Vague ramblings

Social intercourse for nerds and geeks

Posted in Life, Musing by Ian Cundell on 3 July, 2013

Toby Frost, author of the terminally daft Space Captain Smith novels, recently brought me up to speed on the right old hoo-ha (who-ha?) in SF fandom: Summary from one PoV here (skim the comments though) or from a different perspective here: (Short version: older duffers shocked at being taken to task for crass sexism)

It has striking similarities to a who-ha (hoo-ha?) rumbling along in the sceptical/ atheist/ secular movements, especially since sceptic Rebecca Watson  made a perfectly reasonable request to be treated with personal respect.

It would be tempting to explain such who/hoo-haing by the pervasive presence of a large cohort of self-styled libertarian “free thinkers” who feel they have the right to be obnoxious without facing consequence.

But I am minded to agree with Toby – and possibly William of Occam – that a simpler explanation is better: mine is that both movements are chock-full of nerds and geeks, people who – as a whole – have no clue how to behave around strangers.

In a characteristically waggish moment, Toby suggested a top-10 list of how to behave in company, but I’ve decided to go with a Cognitive Behavioural approach, complete with homework, since CBT does not work unless you do the homework. I’ve tried to use gender-neutral language, so that the poor chaps don’t feel victimised. (It should, but won’t, go without saying that Toby is an innocent bystander in what follows. He really should know better than to be waggish near me.)

Cognitive aspects of social intercourse for nerds

You have a passion, a mental place where you feel not only welcome, but at home; you invest time in it disproportionately more than the average fan. You’re a nerd. Deal with it.

Assignment 1: A thought diary on the pros and cons of being a nerd. Make a conscious effort to balance the good and bad.

The person you are with is also a nerd (not a woman, not a gay man, not a gay woman, not a transgender or transsexual, not a black, Asian or Oriental person: a nerd. Just like you). Understand them first as one who shares the same interests as you.

Assignment 2: Why are fellow nerds cool? What could they do to make you feel they were uncool?

 Then look in a mirror.

Just as someone disagreeing with you is not an attack on your personal integrity and self-esteem, so someone agreeing with you is not an attempt to get in your pants.

Assignment 3: List the most likely reasons why somebody might agree with you, starting with ‘because my reasoning is sound.’

 Behavioural aspects of social intercourse for nerds

It is never OK to grab a stranger’s arse. Or crotch, or thigh, or breast or any other part of the anatomy. Nor is it OK to do so ‘inadvertently’.

Assignment 4: What are the behavioural roots of the quotation marks around the word inadvertently in the preceding sentence?

If, when in conversation, the person you are talking with is leaning away from you, take this as a sign that you are invading personal space: take a single step backwards.

Assignment 5: 1,000 words discussing ‘what is personal space’ and ‘how might someone feel being lectured by a person 20-40% bigger’.

That ‘friendly hug’ you’ve just given. Did it make you all tingly?

Assignment 6: A page on why the tingle might indicate that you were hugging for inappropriate reasons. Specifically, why don’t you hug people who don’t make you tingle?

If someone expresses the view that their personal space (or character or sense-of-self or anything else that matters to them) has been treated in a devaluing way, do not make specious comparisons with the suffering of people in poverty-stricken parts of the world ruled by theocratic arseholes. This devalues not only the original complainant, but also yourself and – by far the most important – the poor soul whose life you have chosen to shelter behind like a snivelling wretch.

Assignment 7: Why is this known as “Doing a Dawkins” and how does it illustrate that one can be amazingly smart and mind-bogglingly stupid at the same time? 2,000 words. What would the correct approach to scholarly disagreement be?

Do not use the disabled person’s wheelchair as a camera rest. Do not even ask if you may. If however you are given an entirely unsolicited invitation to do so, accept gracefully and complete your snap promptly and do not take it as an invitation for sex. It is just a person being nice. A nerd, like you.

Assignment 8: Draw up a list of other groups who may be similarly taken for granted.

If you have been up drinking with someone until 4am that person does not want a shag. If the person wanted a shag then staying up drinking until 4am, in all likelihood, would not have been on the agenda.

Assignment 9: What single word describes what someone would most likely to have been doing until 4am, if in desire of a shag.

Remember: Big Bang Theory is not a training video.

Assignment 10: What other books, movies and TV shows are also not training manuals or videos?

 Conclusion and review

Any resemblance to real CBT is a figment of your own imagination.

But the thing is, if you think of people as fellow humans above all else, and then behave in a manner that is consistent with this, your life will become incalculably better. Most people aren’t arseholes looking for reasons to be offended; people will indeed think better of you – you will still be a nerds, but you will not be arseholes. And, as with real CBT, the more you practise the more it becomes real.

You are a nerd, or maybe a geek.

You are a nice person.

So why not try acting like it?

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