As a group, nerds and geeks are labeled to be socially awkward. It’s a terrible stereotype to be sure and, of course, not all nerds and geeks lack grace. Still we’d be lying if we tried to tell you that there wasn’t any truth to the stereotype. Culturally speaking, the nerdy have a hard time fitting in. It’s been that way forever…though the awkward might have sometimes gone by different names.
There are a lot of reasons for this. As a culture, nerds and geeks have a history of being picked on and bullied–both at home and socially. They tend to be interested in things that haven’t hit the mainstream yet (though if the slate of Marvel Movies that have been greenlit is any indication, the world is starting to catch up).
It is this face-to-face social awkwardness that drives so many of our population to social media where, by all intents and purposes, we have flourished. It’s true! You can’t go more than a few posts on any social media platform without finding posts or even entire conversations dedicated to something that has been deemed culturally “geeky.” More importantly, if you pay attention to your feeds, you’ll see that all of those people who tend to be shy and awkward in person are ad hoc rockstars on social media. Why?
More Than Editing
Anne Frank once wrote that paper is more patient than people. She was right. The same is true of a computer screen. A lot of credit is given to a person having time to edit and hone a message before posting it to a social media server. That doesn’t explain, though, why a conversation can flow just as quickly online as it does verbally. There’s more to it than simple editing.
Social media gives us time to decide whether or not we want to be a part of the conversation at all. We can check things out quietly, without anybody noticing we are there (in this respect, social media platforms are vastly superior to their iIRC ancestors). We can get a feel for who someone is and how people communicate before trying to tap ourselves in to the topic du jour.
Safety in Pixels
Another reason that platforms like Facebook and Twitter, etc., have thrived within the nerd and geeky community is that you don’t have to let people see your face unless you want them to see your face. You don’t have to worry that a facial expression is going to be misconstrued or that if you suddenly get up and walk away for a minute people will assume nefarious things about you. You don’t have to worry that you laugh too loud or that someone might make fun of the way you pronounce the word “roof” because nobody can actually see or hear you.
Yes, some people use this level of anonymity to be total jerks, but for most of us, this lets us build up a layer of trust with someone before we actually try to have a face to face conversation with them.
Social Media is Spreading
Smart marketers know this. They know that social media isn’t just about voyeuristically checking in on that bully from high school (at least not all the time). This is why smart marketers are looking for ways to implement social media in their branding and as part of their events and business atmosphere. Need some examples? Here are two.
Slack channels are seen by many as the new iIRC but really, they’re more like a highly curated and cultivated private Facebook feed. Many companies with multiple offices and locations will start a slack channel for their employees to help facilitate conversations and speed up work flows–it’s a less formal way to ask questions than email and it builds a socially bonding atmosphere even with team members who might be spread across the country.
DoubleDutch is a conference and convention app that acts as a real time program and social media channel for organizers, presenters, and attendees. It’s been a big hit on the convention scene because it allows people to communicate via text even if they are too shy to talk face to face. It also helps facilitate feedback, audience growth, etc. For the awkward, though, it’s a lifeline at conventions where crowds can be incredibly overwhelming.
The fact is that social media isn’t a fad. And while many brands and companies have been working really hard to leverage it, smart marketers have been finding ways to implement it. After all the point of social media is to be social, even for those of us who find it awkward or intimidating.