I’ve been called a lot of things in my life - nerd, introvert, computer geek, computer nerd, shut in, geek, etc - and I know many of you readers have, too. Coming to terms with these labels, and the usual derogatory tone that is attached to them can be a lifelong journey for some. The fact of the matter is, every human being is wired differently and experiences life differently. This simple fact manifests itself in many varying ways. The exact numbers of self identified computer geeks are still not known to anyone, though the increasing proliferation of electronic sports and continued expansion of internet access across the globe make me confident to say that they are growing.

Through my many hours of staying in instead of going out, I’ve learned and internalized various coping mechanisms that make government mandated self isolation at home seem like a walk in the park - pardon the pun. When I’m told to shelter at home, I know exactly which chair at which desk in front of which screen I’ll be sheltering in. When I’m told to quarantine myself, I’ll simply be reminded of some of my favorite childhood memories and fall back into those habits.

What have I learned that will need to be learned by the social interaction-loving public? First off, I learned from an early age that socializing can happen from behind a computer screen. Secondly, playing games has trained me to rise against adversity in a programmatic, gamified way. Thirdly, I have familiarized myself with all the tools corners of the internet where I can find endless entertainment in a few clicks whereas the physical world was always limited to where I could travel to within a few clicks (kilometers).

Some of my closest friends growing up were made or maintained from behind the computer screen. I moved fairly often when I was growing up so this was often the only option to stay in contact with people that I used to interact with in person. I found that online interactions can be just as fulfilling, if not more fulfilling than in person interactions. Discovering this social breakthrough is something that every computer geek reaches at some point in their life and is the crux of why they choose to stay in instead of go out. As a computer geek, my friends were accessible from behind the computer screen - but not within reach of meeting with them physically. I’d often interact with them through instant messaging clients or within massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs).

As talk of impending quarantine started to reach the air waves, I knew that it was time to tap into my inner role playing game (RPG) training and make sure I had enough gear to weather an inability to restock. Having the right gear for a quest, and being able to identify the quest, are things that every computer geek knows how to do. This means that I went ahead and loaded up on non perishable food items and even toilet paper back in February. I went ahead and verified that the tools in my toolkit were updated and anything that was a subscription service, like Private Internet Access and Netflix, was properly renewed. The crucial part of being a computer geek is making sure that you have uncensored access to whatever you want to do on the internet so you’ll never be bored as long as the internet is still on.

Everyone’s tolerance for boredom is different. I have taken some tests online and have found that I seem to have an above average tolerance for boredom. Specifically, I don’t mind doing repetitive, arguably menial, tasks over and over again. I can survive without outside stimulation for a long while - but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it or seek out boredom. In fact, quite the opposite. I like having plenty of things to distract/entertain myself and my time on the computer has long trained me on where to find these things. Not to date myself, but I have been a computer geek long enough to remember Kazaa and Limewire - I certainly know my way around torrents, and suffice to say I have a lot of media stored up so that even if the internet goes out - I will not be bored. There are plenty of open source, offline games like Battle of Wesnoth that are free and time consuming that I’ll be happy to play.

In the extremely unlikely off chance that COVID-19 triggers a worldwide collapse of society and I need to make a run for the hills, staying up for days on end playing games has even prepared me for sleepless nights. Although, I don’t know how much it’s prepared me for the running part. For those readers that aren’t self proclaimed computer geeks, it isn’t too late to cultivate that part of your being - and it’s likely that you’ve already started. The world’s increasing dependence on social media platforms to keep in contact is something that - for all its foibles - is a literal social lifeline for more extroverted people during these trying times. To all the readers that aren’t as comfortable with the uncertainty that’s here and to come, take this as an opportunity for computer-guided self growth, self education (if you haven’t tried Khan Academy, now is the time), self reflection, etc. The computer geeks are already online and eager to help you acclimate during these trying times.

Author's Bio: 

Caleb Chen is the Editor at Privacy News Online and has authored hundreds of articles about cybersecurity and improving online privacy. He has been a spokesperson for Private Internet Access (www.privateinternetaccess.com) since 2016 and has been quoted in Reuters, Newsweek, BBC, Business Insider and more. A long time privacy and cryptocurrency advocate, Caleb holds a MSc in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia.