The word “geek” has an interesting origin. In the 1900s, a geek was a carnival performer. Today, the word has an entirely different meaning. Geeks are people who have an unusual amount of knowledge about something. Their obsession with their topic of interest has made them famous to the family. They are the go-to experts. The modern word may have originated from the growing interest in learning computer programming. Those who honed their technical skills appeared to be magicians to non-technologists. These people were mainly self-taught, rather than academics.
Over time, the word has gone mainstream. Now it applies to anybody who is preternaturally good at understanding something. A Lord of the Rings geek would have a deep understanding of all the characters of the Lord of the Ring literature and speak about Gandalf and Frodo as if they were personal friends. This type of Geek could even tell you where the movies took a little too much poetic license when compared to John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s classic high-fantasy literature.
Meanwhile, an iPhone geek could not only tell you about the many generations of the iPhone and the changes made but can even tell you about the difference between iPhone cases and offer you a perfect recommendation to protect your iPhone. In other words, a geek doesn’t just have an intimate understanding of their chosen interest, but can also wax eloquent on all the peripheral details associated with it.
Geeks Are Often Confused With Nerds
Naïve people often confuse geeks with nerds and may even insult both groups by using the words interchangeably. For instance, the 1984 classic movie, “Revenge of the Nerds,” should actually have been called “Revenge of the Geeks.”
In 1954, Dr. Seuss wrote a line that became a meme. He wrote, “A merkle, a nerd, and a seersucker, too.” While the idea of a merkle and seersucker faded from cultural memory, the word nerd stuck and became popular. A nerd is someone who is astonishingly brilliant in their field, often even becoming world authority figures in their specialty. Many of today’s technology founders could be defined as nerds. Often nerds may be quite wealthy, making six, seven, or even eight figures because of their knowledge.
By contrast, a geek is a much more humble calling, and much more approachable. He or she is less of a thought leader and more of an amiable change agent.
Superficially, they may appear similar in their obsession to have a deep understanding about something. However, once you get to know them, you’ll find that they have a completely different philosophy about life.
Nerds often speak in jargon and have an exclusionary mentality. They like other nerds and spend most of their time in their company. If possible, nerds try to marry other nerds. Overhearing two nerds speak is like listening to a foreign language. Obscure phrases and references fly thick and fast and both parties understand each other perfectly well.
By comparison, Geeks are friendlier and much easier to get along with. They rarely use language that excludes others and are happy to explain their understanding about the minutiae of their favorite theme.
Another key distinction is that nerds have a broader understanding of their topic, a big picture view of what direction their field is heading in the future. Often nerds have an academic pedigree, often being scientists or technologists. Nerds populate university departments and think tanks, and could be professors, CEOs, neuroscientists or rocket scientists. They are brilliant, reclusive, and often have years of college education. They have a particular propensity for STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.)
A geek, by comparison, is more detail oriented, and would do well in a trivia quiz. He or she is also more down-to-earth and has acquired most of their knowledge through self-study. You will find quite a number in IT departments. They are also interested in technical fields that call for artistic qualities like web design, game design, or graphic design. They are social, and you can find them in coffee shops and bars.
Geeks Often Have Social Problems
Geeks often have social problems. This is not because they are antisocial or exclusionary, but because they have high IQs. In fact, many could easily qualify for Mensa. In an anti-intellectual culture, they find themselves outsiders. While most people are catching up on the latest plot twists in a soap opera, geeks are spending their time deepening their subject-expertise, or even sharing their insights with the world through a blog post or a YouTube explainer video.
As a result of their high intelligence, geeks are often bullied in schools and don’t have many friends in the workplace, either. Often, they can be singled out quite easily by their bespectacled appearance and indifference to the latest fashion trends. They are often either slight in build or overweight because they don’t have much interest in health and fitness. Enriching their minds is given preference over strengthening their bodies. Still, many geeks don’t fit this stereotype, and you don’t recognize one until you speak to them.
If geeks tend to be happier around others like themselves, it’s because they can open up and talk about things in detail without accidentally making others feel inferior and envious.
Geeks Love Life
Overall, life is far more interesting for a geek than for most human beings. Geeks love to learn and they find life fascinating. While others are entertaining themselves with superficial things, often bored with their lives and suffering from existential angst, geeks are living in a state of constant amazement at the intricacy of their favorite subject.