right) used a variation of this phrase in the very first Spiderman comic book. You see, Spiderman didn't start off as a hero. When he discovered that he had super powers, Peter Parker wanted to use them to make money. He actually had the chance to stop a burglar, but chose not to because it wasn't his job. Later, that same robber killed Peter's uncle Ben, who was Peter's surrogate father. Talk about learning your moral lessons the hard way. Stan Lee adds the narrative note, "with great power there must also come--great responsibility," burning the words into nerd consciousness.  

Over the years, the phrase has been tightened up, but the idea remains the same.

Of course, like any good cliché it's also true. It's been used by political leaders for centuries to give careful consideration before handing the reins of power to a single entity who could cause significant problems with their new found strength. This idea resonates with nerds who often discovered themselves at the mercy of people who were bigger, better coordinated, or more popular.

Generally speaking, it's not a bad mantra. Consider it the next time you hold someone's fate in your hands, whether it's approving a developing nation's trade agreement or letting that guy change into your lane on the highway.


Nerd Q&A: How do I Impress a Popular Girl (or Guy)?

This is a real-life question from Quora. I've heard it a lot in various forms, and even asked it myself, so I think it's worth answering.

Elijah asked, "how can a nerd like me impress some popular girl without making a fool out of myself?"

There are lots of good answers about talking and listening, which are perfectly valid, but if you're a nerd you should approach this systematically.


Nerd Entertainment: Movies

Forsaken Fotos - Lonely Movie
Most nerds love movies of all kinds, and while there are a few genres that appeal to them more than others, many nerds will happily sit through a chick-flick or bromance just because they like watching movies. However, certain types of movies are more appealing to nerds, and you might wonder why.


Nerd Q&A: How do I Date if I'm Awkward?

"According to advice, I'm supposed to at least be interesting, a good listener, or adventurous or something. Seems like a tall order."
(The original question also mentioned "I'm average looking", but I don't that's particularly relevant since by definition average puts you on the same level as most people, so you're not at a disadvantage in the looks department.)

This isn't actually a particularly tall order, but dating does take a little bit of effort, even for people who are socially skilled.


Nerd Specializations: Tech Nerd

Andrew Filer - The Physics Lab
You're not likely to find a tech nerd shopping for a PC in Best Buy, although he might be there to make fun of the Geek Squad. Tech nerds buy their high-end gear online or get it free in exchange for reviews on their blogs. Or they build it themselves. Some tech nerds naturally gravitate toward computer hacking, which doesn't mean they are criminals, it simply means they know their way around computer networks the way some people know their way around the mall. Your tech nerd is the go-to guy for help when your computer gets stuck rebooting itself, she can perform miracles on your grandmother's wireless connection, and can build a custom PC chassis themed around your favorite TV show. Tech nerds hold our future in their hands, but they often get lost in their projects and may have to be reminded to take a break and go outside and play once in a while.


Real-Life Nerds: When Nerds Get Their Hands on the Past

Andy2 from The Warhol
The Carnegie Mellon Museum has a marvelous documentary series called The Invisible Photograph, parts of which are ostensibly geared toward photographers and archivists--who many people would consider highly qualified nerds in their own right--and when the archival nerds in front of the camera run into problems they can't solve they tap into their own nerd networks and call in reinforcements. Teams of nerds from different fields converge on outdated computer equipment, decaying floppy disks, and decades-old analogue tape recorders to rescue data from time's gaping maw.

This article isn't really part of the Nerd Manual's "how to" aesthetic, but it gives you a taste of how real-life nerds leverage their passions into careers and how sometimes the only thing keeping our collective long-term memory from succumbing to entropy is a nerd with a home-made hardware emulator. Everyone should be glad that there are people out there who are passionate about weird things.

Extreme Nerd Content Ahead


Nerds According to Myers-Briggs

Nguyen Hung Vu - Introvert
If you ascribe to the Myers-Briggs personality type indicators, a psychological assessment tool in use since the 1940s (and re-purposed by nerds to classify their favorite fictional characters), a nerd isn't just some strange creature from an alternate universe (although he might want to be), there is actually a psychological imperative behind nerdy behavior.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) classifies basic personality across 16 different types based on variations in four specific characteristics—extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. Nerds tend to select the INTP, ENTP, INTJ and ISTJ personality types (although they can certainly fall into other types).

*NOTE: some people believe that the MBTI is a valuable assessment tool, while others think it's poppycock. Often times bias against the MBTI is based upon the distortion of personality types in popular culture memes, and may be justified. If you know a nerd who scoffs at an MBTI reference, that's his choice, so keep this segment to yourself.


