Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Is nerdiness where it's at in terms of social success?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) March 23rd, 2012

I think it’s been a number of decades now where smart people who can focus on problems, but who are not necessarily really good a social interactions have been having social success. I am thinking of success in terms of status as measured by wealth and social approval.

It seems to me that today the people who can use computers the best have the greatest advantage. It seems to me that people who use computers well tend to be more introverted; less comfortable socializing with people in person, although perhaps quite comfortable socializing with people in virtual reality.

Nerds get involved in projects and seem to be able to focus on them exclusively, without getting distracted by other things. They will work long hours purely because it interests them. This often turns into business success. They just like problems. Technical problems, that is. People problems—not so much—except perhaps at a remove, so they can theorize.

I think nerds don’t mind collaborating at all—as long as it is controllable. So in person collaboration is out. Online collaboration works.

I think this trend has been decades… maybe even centuries in the development, but that with the computer, it has exploded and become the easiest path to success.

This is ironic, considering the lack of in-person social skills made most nerds have a hell of a time in high school, and yet, later on, turned them into desirable people. Revenge of the nerds, I guess.

Well, can you add to this theory? Subtract from it? Is it total nonsense, or does it have any strengths? Is it self-serving? What am I missing? What am I not accounting for? What do you think?

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7 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

Nerds get involved in projects and seem to be able to focus on them exclusively, without getting distracted by other things. They will work long hours purely because it interests them. This often turns into business success. They just like problems. Technical problems, that is. People problems—not so much—except perhaps at a remove, so they can theorize.

Basically, that is the definition of Asperger’s Syndrome in a nutsell @wundayatta.

We had a talk about this just last night with John Elder Robison, a well-known Aspie author. He’s written a book that basically helps the nerds, geeks and outcasts of the world figure out how to use their atypicalness to their advantage, Be Different.

I’ll add this, nuts don’t fall far from trees. As more nerds/geeks have kids, there is more Autism in the world. That was another large topic of discussion last night.

I had a long answer typed out, but this website kicked me out again. I’m going to have some breakfast now but will add more a little later @wundayatta…GOOD question!

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Remember, this answer is from a granny. In my day, it was uncool to be smart, analytical or conservative (nerds). The popular kids were anti-establishment partiers that were flunking out of school (like “the Fonz.”) Things have changed since then. Nerds and geeks are no longer outcasts in their peer group, but actually desirable as dates and friends. Because of their acceptance, they are no longer socially awkward. I think today’s females prefer a potentially successful mate, when in my day they seemed to prefer potential inmates.

I really don’t know where @SpatzieLover is getting the connection to autism. I work at a school, and our autistic students are not the offspring of nerds. Autistic children come from all walks of life.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt There are plent of studies and articles regarding the geek gene connection to Asperger’s and Autism. I go to conventions and talks and the rooms are filled with nerds and geeks.

Autism diagnoses in California’s Silicon Valley reportedly increased three-fold in the 1990s

Simon Baron-Cohen’s study on engineer parents is one of the most well-known:

Among the children of engineers, autism and related conditions are found twice as often as in the general population, according to British studies, and are unusually common even in the grandchildren of engineers. Anecdotally, hot spots of autism have been reported in major centers of engineering, including Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; and Boston’s Route 128 technology ring.

Then of course there’s my own anecdotal: My son has AS and comes from my husband with AS. He is the son of an IT Geek/engineer that has AS who is the son of an IT Geek/Computer Engineer. The list goes way back in their family history. Then there’s his mom’s side: She has AS. Her dad was an engineer. The ‘engineer’ gene goes back many generations in their family and each generation of their family tree has at least one ‘misfit’.

On my own side, we breed male & female mechanic engineer geeks and there is a prevalence of autism, Asperger’s and autistic-like traits. Every sibling of my dad fits this ‘misfit’ mold of way smart in one area, yet not so socially aware.

@wundayatta Online collaboration works. This is very true. This book by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron is a collaborated effort, yet neither of them spoke in person or on the phone to write the book. They emailed back & forth.

What am I not accounting for? The kids.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

That is odd, because they have been saying on the news in Utah that autism has increased ten-fold in our state in the last decade or so. But they attribute it to better diagnostics and infant vaccinations. There is no such thing as a “geek” gene or “engineer” gene. Is there also a “doctor” gene, a “teacher” gene? That is silly. Don’t believe everything you hear.

It is true that OCD and Asperger’s are genetic disorders. I guess someone with these disorders would make good engineers as they can concentrate intensely and become transfixed on complicated concepts. But not all engineers are OCD, and not all OCD patients are engineers. And certainly not all nerds are OCD, nor are all (or even most) autistic children the offspring of nerds or engineers.

Coloma's avatar

Well, it seems this free spirited, non-conformist, creative, extroverted gal is at a disadvantage in some ways, but, shit….I’m the polar opposite of “nerd.” I can’t seem to commit to anything unless it allows me tons of room for creative flow, flexibility and fun!
I hate SERIOUS work! lol
I’ve always chosen these factors over money and while I have enjoyed a lot of freedom and diversity I am also going into my golden years with a dwindling reserve. Oh well..we are what we are and I could never do cubicle, it would be a fate worse than death for my particular brand of intelligence. ;-)

I don’t measure “success” in the wordly sense, it’s a mad world, I measure it in integrity and enough gumption to do your own thing regardless of popular opinion. :-)

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know, @Coloma. In your own way, you have a lot of nerdy tendencies. You may not get into machinery, but you definitely have your passions. Maybe not so much a hobby horse, but perhaps a hobby goose? ;-)

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta True, that. Aaah, such diverse creatures we are. :-)

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