Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"A simple mantra has guided me through the darkest bouts of autocerebral asphyxiation: You don’t have to believe everything you think."
November 28, 2011 1:58 PM   Subscribe

"Because of our mutant powers of obsession, it’s my guess that a lot of nerds suffer from addiction. Nerds get caught up in minutiae, because there is a tremendous and fulfilling sense of control in understanding every single detail of a thing more than any other living creature. But we also tend to have a very active internal monologue (in some cases, dialog). These are some delightful ingredients—mixed with a bit of genetic predisposition—for overdoing things that make us feel good in the moment." Chris Hardwick offers "self-help for nerds."
posted by jbickers (23 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
I and me agree that we have a very active internal monolgue/dialog.
posted by Cranberry at 2:16 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


hm, this is one of the better (and funnier) articles I've read on the topic. The emphasis on "direction" is something that's easy to overlook, but I think it's quite apropos: I know (and have occasionally been!) many people who are incredibly focused and self-directed, but only when it comes to doing things that are completely divorced from their daily lives. That's fine, really -- not everything has to be about Lasting Achievement, and many seemingly "pointless" pursuits have hidden real-life rewards -- but the lure of comforting time-wasters can easily swallow five or ten years if you let it.
posted by vorfeed at 2:19 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nerds tend to spend a lot of time in the past and future, but to achieve happiness you have to cultivate the skill of living in the present.

I've often said I want to fight Nazis with rayguns. Grudgingly, I might amend that to "...in the present."
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:23 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wanted to comment favorably on this post but my brain keeps getting in the way. It's telling me, "There is still another donut in that box in the break room...."
posted by Lynsey at 2:35 PM on November 28, 2011


That was surprisingly entertaining. I couldn't get into The Nerdist podcast for the life of me, despite all the accolades heaped upon it by everyone I respect, but Marc Maron's interview of Chris Hardwick made me a total fan of the guy. Hardwick comes across as self-effacing without being irritating, witty without being smarmy, he offers some interesting insight about his life trajectory and just seems like a pretty cool guy in general.
posted by Phire at 2:50 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Um. I would wager that if you are consuming your body's weight in alcohol every day, your problem is not being a nerd. Your problem is being an alcoholic.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:14 PM on November 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


There are are lot of people who are both nerds and suffer from addiction, which is rather the point, I think. Addiction and OCD (which is often part of Asperger's and therefore common in nerdy folk) are quite similar and commonly co-occur.

Both involve an obsessive focus on a particular behavior, which is believed to provide benefits (and often does) but ultimately causes harm. Both involve difficulty changing the behavior, often extremely difficult. Both are wrapped up in self hate and guilt.

The reason people have typically seen OCD less judgmentally than addiction is that it doesn't look at all fun and people with the disorder are believed when they say they want to stop but can't. Since drugs can be fun, addicted people are often not believed when they say they are having difficulty quitting and they are judged for being hedonistic.
posted by Maias at 3:21 PM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure what to make of this as most of the nerdy types I know are in fact gainfully employed and not particularly addicted to anything. (Oh sure, I've been out of work for a month or so and have a huge Skyrim habit, but that's a passing thing.)

Either way, and say what you will about focusing on minutia, if you want to piddle away your nerd cred with me, the only thing worse than using the phrase "laser like focus" is to tell me about your MBA.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:32 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I used to punish my liver like it shot a cop."
A gem of a sentence.
posted by madred at 3:38 PM on November 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


That was an interesting read. And yet, although in many ways I think I could be described as a prototypical nerd, I didn't relate to it very much at all.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:46 PM on November 28, 2011


It's a pretty mellow, undramatic tale of addiction. Which is fine -- I suspect there are a lot of undramatic alcoholics, who quietly sit and home and drink themselves insensible every night. I don't know if nerds are more or less prone to drinking to excess, but I am sure there are a fair number of nerd alcoholics, and Hardwick has tailored his narrative directly to them, saying "By virtue of the fact that you are a nerd, you have the tools to address this."

This seems like a good thing to me. We all need somebody to reach out to us and tell us we're not alone, and we have inner reserves we did not know about. And he is, from what I gather, a pretty well-repected member of nerdus Americanus, and so his message is likely to reach further and have more impact that the same words from somebody who doesn't have a nerd podcast.

