In writing a comment over at Tor.com on an interesting article by Ethan Gilsdorf, I realized that I never wrote about the way I distinguish between Geeks, Nerds, and Dorks here at The Teresa Jusino Experience, which is weird considering what geeky concerns this blog has. Back when I was writing for Examiner.com as the “NY Geek Examiner,” I wrote a whole article on the subject that I just tried to find, but seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of hard drive contents between moves. But here is the basic gist for your edification. Feel free to post your thoughts on the matter in the comments!
Geekiness is measured by enthusiasm. If you looooove something SO MUCH; if you love it enough to read every book, watch every episode/film, go to every event, write stories set in that world, buy every piece of memorabilia, dress up as a character, or have [This Thing I Love] theme parties, you are a geek. As you can see from the poster above, you can be a geek about lots of things, and lots of people who would never have applied the “geek” label to themselves are probably geeks about something or other. Hardcore sports fans are geeks. I came into contact with a lot of Jets geeks recently. They think of themselves as simply “fans”, but if they’re rocking jerseys and randomly bursting out with the Jets cheer in bars when there isn’t even a game on…they’re geeks, along with music fans who see their favorite artist/band play in as many cities as possible, keeping track of band news as if they’re keeping track of loved ones. The important thing to realize here is that there are “acceptable” forms of geekery, and “unacceptable” forms of geekery that will get someone made fun of or looked down upon. But make no mistake, those who enjoy “acceptable” forms of geekery are no less geeks, and maybe if they understood that, the world would be a better place with a lot less judgment and bullying.
Nerdiness is measured by knowledge. If you know every episode number of a show along with its title and season, if you know every piece of trivia, if you can summon facts about a fictional world as easily as you can summon facts about the non-fictional world, and if you know fictional characters as well as you know your friends, you are a nerd. Sports fans who can recite stats and team history are nerds. Foodies who not only know lots about cooking, but can also tell you facts about every cooking show that’s on, or the ins and outs of the goings-on at popular (or, more likely, obscure) restaurants are geeks. All nerds are geeks (you’d have to love something immensely to know that much about it), but not all geeks are nerds.
For example, I consider myself a Star Trek geek who is on her way to become a Star Trek nerd. I aspire to nerddom, and I know that I know a lot more than non-nerds, but know that there are many people more knowledgeable than I am. One day, I will cross over to full-on nerddom, and when that day comes, I shall do a happy dance. Maybe, that dance will even marry me to Nathan Fillion!
Dorkiness is measured in sociability. If you are really awkward in social situations and either don’t talk much or talk too much to overcompensate, you’re a dork. Now, we all feel uncomfortable at parties and such from time to time, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Take Jessica on the fabulous webseries, Awkward Embraces. She is a Star Trek geek as well as a Trek nerd. She is also incredibly awkward when talking to anyone who is not one of her best friends. She’s horrible at mingling/flirting at parties, or holding conversations where she can’t relate everything to Star Trek. Jessica is a dork. There’s nothing wrong with being a dork – hell, Jessica still manages to get a ton of action despite her awkwardness, because she also happens to be gorgeous – they just need a little more friendliness and help than most people. So, if you see a dork at a party, talk to them! They’re probably really awesome and just need a little more of a nudge to get into comfortable conversation. /PSA
(I generally don’t have trouble around people, but there have certainly been parties where I haven’t been in my element and I feel like a dork…but whether I actually was one or not is up to other people to decide.)
So, that’s how I break things down, and what I mean when I use those words and label people at all. Labels are important so that you can find what you like, but I always try to use them in the most all-inclusive way possible, because narrow definitions mean a narrow experience of something. Geekdom, Nerdiness, and Dorkiness encompass more than people tend to think. Geeks are not as “alone” as all that, and non-geeks are generally geekier than they think they are.