While it is true that many students do spends a greater part of their MIT lives locked in their rooms or claiming sanctuary in some underground Athena cluster, I find most MIT students are more than toned-down supercomputers. The people I daily come across and the friends I regularly spend time with are generally people I am glad to know. Incidentally, I've only seen 1 student -- compute that to 3 significant figures, if you wish -- with a pocket protector here at MIT. As for TI-89s, people talk about them like they're auditioning for a Texas Instruments commercial: "Oh... my... God... I love my 89." Personally, I find no time to click on a link about the China-Tibet conflict, or even one about the star athletes anticipated for the Olympics, or on another link that claims those topics are connected -- what? I am disconnected from much of the world, and it seems to take very conscious effort and calculated steps -- because we like calculating here at MIT -- to inform ourself about our immediate and more distant surroundings. MIT is work, work, and more work, but I do know many students who somehow find time to play water polo offense, organize a student group meeting, and work at MIT Admissions. Here, P-sets are only a part of the equation that equals work.
Fortunately for all of us, none of them are. I've only seen one person actually wearing a pocket protector and no one with those horrid glasses. More importantly, we do actually have social skills and great friends! Yes we work hard, and yes we are smart, but we are REAL PEOPLE! There are all sorts of people too, people addicted to anything from Rubic's cubes and Starcraft to Project Runway and Gray's Anatomy. And believe it or not, there are people here who don't like math . Though you better be careful , we may end up saving the world while you're not looking...
Well, we are MIT, so yes, there are plenty of nerds. There are people who play Magic every Sunday, Starcraft past midnight, participate in LARPs, etc. That said, you won't be completely lost if you don't like these things (or if you've never heard of these, you'll have fun learning). As for the social skills part, some do and some don't. I know many social butterflies here, but just like anywhere else, we have our shy people.
Although it is true that there are some people that have troubles finding formulas for social interaction, there are plenty of people who are socially normal, but are just good that the math and science. We do have some uber-geniuses- academic Olympians, Putnum winners, people that have done significant research/ buisness during high school, but it is not as if we instantly know everything on sight.
Everyone at MIT is smart, there is no doubt about that. Some are geniuses, but most just work hard. There are quirks that many MIT students share, but most people are not socially awkward; they can function in greater society and even befriend people! Also, not all of us know how computers work. Some do, and the rest of us turn to them.
A small subset of MIT students, less than ten percent, meet the "crazy nerd" or "quiet nerd" stereotype. The rest of us have that intellectual intensity, but maintain more of a balance in our lives. We know how to have friends, dress up, converse with non-MIT students, and even have strong intimate, professional and social relationships.
Most of them aren't. The people you will meet at MIT probably are some of the smartest people you'll ever meet, but they're also amazingly creative, and many of them are talented artists - something many people are surprised to discover. There are plenty of parties on campus, and plenty of laid back people who attend them.
The stereotypes are accurate; most MIT students are pretty nerdy and have a unique sense of humor. I was a bit turned off by the stereotype; I didn't want to go to college with a bunch of nerds, but really after visiting I realized they're not completely stereotypically nerdy, they are just special.
I would say that for 80% of the campus, most of the stereotypes are true. More true than you could imagine. But there are very diverse subcultures that bash those stereotypes to the ground. Where you live on campus has everything to do with what kind of experience you have.
You will find a fair amount of the socially awkward at MIT. You will find a LOT of people with glasses. You will even find a few mathematical geniuses and perhaps one or two megalomaniacs. The vast majority of us, however, don't fit into the standard "nerd" stereotypes.