Nerd Specializations: Gamer

Simon Liu - GARC

If it has dice, cards or a board with tokens, a gamer nerd has probably played it. Gamers are highly competitive, so don't be surprised if the gamer nerd you know races you to every door, and makes bets out of any situation that involves even the tiniest element of chance. Further specializations of gamers include RPG nerds who can sometimes script month-long tabletop games full of as much drama as any episode of Real Housewives, and LARPers who craft medieval costumes and foam swords, and do battle in public parks. Of course, most people are familiar with video gamers who have a stable of online characters who make Rambo look like a hippie.


The Power of Glasses

via Camera Eye Photography
If you do a Google image search for “nerd” the majority of hits will feature someone wearing glasses, but if you take a look at any large group of nerds you'll notice that, while a lot of them wear glasses, most of them don't (and even fewer if you're at a cosplay convention). On the other hand, if you looked into the eyes of nerds not wearing glasses, you would find that many of them wear contacts. So what gives? Are nerdy glasses a myth?


Nerdism: FPS

Wolfenstein 3-D, an early FPS
FPS is an initialism for first person shooter, the type of video game where the point of view, what you see on the screen, is through the main character's eyes, or sometimes a point of view very near the character's head. Of course, the main action of these games is shooting, hence the name. When FPS games were first introduced, gaming graphics left a lot to be desired, but the first person perspective immersed the player into the game world, giving FPS games an advantage over side scrollers that kept players at a distance from the main character.

People don't typically use the term FPS in daily conversation, so if you hear the term used liberally, it's a safe bet you're in the presence of video gamers.


Nerd Specializations: Culture Nerd

The guy who actually likes opera, knows why a Bordeaux can only come from a particular area of the planet, and can tell you the stylistic differences between paintings from different parts of Picasso's career: this is a culture nerd. The focus is on high culture, but can encompass any time period and anything from Brahms to bowling. Culture nerds can be snobs, although they aren't always, and their interest in art, theater and classical music isn't remotely pretentious. They don't care what people think of their preference for Bach over rock because they're thinking about the common themes running through Diego Rivera's murals and 1950s Hindi cinema. Cultural nerds prefer quiet art galleries, live theater and orchestral music, but they may also enjoy popular films that comment on society, music that mashes up genres as a social experiment, and lively political debate.


Nerds Make Great Friends

Sebastiaan ter Burg, Nerds Unite
So you've met this really interesting person--smart and a bit shy--but after a couple of conversations you notice a few quirks: she loves science fiction, he's into gaming, she watches a lot of Doctor Who, he collects comic books...

Oh, wait, you've met a nerd.


OK, so you already knew you were talking to a nerd or else you wouldn't be reading this. Here are some ideas to help you develop a better relationship with your new friend.


Nerdism: Do...or do not. There is no try.

Axel Bührmann, Yoda
One of the most deceptively simple quotes in popular culture comes from a 900 year old little green guy living on a swamp planet.

In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda (the little green guy) tells Luke (the hero of the story) to levitate his space ship out of the swamp using the force (a somewhat mystic power that can be harnessed to move large objects without actually touching them). Luke, smirking, says, “I'll give it a try.”

Here's the genius of this scene. Everyone watching knows exactly what Luke feels like at that moment, we've all been in the situation where a parent or teacher or manager tells us we can do something great with our lives if we try, and we just nod and go, “sure, I'll give it a try,” but we're actually thinking, “there's no way I can do that.”

But Yoda, wise old Jedi that he is, cuts through Luke's bullshit:
Try not.
or do not.
There is no try.
You could spend a lot of time unraveling all the ramifications of that statement, but the genius of it is how it simplifies everything--either do it, or don't. Yoda makes no judgment, he doesn't pander to Luke's self esteem, and he makes no excuses. It comes down to knowing what you can do and doing it.

Imagine if you live your entire life by that principle.


Flexing Your Social Muscle

Alan Turkus, Conversation
This article is intended for nerds who have trouble dealing with social situations--maybe you get along fine with your close friends but strangers baffle you, perhaps you want to interact with people but don't know where to start, or maybe you simply don't like interacting with anyone. Even if you're not shy or socially inept, maybe you know someone who is and could use your help. 

As mentioned in an earlier article, nerds often have the gift of being able to detach from emotion and look at situations logically. Cool detachment can be great if you're coding, balancing an equation or assaulting an AI's fortress, but it leads to problems when we're faced with situations that don't follow rational rules. The nerd brain that's tuned to purely logical tasks tends to be less able to deal with emotional nuances. (I'm not including physiological origins of social difficulties such as Asperger's, although the outcome can be similar.) A few articles out there suggest that the brain allocates mental resources from the social area to the logical, but I think they're just being polite. I've known many nerds who have great intellectual as well as interpersonal skills, which suggests that some nerds deliberately focus on their logical interests while neglecting the social skills necessary to maintain relationships. This may sound lonely or even sad to some people, but I've also known nerds who would argue that social interaction = social distraction, and they aren't in the least bit lonely. 


