In defense of geeky hobbies

Nerds are cool.

Except people think of nerds as those people who watch specific popular TV shows and play video games. In other words, those who are consumers of a certain kind mass media. That’s not me. What am I?

I’m the kind of nerd who picks up new things before they become cool. Who plays with new things on the web when they’re at the early adopter phase. Some of them take off and become huge, like Linux or Facebook. I was into Facebook back when people made fun of you for using it, even though today you’re made fun of if you don’t use it. I was told Linux had no future, even though imagine running a web server on something other than Linux today. Some of the new tech that I try doesn’t take off: like Foursquare, Google+, or five-fingered shoes. Some new tech probably won’t take off like Mailvelope (anew email encryption tool that I love). Some of them are just on the verge of hitting mass adoption like electric cars and bitcoin (those which are on that cusp are the most exciting). My hobby is chasing the future and when I see the future before anybody else does then I’m filled with nerd bliss. In other words I’m less a “nerd” and more a “new technology hipster”.

It’s difficult to find acceptance for ones hobbies, this one in particular. People tease you for it whether they are close to you or whether they are strangers. New trends that you become very excited about are panned by others and people judge your newly-discovered-treasures in ways that cause you grief. Sometimes you’re hard on yourself too. For example, I myself think that my hobby of chasing the future is socially awkward. I focus on all the times people dismiss it or tease me for it, while discounting all the times that people come to me with questions and thank me for introducing them to things like password managers, or 20% savings by using bitcoin, or electric cars. I am my harshest critic. Sometimes even other early adopters are difficult because what excites them about the technology is not what excites you about it so they try to discredit your motives for the new tech while pushing their own. Staying on the cutting edge of tech is hard work, is mentally challenging, and is often thankless and lonely.

All hobbies are lame if you really think about it. Each hobby can be dismissed in a derogatory way. Devoting mental energy to what some celebrity wore and who they slept with. Watching a bunch of guys chase a ball around a field while yelling at your TV. Collecting small square stickers that are usually thrown away with envelopes by the few geriatrics who still use snailmail. etc. etc. When you look at it that way then nerdy hobbies are on par with any other hobby. And everybody needs a hobby.

So if you’re reading this, feel proud of whatever nerdy hobby you have. Whether it’s playing Dungeons and Dragons, or whether it’s building progressively better bitcoin mining rigs. It’s important to have such outlets. Don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t be hard on yourself for it, and don’t give up!

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