For the purpose of this discussion, let us put aside the vast gaping petty differences between the modern nerd and the modern geek. Of course they are different breeds of being, but this post will focus on their similarities. The name used for the collective group that contains all nerds (vile scum of the Earth) and us geeks (who will one day rule the world with a zombie-ninja army) will, hereafter, be “Flumph.” If you understand the reference, you clearly fall into one of those two categories.
Why do Flumphs have glasses? Now, clearly, not all Flumphs are bespectacled cretins, hermits, or perhaps pariahs, from society. Yet the standard stereotype associated with them includes glasses, poor fashion sense, lack of friends, and terrible or non-existant haircuts. This is a stereotype, of course, but all stereotypes are rooted somewhere. For a long time I never understood why some Flumphs carried a certain air of, shall we say, aloofness about them. Now that I have joined the ranks of Flumphs With Glasses, I think I have a better grasp of the stereotypical (archetypical?) Flumph, if not completing any sort of transformation myself. This is what I noticed about myself, that I think may carry over to other Flumphs:
- We love puzzles. Not all of us love the same kinds of puzzles. Some love proving mathematical theorems, some love solving rubik’s cubes, some love putting together game mechanics that don’t fall apart, but they are all puzzles of some sort. And we love them. We don’t enjoy them, they are not a hobby, they are a way of life. This tends to get in the way of other, more common, pursuits, such as partying, womanizing, or watching sports. Why would we do those things when we can spend those precious hours implementing a mini-map in the computer role-playing game we’re making?
- We measure status differently. For most of the world, status is determined by a few key factors. Money, attractiveness, and style. Many times, these three factors are intertwined. The key thing, though, that determines status in any situation, is power. Money = Power, Attractiveness=Ability To Find Powerful Mate=Power, Style=Indication That You Recognize Social Trends=Ability To Contribute To Said Trends=Power. This is how status works in the “real world.” For the Flumphs, however, there is a different definition of power, depending on which particular group you are a part of. Especially when groups communicate via the internet, normal factors become nearly moot. The ability to code an effective website, or the know-how to put together a computer are considered much more powerful than how closely one can follow fads. When web-designers or computer programmers demand so much status in a community because of their talents, rather than their physical resources, “normal” marks of status become exponentially less important.
- We are curious. I just learned this. We are a very curious people, not in the weird sense (at least not in this context). I have yet to meet a Flumph who does not want to learn as much as he can about his favorite subjects, and about the world around him. This is why I wear glasses now. I have shown, over eighteen years, that I am perfectly functional without them. But I just want to know. I don’t want to miss anything because I took them off so I could look cooler. This is one of the reasons I personally don’t drink or do drugs, as well. I want my mind crystal clear, at all times, to take in whatever is available to be taken in. I believe I heard somewhere that Isaac Newton had sex once, didn’t much care for it, and then moved on. He was a Flumph, I’m sure. He wanted the experience, had it, and then went on to learning about different things, rather than repeating the same activity over and over.
- We care too much. This is the bottom line. We want to experience. We support other people who want to experience. You don’t see us partying every Friday night because we have better things to do. Or maybe we just tell that to ourselves. Some wear pocket protectors because they are practical. We don’t necessarily respect the “cool guys,” and we don’t care if they respect us. So while they laugh, the rest of the Flumphs say “it’s OK, let’s go launch pumpkins out of that trebuchet you built.” That’s much more important than how geeky it looks to protect one’s pocket.
Of course, there’s always the stray Randall Munroe, who is smart, beautiful, and well-adjusted, the holy trinity of personhood. Oh, how I envy him.