The End of Geek Culture


What is the essence of being a “Geek?”

Here are some common mistakes:

  • Purchasing and displaying a “Geeky” brand of printed materials
  • Wearing T-shirts displaying “Geeky” fictional characters or phrases
  • Wearing a particular shape of “Geeky” eyeglasses
  • Memorizing trivia and dialogue from “Geeky” movies
  • Participating in “Geeky” games that are definitely not physical sports
  • Attending “Geeky” pop culture events with 150,000 other “Geeks.”

In other words, spend your money in a certain way, and you’ll be a “Geek.”

Oops, someone forgot:

The essence of “Geek” is being a Social Reject.

(Have fun arguing about the definition all you want, but it all comes down to that.)

So it seems Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, and Olivia Munn are confused.

You can’t be Extremely Likable, a.k.a. Popular, a.k.a. Famous — and also be a Social Reject.

Therefore, if people pay money and stand in line just to meet you and tell you how awesome you are, you’re not a Geek. You’re just another Mainstream Celebrity.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these so-called “Geeky” things, either. At least in my opinion. I have nothing against the people named above, because I’d be happy to play D&D with them. Like them, I’m thrilled to watch any corporate-funded sci-fi / fantasy / adventure movie. My studio has a life-size Stormtrooper poster on the door. I even wear black-rimmed glasses.

But I am most definitely a Social Reject. A Social Reject from Geek Culture, because I’m not on T.V. And I’m not on T.V. because I’m not good looking and / or funny enough. I’m not into offensively playing games of Social Dominance. It’s High School all over again. And isn’t making up for High School what Celebrity Geek Culture is all about?

Help me, Sylvester McMonkey McBean.

(P.S. I wrote a 30-minute animated TV show pilot about this.)

6 thoughts on “The End of Geek Culture

  1. Geeks are only social rejects to non-geeks!

    Many geeks are very social with each other as they develop new methods to take over the world. Sounds like you needed a more geek filled event..

    Those events usually involve doing something that is not social, in a social environment. So the geeks can go home feeling like they did something outside the house… even if it was a LAN party where they sat and looked at the computer screen the whole time… the same as at home… but some distant location with other geeks all being socially anti-social

    I dont care how famous Rick Moranis gets, he will always be a geek!

    I always thought of being a geek as just being pretty efficient at what you do, and pretty much over involved in your projects. So really you are just doing the logical thing and not worrying about the latest fashion, and not caring that you spend way too much time doing something that only you care about.

    Selfishly using your brain, to enjoy yourself. Buying clothes to show the things you like, a human bumper sticker, instead of fashion.. Everything has a purpose, and is done for a reason, unlike the majority of people who do most things because they think they have to.. its a societal norm… or they should “get out more” etc.

    If Im going to get out… I better have a damn good purpose for doing so.. I must get something out of it, or else what am I to do? just go hang out somewhere losing valuable time I could be spending creating or studying some other project? Could be growing my brain! why hang out with a bunch of people drinking and having fun? waste of time!

    If humans had levels like you see in an RPG, then geeks would go out to increase their levels as needed, but otherwise its a waste to go outside if you are not leveling up!

  2. I feel like your definition of geek is a bit too narrow. I tend to define geek pretty close to the Japanese word “otaku” or someone who is completely obsessed with the minutia of a particular subject.

    The people we have generally associated with “geek culture” often have less mainstream obsessions like sci-fi. I counter that Joe Blow in Cleavland who can rattle off every player in Cleavland Brown’s history is just as much a geek, but with a more mainstream obsession.

    As Patton Oswalt pointed out if anyone or anything destroyed geek culture, it’s not Wil Wheaton or Felicia Day , it’s the internet. Now anyone can become a geek about anything instantly with a few clicks, and made celebrities about the people who had celebrated and shared their formerly outsider interests.

  3. Geek culture has always been about finding those like-minded people and creating bonds with them. Many of my friends today are the once I met 20 years ago during that awkward time known as “teenager” and from that, we have all grown up into full-fledged geeks with “real” jobs and careers.

    I don’t have the time like I used to have to be able to set up an weekly D&D campaign – instead, I have to play Skyrim to get something close to that experience. But that fails because there is real life social interaction – and to me, that is the core of geek culture – experiencing something with those who enjoy what you do, and then being able to talk about it for the remainder of our days.

