Tales of a Lonely Geek

Not all geeks are the same, despite what much of the world wants to believe. And just because two geeks seem to have something in common doesn’t mean that they’ll have anything to talk to each other about.

Last Friday, I attended my company’s holiday party. I’ve only been with this job for two months, and I barely know my department, much less the rest of the people who work there, so I had a feeling it was going to be uncomfortable. Adding to the discomfort was the fact that this party was formal. I don’t do formal, I barely even do nice dress. I’m perfectly content in my t-shirts and jeans. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

Geek =/= geek.

I was introduced to the husband of our accounting director and informed that he was into computers too. “You’ll have plenty to talk about.” Yeah, no. I did try, I really did. But after five minutes of very awkward not-really-a-discussion, he returned to his wife, and I tried to find someone else to talk to. Which never quite happened. I ultimately ended up sitting at a table with the front desk receptionist and her fiance, simply because I say hello to her every morning and I know her name, and other employees who I didn’t even recognise. Dinner was an incredibly not-fun event. Maybe alcohol would have helped, but since I had to drive home, that wasn’t even an option.

What the night did do, however, was give me an interesting insight into why after two months, I still don’t fit into the IT department.

I take pride in my computer knowledge. I’m good at what I do, and it’s one of the few things in my life I’m completely confident about. But I’m primarily self-taught and that leaves gaps in my “common knowledge.” Even though I studied network administration, it was a shock to discover that everyone else studied computer science. I have a two year degree in computer studies, they have four. I don’t program, code, play computer games, or have the newest, fanciest smartphone. And they don’t watch science-fiction, take computers apart for fun, or know how to talk to a geek girl.

In a world where the general public assumes that one geek is the same as the next, two computer geeks can’t find something to discuss. Does that mean that one of us isn’t a “real” geek? Not at all. It just means that different geeks interact with people in different ways, the same as non-geeks do. Can you always find something in common with the people around you? I certainly can’t.

As much as I try to make myself feel better, it doesn’t quite work, because of one small problem. Next to the geeks, I look “not-geek.” But the “not-geeks” can’t figure me out, because I’m still a geek. So where do I fit in?

Or can I just create a category all to my own? It’s always less lonely when you’re actually alone, rather than alone surrounded by people.

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2 responses to “Tales of a Lonely Geek

  • Maureen Russell

    I completely relate to this theory. In fact you may have inspired me to write something as well.

  • Dave Rudin

    I can relate to this, too. When I was a grad student at Yale, my best friend was my stereo. I was in a small department and met the same half dozen people everyday and nobody else. So, I decided to go out and “meet people” by doing things like going to the theater and going to the Halloween festivities out on the campus.

    It didn’t work. At the theater, I’d see other people talking with their friends about the play during intermission and afterwards, while I’d be alone and then walk home alone. I felt miserable and even more isolated. At Halloween, it was the same: I’d watch other people having fun with their friends while I walked laps alone around the interior of the old campus quadrangle (because I couldn’t take the former anymore) waiting for the late night orchestra concert to begin.

    I learned this: if there’s one thing that’s worse than being alone, it’s being alone in a crowd, watching everybody else have a good time. I’m just one of these people who has trouble relating to others. I can go to an art gallery opening night event and even though I’m an artist and into art, I am often the one and only person in the room who is talking with nobody else.

    Heck, even when I know the people it’s the same way. When I was a writer and editor of the NYU newspaper as an undergrad, I had trouble figuring out what to say to people at the semi-annual end of semester parties – and these were people that I knew and got along with fine at other times!

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