You may not share a drink with me, Hardwick, but to you I say cheers.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:06 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


chalky anecdotes and generalizations with a vein of creepy somehow-secular born-again running through it. whatever you call that born-again 'self improvement' stuff, it weirds me right the fuck out.

alcoholism is Serious Shit but it seems like that is in the background of this piece and it is more about his Method

also: essentialist definitions of 'nerd' that leave out probably a lot of people = blehh
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:12 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


it weirds me right the fuck out.

Well, fortunately, what weirds you out has no bearing on how alcoholics get help.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:18 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


essentialist definitions of 'nerd' that leave out probably a lot of people = blehh

Huh? Sure, he defines nerdiness as obsession and talks about things he is nerdy about and his experiences which I guess are pretty run-of-the-mill this-is-what-a-nerd-is. And he talks about lasers and, uh, robot vaginas. But while he's using that language of leveling up it's really just about repurposing techniques you use to get better at doing/knowing about something. It doesn't actually matter for the act he's talking about if it's gaming or programming or SF or manga or Coltrane recordings or Shakespeare or reading Sanskrit or cooking good Mexican food.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 5:19 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


@bunny ultramod

yeah. also though i think that if a person is struggling with an addiction it would be good if they could get actual info from a real brain doctor instead of a wired writer, and at least if you are going to write an article on a serious subject like that, maybe include some cites or something if you can
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:33 PM on November 28, 2011


also though i think that if a person is struggling with an addiction it would be good if they could get actual info from a real brain doctor instead of a wired writer

I don't this this article precludes, or argues against, getting actual advice from a brain doctor. At least, I don't recall reading that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:16 PM on November 28, 2011


i think that if a person is struggling with an addiction it would be good if they could get actual info from a real brain doctor instead of a wired writer

I'm no brain doctor or addict, but isn't a big part of AA learning from the experience of people who have been in your situation... from people who aren't "brain doctors". I would think hearing/reading success stories and failures would be invaluable to someone going through something similar. Why mock that? Why does it matter that he's decided to write for Wired?
posted by SAC at 7:52 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


@SAC

AA has got some problems is the thing

also i guess i have a thing about Hard Science versus softer stuff? moreover this guy's analysis of "nerds" as being uniquely vulnerable to addiction because [??] strikes me as a little armchairish. also he kicked alcoholism by having jon stewart insult him?

the advice seems to boil down to "examine your own thoughts" "live in the present" and "be really focused on self-improvement" which if hearing that was all it took, well
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:21 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


yeah. also though i think that if a person is struggling with an addiction it would be good if they could get actual info from a real brain doctor instead of a wired writer, and at least if you are going to write an article on a serious subject like that, maybe include some cites or something if you can

The disease model of alcoholism is not the sole theory in play. Some "real brain doctors" have argued that alcoholism is primarily a social/psychological problem, a learned coping method a la the life-process model. If this is true -- even if only for some -- then Hardwick's advice could be useful, because that's basically exactly what he's saying ("abuse of the substance is an expression of an underlying issue").

I also think it's obvious that many people struggle with focus, substance use, and/or bad coping strategies without necessarily being Capital-A Addicted to anything. This book might resonate with someone like that, whereas a more cut-and-dry, you-need-a-brain-doctor approach might not. I'm pretty sure the average "nerd" could afford to hear "examine your own thoughts", "live in the present", and "be really focused on self-improvement" one more time, whether or not that's helpful to hard-core addicts.
posted by vorfeed at 8:40 PM on November 28, 2011


I read the article, but then started thinking about Skyrim and forgot what I even thought about the article. Started reading the comments and halfway through someone mentioned Skyrim so I lost track of the comments. If I was still drinking excessively at least I would be passed out by now. Skyrim is a bitch.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:25 AM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


"#Mostly Sarcastic #HashtaggingOutsideofTwitter."
Cracked me up.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:30 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've recently become a pretty big fan of the Nerdist podcast, and I think this article has probably tipped me over into buying The Nerdist Way. Well played, Hardwick.
posted by Soulfather at 9:35 PM on November 29, 2011


“Get drunk in the morning!” “Eat 50 Chocodiles” “Instead of working, you could masturbate!”

oh god. say hello to my 20s.
posted by elizardbits at 8:17 AM on November 30, 2011


« Older MotherBoard TV: The Thorium Dream...  |  Dorkly Bits is an ongoing coll... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments