What exactly does it mean to be a nerd or a geek?


Steve Urkel – Nerd

What does it mean to be a nerd or a geek? That’s one of the million dollar questions that I’ve asked myself in this day and age. As an 80s kid born and raised, being a nerd wasn’t always something that you’d go out and yell proudly; not like today. In fact, I can guarantee that most older generations would agree that being labeled as a nerd or a geek by your peers would immediately make you a social pariah.

Let’s take a quick look at the definition of both of these words according to previous iterations of our society. Back in the days, being labeled as a nerd meant you were basically a smart person. A nerd was the kid with glasses that carried his school books and pretty much studied a majority of his school career. The classic nerd was anti-social and attained straight As in class and was always interested in the thirst for learning. Social activities? Not so much.

The geek, on the other hand, wasn’t necessarily a person that studied a lot. It was usually a kid that was just as anti-social as the nerd but was more into hobbies that weren’t the social norm for most people at his or her age. While the other socially accepted cliques of the school involved themselves in sports or fashion club, the geeks were the kids that played Dungeons and Dragons, attended Renaissance Festivals, constantly played video games, or collected stamps. Again, not the ordinary activities of his or her peers.

With both these definitions, I’m going to lead in and use myself as an example. Growing up I had close to perfect grades throughout my school career up to my senior year in high school. Since I was raised in a traditional Asian household, it was expected of me. However, despite being a nerd, I was also a geek at the same time. I loved playing Dungeons and Dragons and immersing myself in odd activities that weren’t popular with everyone else. I remember trying to speak to a female classmate about comic books when I was younger and she didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.


Napolean Dynamite – Geek

What I believe that made me a little different was the fact that I played football; I was a starter on the team. I started going out to social gatherings and parties later on in my high school career. I also started speaking to girls and began to worry about my appearance and what not. Most nerds or geeks don’t care much for fashion. They traditionally wear whatever their parents bought them, which weren’t brand name clothes. I was not like this, and this mixture of mentality carried on into college where I went out clubbing and to parties as well.

Does that still make me a nerd or a geek?

The reason I opened up a little about my past is that I bet there are other people like myself that can draw similarities to how they grew to define themselves as a nerd or a geek in this current generation. The great thing about this is that society has accepted a giant portion of this “movement” or “evolution” if you will. I see cartoon characters on t-shirts at Target that most everyone wears, there are massive amounts of people trying to attend comic book media conventions, video games are plastered all over billboards, and nerdy/geeky phrases from the Internet are now part of common vernacular. Even playing Dungeons and Dragons is accepted nowadays (shout out to Stranger Things on Netflix).

So in closing, what does it mean to be a nerd or a geek? I think that since both these labels have now become somewhat of a fusion, the answer is to just be yourself and enjoy what you like. Because of this wonderful combination of labels in our current society, it has allowed me to meet M.I.T. engineers, corporate project managers, and female lawyers, who openly love talking about and enjoying things like Star TrekMario Bros, or Skyrim. It is an absolutely great time to be alive!


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About author

Alger Alama
Alger Alama 327 posts

Highly sociable and having been entrenched in Nerd\Geekdom since he was a kid, Alger has seen it all. During his spare time he loves to go out clubbing, sing karaoke, and attend parties. This Nerd is no wallflower. He'll always greet you with a warm smile and a drink in hand.