    To this day I can talk to some of my old D&D playing buddies and the experiences we had playing a campaign are just as a real as the football game we went to. Only difference is, had I done that as a teenager, I’d be labeled a jock instead.

  4. Unfortunately you can’t simply define a word in whatever way you choose so that it suits your cause. You might want to look up geek in the dictionary as it is the only commonly accepted way for reader and writers of the english language to understand each other as clearly as possible. You can propose your own definition if you want, but you can’t proclaim that other people are “confused” about it. The four Merriam Webster dictionary entries for geek differ significantly and only one implies social rejection. Saying “it all comes down to being a social reject” is misleading at best. In fact, definition #3: “an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity”, is the most commonly understood definition I have known over the last 30 years. In this way, pretty much anyone can be a geek.
    Why clutter up a perfectly good word like geek by adding more restrictive conditions to it’s definition? We already have a word for a social reject: reject.

  5. The internet did not kill geek culture; geek culture killed geek culture. The people who reply to this post about how cool it is to be a geek, and how unrestricted the definition should be, killed geek culture.

    Sure, the internet allows anyone to be a geek, but the only reason those people wanted to be a geek in the first place was because geek culture declared (loudly) it was cool to be geek. Carl uses a social reject definition of geek because it is the only one that avoids this problem.

    Or maybe he uses that definition because it is so exclusive. The definitions offered in the replies are so inclusive that they effectively include everyone. Eric J tries to close off the definition by pulling from Merriam-Webster, but I’d be surprised if he would deny the title of geek to those who enthusiastically read comics or manga, or those who enthusiastically watch anime or movies, despite the fact that these could barely be called “technological fields or activities”, if at all.

    So then, what are we left with? A definition that a geek is “an enthusiast or expert”. That’s why we now have “fashion geeks”, “news geeks”, and even “sports geeks”, which seem to work counter to what geek originally stood for. Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine a person that wouldn’t be “an enthusiast or expert” in some activity, which is to say that the term ‘geek’ now has no exclusivity at all.

    In conclusion, I stand by Carl’s definition in this argument because it is the only definition exclusive enough to be viable. If you would like to propose another definition, I would suggest pointing out a person who is not a geek, and then try to explain why that person isn’t a geek. Why isn’t Olivia Munn a geek? Why isn’t Tom Cruise a geek? Why isn’t Barack Obama a geek?

    If they all are, what’s the point?

  6. Travis C, you have made an incorrect assumption and in doing so have taken my argument in the exact opposite realm I would intend to take it.

    One who “enthusiastically reads comics or manga, or those who enthusiastically watch anime or movies” are not geeks. That should not be surprising. I am still adhering to the dictionary definition which boils down to “enthusiasm for technology, primarily of a scientific or mathematical nature.”

    Before “geek” existed, “nerd” was the term that encapsulated all of the enthusiasts to who you are referring; enthusiasts of things which were deemed socially odd or uncool, including science/math. The term geek was created as a new term for tech-nerds, or nerds who were specifically enthusiastic about technology, like computers. In fact, (Carl, you should appreciate this) Heinlein was one of the first to use the term in that sense in “The Year of the Jackpot”. So to illiustrate the definition: One who enthusiastically listens to music is not a geek, however, one who studies/obsesses over the technology of music (sound, structure, composition, etc.) is a geek.

    The point is that “geek” has turned into something of a badge of honor and as such has been misappropriated for years. My opinion is that “geek” implies intelligence due to its specific association with technology, therefore people realized it could give them power over others (e.g. stupid jocks) and a geek was suddenly something they wanted to be. People who have no business calling themselves geeks (incidentally, most of them just some variety of nerd, and not particularly smart), have bastardized the term simply because they were (or saw themselves as) a social outcast. This has opened the door for anyone to call themselves a geek.

    All of the people Travis C lists above may or may not be geeks, I have no idea. I would not like to propose a new definition for the word geek. I think that people who feel they need a label but aren’t technology enthusiasts should find a new word for themselves, or just stop trying to fit into some pre-defined category, isn’t that what being a proud social outcast is all about in the first place?

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