The Anthropology of Nerd Societies (III)


Nerds possess a great deal of knowledge, some of which makes them highly competitive in the workplace. However, they tend to lack people skills and have more trouble than average doing well at interviews and keeping good relations with co-workers. They are more likely to be in their cubicle laboring away, rather than creating a network of useful contacts by socializing. They will never meet a great many people who could help them with their work or even promote them.

The members of the mainstream on the other hand are extremely adept in social matters and have everything they need to score a job for which they have lower ability or qualifications. The years they spent fighting to get on top of the social heap left them without any time to develop professional skills. They are accustomed to cutthroat social competition, but they developed in an arbitrary society formed by children. Many of the values they learned are useless in the real world. In the professional environment there is an expected style of dress in the workplace. An expertise at following fashion trends honed over years of practice suddenly becomes obsolete.

In the long run, those who grew up in the mainstream still come out on top. Nerds are a small minority and fitting in even in the real world outside of school is always going to be an uphill battle. Any given hiring manager is highly likely to be somewhere within the mainstream spectrum. When faced with hundreds of resumes and dozens of interviews, they are going to choose those who walk, talk, and act like an ideal employee, in other words, a normal person.Qualifications and claims on paper can be embellished or even lied about. Personal presentation is going to be the ultimate decider.

Not only does the mainstream person have the advantage in grabbing jobs, but also in relations with the opposite sex.They’ve had years of practice in opposite sex social interactions while most nerds are barely getting started in college.

Though crippled and stunted through their adverse developmental experience, nerds take a fierce pride in their identity. They are more than willing to make sacrifices in life in order to be the people they feel they were meant to be and to be as true as possible to themselves. When they come together, they create a society in which mainstreamers would immediately appear hopelessly inept and crippled if ever they tried to participate. Perhaps critics are disturbed by the fact that there is more than one path to social legitimacy besides the one upon which they labored with such intensity and for so long.

Though mainstream people have the edge, everyone loses under the current system. Well qualified nerds are ignored because they lack the skills to get attention and form connections. The socially adept get hired but find themselves minimally prepared for their work. The businesses lose because they have difficulty finding candidates who are well balanced between social acumen and hard skills. The fact is that society at present does not encourage the formation of the well balanced individuals they are looking for. If society were a business, its manager might very well be fired for gross incompetence. In real life, things became the way they are because they were left to form arbitrarily according to the forces of nature. That anyone ever expected an ideal form of society to come from such an approach evidences a fundamental lack of thought, or at least that this system was itself a random aggregate product of many individuals acting with varying degrees of coherence, motivation, and influence over the course of generations.

Continue to Part IV …

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion.  The Anthropology of Nerd Societies appears here with his permission.

[image via flickr]

on 12/30/10 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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