I started answering Sally's post, In Defense of Nerds, then realized it was long enough to be a post. So, here it is.
The thing is you don't have to be a nerd to be obsessive about something. Just look at the guys at football games who shave their heads to form their favorite team's logo.
Most people are probably a fan of something and are well versed on that something to the point that they know the little details.
They might be nerds and geeks who are into such things as Star Trek, Star Wars, comic books, math, etc. They might be oh so classy as to be film buffs or wine connoisseurs, or everyday folks who are sports buffs. They might collect fine art or be into photos, or they might simply like to visit museums every chance they get.
They might be folks who make sure to record their favorite tv shows if they won't be home to watch them, or be into music that they never miss their favorite bands in concert. They might collect autographs or coins or stamps or things with hearts on them or motorcycles. They might be birdwatchers or crafters. They might knit or crochet or make model airplanes and/or spaceships and know everything there is to know about their crafts.
They might make LEGO sculptures or they might be religious about running or jogging. Maybe martial arts is their thing. They could be foodies who like to either read everything about food or they might cook every chance they get, trying every new recipe that catches their interest.
Or perhaps theater is their thing. Or they paint or sculpt. Maybe it's a game of touch football every weekend with their buds, or maybe it's dressing up for a night of dancing a few times a week.
Maybe they're hooked on reality tv or think Mad Men is absolute must viewing. Or maybe it's books. Maybe they've read every book by their favorite authors and drive booksellers or librarians crazy until the next release by those same authors.
It doesn't matter what their "thing" is. It matters that they have a "thing." If I learned anything from my father is that having hobbies pays off beyond the core of the hobby. It pays off in friendship and social interactions. My father is in his mid-80s and while most of his friends from his youth have much dwindled in number, he has many friends in their 50s and 60s and 70s who will likely be around longer than he, so he's guaranteed to have friends for the rest of his life.
He's also managed to stay busy, busier in retirement than when he was working, and that includes all the doctor's visits older people have that younger ones don't. He collects stamps and autographs and he's a space buff. In fact, it was because he wanted to watch the new "space show" called Star Trek when it premiered that I became a lifelong Trekker. So now he goes to lectures given by astronauts and ex-astronauts and NASA employees, and attends functions where he can mingle with people who share his interests. And he's far from what anyone would call a nerd, now, or back when he was young.
Most people do most things in moderation. But there's usually something they obsess about that isn't family. It's not true for everyone, and maybe the folks who do everything in moderation are better rounded than we obsessives, but that doesn't make them better than us or vice versa. It just makes us different and interesting in our own way.
So, instead of putting someone down for their quirky interests or labeling them nerds or geeks as a way of dismissing them and their interests, why not engage them in conversation? You might learn something ... interesting.
Just call me a nerd, and proud of it! :)