One very defining feature which separates the nerd/geek from the lesser humanoids in society is our passionate devotion to one field/subject; being able to call up information to the most detailed degree. We spend a large percentage of our waking lives in the pursuit of new information regarding our specialist subject, and passionately defend it when someone seeks to slight it.
It is because of this passion that we get so very angry when we overhear someone being downright WRONG. Nerds/geeks are not eavesdroppers by nature, but a special gland inflames in our brains that lets us know when someone, anyone, nearby is talking about our specialist subject. From that point on we can’t help but listen! Unfortunately, this is where it all goes wrong…
Not in the Conversation, But Someone’s Wrong
If you’re standing around waiting for a bus, in the line at a shop, in a crowded area of whatever type; you can’t help but overhear when people are talking about your subject as mentioned above. As you listen in, one of them says something completely wrong, and the other one takes it as fact. At this point, a war of monumental proportions breaks out in the head of the nerd/geek; do you stand idly by while these simpletons butcher the love of your life, or do you find some means of correcting them (resulting in an intrusion into someone else’s conversation/life)?
Just keeping quiet while letting the other people continue to be wrong does have its advantages:
- You don’t get roped into a conversation with strangers (not knowing how long this conversation will last and whether they’d take kindly to being corrected anyway)
- Your own day doesn’t get impeded by stopping to correct these, clearly, inferior beings
- You can be quite smug with yourself knowing the correct answer, and tell all your friends who similarly know how right you are later
The trouble with 3. is that it’s very rarely enough for the average nerd/geek to just know they’re right; other people have to know you’re right too otherwise what’s the point in being right!? This desire to show everyone how right you are is normally sated by web forums, quizzes, discussions with friends and yes… you’ve guessed it…. blogging.
Could you do it? Could you just stand there and let someone be wrong? I myself would find it very difficult. Example:
Stranger 1: “So then Luke flies the Aluminium Falcon into the Death Star, which used to belong to the Ewoks but Darth Vader kicked them out; and then he shot some photon torpedoes into the holo-deck and the whole thing blew up.”
Stranger 2: “Sounds pretty crappy, I’ll probably give it a miss.”
Stranger 1: “Fair enough.”
If I were sitting on a bus and this conversation were going on nearby, i would be seething about it. I’d be so angry I’d be biting my fingers to the bone and screaming as loud as I could inside my head until the veins of my forehead were fit to bursting. All this rage, but I don’t know whether I’d say anything. I think I’d just sit there. I don’t naturally seek confrontation with people, even if I’ve essentially just witnessed them raping my best friend.
What would happen if i interceded? What would happen if I politely tapped Stranger 1 on the shoulder and spelled out his mistake for him in front of Stranger 2? My guess is one of two outcomes:
1) “Oh yeah, that’s right! Thanks very much! *turns to Stranger 2* Yeah, that’s how it went. Cool, eh?”
I would have provided some valuable information about Star Wars to someone who knew nothing to begin with (the nearest thing one can get to pure altruism), and prevented false information from being taken as fact. Nobody got annoyed, nobody lost face, and life can continue on its merry course.
2) “What the f**k? Who are you? Mind your own f**king business! Nobody asked you!”
I receive a tirade of verbal abuse from a stranger as a result from butting in on another person’s conversation and making them look like an idiot in front of their friend. I’ve not only invaded their personal space, but I’ve made Stranger 1 lose face, most likely resulting in him getting irate and resorting to physical violence in an attempt to preserve what little honour he had in the first place. I may or may not end up with a broken nose, but in either case, I was still right and they were wrong. Was it worth it?
In The Conversation, And Someone’s Wrong
When nerds/geeks are among friends, they can say whatever the hell they like. Most nerdy/geeky friendships are built around mutual insult, and the constant pursuit of being better/funnier/cleverer than each other. Example:
Friend 1: “So I was watching some Star Trek: DS9 the other day and I was thinking about that changeling security guy, um… oh, whatshisname, uh… Quark, that’s it; anyway… why doesn’t he…”
Nerd/Geek: “Holy freaking shit, you are SO retarded! Quark isn’t the security guy, that’s Odo! Quark is the Ferengi bartender who’s always getting into trouble. Jesus Christ! How thick do you have to be, I mean honestly, how mind-bogglingly fucktarded must one person be in order to get those two characters confused!? They’re polar opposites! That’s like getting Chewbacca confused with Jean Luc Picard! Get out….. do us all a favour and leave…. go get AIDS and die you stupid fuckwit.”
Not one shred of offense would be taken in this interaction. It may end up being protracted into a much longer conversation, dredging up many instances in which either speaker was themselves a little bit retarded in conversations past, but at no point would it be taken as anything less than a light-hearted joke. The most important thing to note here is that with the supporting evidence given by Nerd/Geek, the point was proven and Friend 1 (unless he disagreed) would accept this information and correct his way of thinking. This acceptance is what immediately diffuses the interaction. When one nerd/geek is proven wrong by another, they immediately retreat into their thought cave; only when they still think they’re right will the almighty beast of nerd-rage be released unto the world.
Can you possibly imagine the previous being acceptable in a group of strangers? No, me neither. Unfortunately however, there are a large number of members in the geeky community who lack the Social skill on their character sheet, and have –10 to Tact.
I have personally witnessed someone (of around 24-27yrs of age) going ballistic at someone they just met for getting one item of Warhammer Fantasy trivia wrong (in their opinion). In a crowd of about 20 people, this guy exploded in the most hateful rage you could possibly conceive. The recipient’s mother bore the brunt of most of the insults; apparently she was similarly retarded because her son (supposedly) didn’t know this one item of information. I myself am rather a Warhammer buff and take great pride in my knowledge of the history and cultures within the background of the system. I disagreed with what the person was saying and so spoke up in defence of the poor sod who was being shouted into his own boots. Unsurprisingly, the full force of Raging Geek’s anger was directed at me the moment I dared to speak. Luckily, Warhammer has an entire host of written background material within arm’s reach, and reach for it I did. Scrolling leisurely through the pages, I pointed to the couple of lines I was searching for like a medieval baron selecting his next honeyed starling: I had proven myself right, and him wrong, with but a prod of my right index finger.
A silence settled around the room. I asked the person to apologise to the guy he’d been ripping into for the past 15 minutes which, to his credit, he did. From that point on, you could not imagine a person who wanted to be in a room less than this guy. In that moment, I wounded him more severely than had I physically cut off a limb. Such is the power of a geek’s devotion.
This whole example would not have happened had this person been able to curtail their rage in the face of what they perceived to be a falsehood. The fact that it turned out not to be a falsehood adds more to the weight of the question: when, if ever, should you correct the knowledge of a stranger? Further, to what degree/volume should you do so?
In the customer service industry, people are taught “the customer is always right”. As rational human beings, we know this to be entirely false. In my own personal view, I think there’s room to correct the customer if they’re suitably wrong. If you get it just right, then you come across as vastly more knowledgeable and ultimate more trustworthy, meaning your chances of getting a sale are greatly increased.
What About You?
Have you ever been near someone who was painfully wrong? Did you correct them?
Have you ever met someone for the first time and have to fight to restrain yourself? Did you win the fight?
I’d love to hear about it!