Introduction, Part 1
Geek. I hated that label in high school. Sure, I played Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, I was a bit obsessed with superheroes and all things science-fiction. Admittedly, watching Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” brought me a joy that really should not be attached to a television show. But “geek”? I was too cool for that. Wasn’t I?
Geeks were dweebs. Nerds. Awkward. They were most certainly not me.
Over the years, definitions and understandings of exactly what a geek, nerd or dweeb are have shifted. Where they have ended up (or are currently in their shifting) tends to be defined by personal experience. One person’s geek is another person’s nerd is another person’s dweeb and so on. The lines between these terms are more than just blurry, they are massively overlapping.
I may have hated the label “geek” in high school but now I wear it like a badge of honor. Why? What changed? My college years were around the time of the early success of Microsoft and Apple. There was a joke, of sorts, which started going around about that time, “Be nice to geeks. You’ll be working for them one day.” The joke almost always elicited a laugh or two, but you kind of knew the laughter was at the expense of the Bill Gateses and Steve Jobses of the world – people with whom I identified. Slowly though, the laughter began to change.
The laughter began changing along with a cultural shift in the acceptance of geek/nerds/dweebs. As technology broadened in the 1980s and 1990s more and more geeks became successful. Alongside them, geeks of different ilks came into their own success with the likes of “Weird Al” Yankovic (music satirist), Stan Lee (comic book writer) and George Lucas (Star Wars creator).At some point during that time, the joke changed or at least the laughter did. It was no longer directed at geeks. There was a bit of nervous laughter in the new response because it was true – you’ll be working for them some day.Not so surprisingly, as society began to acknowledge the positive contributions of geek/nerd/dweebs, we also began to understand the value of what made them the way they were and, as we understood that, the umbrella of who fit into the category began to expand – massively. The expansion is so great that we are closing in on a very unexpected event.
Almost all of us are geeks in one way or another. Or nerds. Or dweebs.
Even if we don’t admit it, yet.
From the hit television show The Big Bang Theory to box office smashes like The Avengers to the record-breaking book series Harry Potter, we can see that geek culture is not only on the rise and more accepted but it is becoming a very strong influence on pop culture in general. More of us participate in geek culture than some of us may care to admit.
How did this happen? It’s really not so surprising if you look closely at what made geeks successful and how society responded. Take a look at our chart again; what made geeks successful was intellectual curiosity. Part of what makes geeks/nerds/dweebs who they are is their intellect. Most of us are deeply, passionately, intellectually curious about something. I’m sure you are. I can hardly imagine you made it this far into the “Introduction,” which is steeped in all sorts of geek/nerd/dweeb language, unless you are intellectually passionate about something. You geek, you.
“But,” you say, “lots of people are intellectually curious about things without being geeks. What makes intellectually curiosity ‘geeky’?”
What makes geeks “geeky” is their willingness to disregard what society thinks about their particular area of intellectual passion in favor of pursuing that passion with — well, with passion. Lots of people are intellectually passionate about things society readily accepts. One example would be investing in stocks. In contrast, geeks embrace less widely accepted things. In that way, geeks are rebels. Yes, rebels – intellectual rebels with a cause. As a minister, I’m reminded of another person who was so passionate about something that he was willing to disregard how society might react, even the powerful, in order to pursue his passion. Because of it, he was considered a rebel too.
Admit it, you want to be a rebel too. Go ahead, get your geek on.