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.


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.

The bigger problem, socially speaking, is that nerds are often seen as either aloof (in which case no one wants to talk with us) or isolated and lonely (come to think of it, the same result as aloof) because of their pursuit of rationality. People who think logic is cold and inflexible haven't experienced the bliss of working within a system of predictable rules where you can reliably predict an outcome based on a set of actions, examine the algorithm to track down the exact source of discrepancies, and essentially make the system do exactly what you want just by knowing how it works.

If only the entire world behaved this way.

Although anyone who's done complex coding knows that sometimes a machine system can be as mysterious as the real world.

Even though nerds have the ability to set aside emotion and look at problems from a logical perspective, this doesn't mean they are unfeeling machines. Usually there's a mess of feelings boiling away under that layer of calm detachment, which can sometimes erupt at inappropriate times. (Like when your code simply doesn't do what it's supposed to do.) The key to maintaining equilibrium is having an emotional outlet, which explains why a lot of nerds binge on horror movies and enter head-to-head gaming tournaments where they virtually disembowel each other. (Watch a Smash Brothers tournament sometime and you'll see nerds exhibiting a range of Oscar-worthy emotions.)

In an upcoming post, I'll look at ways nerds and non-nerds can help each other overcome this bias.

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