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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dorks, nerds and geeks

The dictionary defines these three as being almost synonymous. Perhaps in days gone by they were… just like in days gone by you could say “I work in IT” and people would know more or less what you do for a living.

But nowadays these three have differentiated to quite a degree. They’re still related, but quite separated.

Dorks are defined by their social ineptitude. In a school context, these are the kids who are frequently ostracized, and even victimized by the jocks or the in crowd. These are the kids that are embarrassingly overweight, plagued with acne, athletically incompetent or suffer any number of other maladies that make them undesirable. In a work context, these are the people nobody wants to be caught in the break-room with. They’re offensive and make people around them uncomfortable – through no fault of their own, that’s just how it is.

Dorks make a habit of indulging in any number of obscure hobbies, frequently including computer gaming, Role-Playing (such as Dungeons and Dragons), Card gaming (Magic the Gathering)… and more intelligent ones may well get involved in things like hacking… just about anything to keep them out of mainstream society and in the company of either themselves or other dorks. These hobbies are like a life-line to them… they will cling to them and devote themselves to them because it feels as if their very survival depends on it. Perhaps it does in some cases.

Nerds are a different animal. Nerds are generally not as socially inept as dorks. They are able to interact quite comfortably with other people. What sets nerds apart is a certain “squareness”… as a rule, nerds are efficient, neat, orderly, conservative and bound to routine. Because of this conservativeness, nerds are reluctant to get involved in many of the more rowdy activities partaken in by mere mortals, and as a result tend to be excluded from the in crowd.

Something nerds usually have in common with dorks is their lack of athletic prowess, which can often be a problem in school, but later in life diminishes.

Geeks have elements of nerd and dork in them, but they have other qualities that distinguish them from the other two… making them more than just a hybrid.

Geeks often start out as either nerds or dorks, but usually possess an ability that is marketable to their peers - most frequently a keen intelligence – which allows them to transcend that to a certain degree.

Geeks are the ones who will help the jocks with their homework, or pirate the latest games or music from the Internet for them. Things that jocks have no ability or interest in doing for themselves.

So rather than feeling like social outcasts, geeks tend to be more of the opinion that they are reserved for a higher purpose. There’s a certain degree of confidence that comes from that ability.

Although being any one of these three can be very difficult, I’d rather be a nerd or a geek than a dork.

In fact I used to be a dork. All through primary school and much of high-school I was one. But I believe I’ve gone through my pupa stage and have emerged as a beautiful butterfly (read: geek).

I still retain many of my dorkish ways, such as my penchant for obscure hobbies. But as a pure dork I was miserable. Much of my childhood was clouded by depression. Although I still taste that darkness from time to time, for the most part I’ve rid myself of it.

So it is with pride that I declare my geekishness. I wear it like a cape at a costume party. It’s a part of who I am, and I love it!