The term geek has several definitions ranging from, “the people you pick on in high school and wind up working for,” to “a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intelligent” (Urban Dictionary, The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing). However, connotative definitions of the word geek have changed significantly in the past decade, and geek is often clumped together with the terms nerd, dweeb, and dork. I identify and am affiliated within the geek group and deem the seemingly subtle differences between its like terms as defining characteristics.
Connotatively, a geek is a person who gets things done—an intellectual or intelligent individual who is sociable but has a few quirks. A geek’s quirks are typical to a topic that is deemed uncool, or that the individual’s reaction to said topic may seem extreme to the general populace. My geekitude ranges over several topics, from vampire literature and role-playing on Facebook to satirical texts on social conformity and activities that deal with paper in general, i.e., writing, reading, filing, paperwork, etc.
Geeks have not always been associated with such a range of subjects or topics, nor did the group appear with the invention of the computer. Many geeks have devoted webpages and blogs to the subject, proclaiming that the history of geekdom stretches farther back than the society outside the group seems to acknowledge. Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, the Sophists, and many others rhetorical theorists could be deemed as rhetoric geeks. The same could be said of literary theorists, political theorists, and scientific theorists; therefore, the rich geek history can be followed back to the very beginning of learning and teaching or argumentation and academia.
My personal history with being a geek has been life long. From a young age, I have been an introvert with an overly active imagination. These are stereotypical characteristics of geeks, and in this case, they are true. The majority, if not all, of geeks seem to possess a sense of shyness or a want to remain in one’s own world, which in turn requires a lively imagination, or at the least, an entertaining one. My imagination led me to creating roughly sixty-five imaginary friends by the time I began elementary school and may prove as the reason I became a writer and a role-player. My childhood was full of socially awkward situations and more proof that I could not easily shake my growth into a full-fledged geek with limited friends and a need to fill my spare time with intellectually stimulating activities.
For example, I spent my tenth birthday waiting for a party that never happened. The party had been planned, the invitations sent, the cake and party favors were on the table, but no one showed. Well, that is not exactly the truth. One girl, the only girl more socially awkward than I was at that age, stopped in for five minutes to wish me a happy birthday and give me a present—a puzzle that I had started and finished that night at the kitchen table with my mother as we ate cake and ice cream.
However, I have been fortunate enough to compliment my inner world with social and communicative skills, keeping me from the label, nerd. I am able to begin a conversation with strangers easily and find common interests or topics for discussion. Many geeks are capable of doing this as well, where as a nerd, a dork, or a dweeb share the trait of being socially inept. I, on the other hand, have been quick to make friends and keep them for more than a decade, and in some cases, more than two.
Geek rituals are expansive. The most noticed and observed ritual is the convention. Attaching the words geek to convention provides its own connotative stereotypes, such as gaming conventions and science fiction conventions. Comic-con is probably the convention with the most press and the epitome of a geek ritual. There is some truth in this, although I had to look up what the convention was truly about. The more basic everyday rituals or routines of a geek may include a quick game on their iPod or computer before leaving for work; or as my husband admits, checking his Eve, a massive multiplayer online roleplaying space game, account to check on his characters’ training both in the morning and before bed. My everyday rituals and routines include micro events such as the coffee break, my morning text messages to my Facebook friends, an attempt at writing 500 words after my workout, and checking my email. Although these are considerably mundane and only slightly geekish, I do carry paper and a pen with me at all times and always have something to read with me incase of those opportune five-minute breaks when I can accomplish something.
Many of my larger geek rituals involve writing full group scenes with multiple players on Facebook, where I take on the persona of a character instead of myself. This activity can take upwards to ten hours in a day depending on how many characters are involved or how many scenes I choose to do in a single sitting. My Thursdays tend to be my roleplay days because I can sit at home in my pajamas with a mug of coffee and a sac of tortilla chips and be someone else for a little while. To put this into perspective, I have thirteen profiles other than my real life account: Severins, a 700 year-old wolf with a daughter that just married a human woman; Alexandria, a two-week-old vampire and the main character in the novel series I am writing; Psyche, a Greek goddess from a popular Sherrilyn Kenyon series and many more. Psyche was my first character; she was the one who sucked me into the black hole of online roleplaying. I took over her account more than a year ago and slipped very easily into her bipolar, trickster attitude and have slipped deeper into the realm of geeks.
This example leads me to the more specific stereotypes or perceptions of geeks, many of which are false or half-truths: geeks never date; geeks are only male; geeks are basement dwelling kids that still live with their mothers; geeks are overly involved with ‘virtual reality’; and geeks are out of shape (Rea Maor). My proclamation of being a geek dispels many of these stereotypes. I am a married woman, living with my husband and roommate in a house I own, where I work out most mornings. Granted, I am involved with virtual reality due to Facebook, but it is an outlet, not the end-all-be-all of my existence—that would be school and my husband.
However, pop culture reinforces these stereotypes with shows such as, Beauty and the Geek and The Big Bang Theory. Recently, both have added women geeks to their shows and have shown a more savvy side of the geek. For example, two of The Big Bang Theory’s main characters, Leonard, an experimental physicist, and Penny, a beautiful blonde waitress, date for a full season after several attempts by Leonard to win her over. The transformation of Penny’s intellect and knowledge of geek trivia reinforces Leonard, a geek, as an interesting and charming individual.
I have always been intrigued by the way popular media has portrayed the geek and am glad to see the perceptions are changing, if slowly. Quite frankly, the world would not be as interesting without my geek glasses and certainly not without my geek husband of whom I could write a hefty book about and plan to. My geek badge is proudly adorned on my person with every conversation I hold, every word I write, and every photograph I take because geeks are the ones who get it done.
Howe, Denis. “Geek.” Dictionary.com. The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, n.d. Web. 10 Sep. 2011.
Longislandguy. “Geek.” Urbandictionary.com. Urban Dictionary, n.d. Web. 10 Sep. 2011.
Maor, Rae. “Geek Stereotypes.” Ask Rea Maor (dot) Com – Technology and Money Making at its best. 25 June 2007. Web. 10 Sep. 2011.