Logic's Negative Connotations

Nothing will earn you a nerd label faster than loving activities based on logic and rational, systematic thinking. Doesn't matter whether it's your profession (mathematics, coding, network administration) or a leisure activity (chess, computer gaming, hacking) if you like rules, structure and predictability, you must be a nerd.

Five-Spock by grilled cheese
I suppose that's OK, considering that nerds are also known for their astounding brain power and impeccable taste in movies and books, but the problem is that logic carries connotations of emotional detachment and mechanical disregard for people's feelings. The detachment part is true to an extent, but logic doesn't always exclude emotion. There are times when numbers carry more weight than feelings, but generally speaking emotion still plays a huge role in logical thought. In fact, it's impossible to logically assess human behavior without including people's feelings, for example any marketing manager includes human emotions into the equation when designing new products and advertising campaigns, and these days advertising is almost a branch of science.


Nerd Specializations: Movie Nerd

Ginny, Movie Night
Who doesn't like movies? The popularity of films across all sections of people means that you won't usually uncover a movie nerds until you spend more than half an hour talking with them. You might notice a liberal sprinkling of movie quotes in the conversation, a sparkle in the eyes when you ask what was going on with the train in that one Wes Anderson flick, and oblique references to parallels between Groundhog Day and the human condition. Movie nerds are easy to get along with because their passion is something most people can understand, although you might get tired of incessant connections between everyday life and screen scenes. Movie nerds are great though because they'll go see anything with you, and they can open up your eyes to all the things hidden in your favorite movies, making them brand new again.


Why do Nerds Like Batman?

A Real Hero by Randy Robertson
Answering this question is a little unfair. I mean, who doesn't like Batman? Sure, there are nerds who prefer Superman, Captain America or some other hero, and there are non-nerds who only know Batman from movies, but even the most contentious nerds and completely hero-oblivious people have to admit that Batman is cool.

So the short answer is, nerds like Batman because everyone likes Batman.

OK, but why does everyone like The Bat? It's not like he's a loveable character--his alter ego isn't a jovial scamp with a shaggy dog sidekick, and everything from his costume to his car is designed to strike fear in the hearts of criminals.

What is it then that makes him so special?


Nerdism: 42

Any time a nerd has to give a rapid answer to something unknown, the likely response will be:
This isn't because of some cosmic significance (although nerds will argue about this point), but because of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, in which a group of hyper-intelligent beings want the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. They build a supercomputer that takes 7½ million years to compute the answer, which turns out to be...



The Fire Hose vs Hyper-Focus

Here's an observation:
nerds deal with information differently than the average person.

Think about the number of messages vying for our attention each day: 24 hour news, music in all its formats, reality TV, everything you deal with at work, everything you deal with from your family and friends, and of course the relentless deluge of advertising in all its forms.
"How Much Media", a study by the Institute for Communication Technology Management at U. of Southern California, suggests 74 gigabytes of information per person daily in 2015, not including information for work.

Most people pay selective attention to all this data: for example you tune out most of the irrelevant information and only allow the important stuff to enter your brain so you can stay on task and finish your job. Sometimes this doesn't work, and you find yourself distracted by a song on the radio, a friend's personal problem, a juicy tidbit of gossip...you get the idea. It's enjoyable to give your brain a break from one task, and studies show that it's actually productive to let your mind cavort around something frivolous for a few minutes before putting it back to work.

On a day-to-day basis, people operate somewhere in a happy middle ground between fun and focus, but you will often find nerds at one extreme or the other, and here's why.


Nerdism: Live Long and Prosper

Vulcan Salute-Ashwin Kamath
One of the earliest nerdisms, the phrase, "live long and prosper," originated from the first Star Trek television series in 1967 and is usually accompanied by a hand gesture--hand raised with the palm forward, fingers parted between the middle and ring finger, thumb extended.

Don't worry, it's not a gang sign, simply a benign gesture of greeting or farewell. The hand gesture was actually inspired by a Jewish blessing. The usual response is to raise your hand in the same manner and say, "peace and long life."

If you really want to impress (or blow the mind of) the person who bestows this greeting upon you, answer, "dif-tor heh smusma" (which is the same phrase in Vulcan.)

Nerds commonly use this greeting as a way of showing their common interests to other nerds--much like some men high-five and shout, "dude!" or some women air kiss and say, "darling." While the Vulcan salute may seem like an affectation, it actually resonates with a core nerd value, considering that its roots lie with a race that eschews emotion for the pursuit of pure logic, and the greeting allows nerds to subtly proclaim independence from everyday society in a way that indicates respect and well-wishes toward the recipient.