Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a geek? Are geeks highly intellectual individuals who are obsessively passionate over computer technology, or elements of pop culture so much that their lifestyle revolves around this passion? Can we label anyone who is well-versed with these topics as a geek? Or is there something else more fundamental that helps make this distinction?
My guess is that it has more to do with their attitudes than what they actually do that irritate (or perhaps, intimidate) others. Despite being socially awkward, their extraordinary attitudes are somewhat of a rare find, which is a good thing as these attitudes have to lead to some of the biggest tech-news-making events of this century.
Today, we see a greater acceptance and recognition for geeks (you can thank the late Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg for that). Who knows, you might even possess the very traits that they have. Check to see where you stand on the geek-o-meter.
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One thing that could potentially distinguish geeks from the rest of the people is their undying commitment to the things they love, be it gaming, high-tech gadgets or comics. They’re fanatical about the object of their obsession, always willing to put in that extra effort (sometimes to extreme lengths) to make sure they’re the first to know about the latest news or updates.
To others, it may just be a hobby or a pastime. To them though, it’s the reason they exist. It defines who they are. This is why they’re so passionate about it.
Do you have a particular obsession, the reason why you’re excited to get out of the bed every morning? If you have that something which your life revolves around, you’re closer to being a geek than you think.
Due to their extreme loyalty and commitment to what they love, they only seek the company of those who exhibit the same enthusiasm as they do. They tend to group together, in a small community, preferring to mingle with their peers and shunning those who are not as committed to the same passion – which would explain the social misfit-ness of geeks.
In any case, they are stringent when it comes to accepting people as their kind. It’s evident from the way geeks talk; you see that they speak in their own language (real or made-up), using their own terms, acronyms, and lingo. It’s highly probable that only a fellow geek would understand what they are talking about.
It’s not likely that any Tom, Dick, and Sally can just join the club by waltzing in, as even within the community itself exists a unique culture of their own. In a way, it’s like the fraternities where they have their own initiation before new members can be welcomed into the group. You need to show them that you think at the same (high) level as them; you can’t feign being a geek.
I guess one inevitable side effect of seeing themselves as vastly different from others is that they are less able to see things from an outsider’s point-of-view. Having a lot of pride in their level of understanding of a subject, at times, geeks also expect others to comprehend what they mean without a need for explanation.
Terms like ‘pwned’ or ‘respawn’ (if they’re gamer geeks) will elicit responses like shrugs or raised eyebrows, long "uhhhh"s or "What a weirdo!" expressions. You can’t expect geeks to change, so when a non-geek doesn’t, the incompatibility sticks and geeks shy away from making new friends of the non-geek nature.
From the outside, they are viewed as socially awkward because it’s easier to put a blame on a minority group than it is the general public. This would further push them into seclusion, preferring to instead talk and communicate with their own kind, rather than in real-life relationships.
With them passionate over what they love to do, it’s not surprising to find themselves achieving ‘flow‘, the state of mind when they feel fully engaged in what they do and consequently lose track of time. This would explain why geeks who are into gaming could spend hours and hours without stopping for food while trying to complete their games.
Eventually, that feeling of euphoria from the flow becomes an addiction to them; that’s how gamers get addicted.
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As I mentioned earlier, the life of a geek revolves around what they love. With that, they have the constant desire to have that sense of power and control over what they’re good at and love doing.
They never stop exploring and always keep themselves updated about the things they are obsessed with: reading everything about the latest high-tech gadgets, attending every cosplay event and conference in town, etc.
They just want to be the first to be there, the first to hear about unconfirmed rumors and of course, the first to break the news to everyone. Put simply, it’s extreme fandom at its best, almost a cult-like zeal.
They’re the experts on the field. From time to time, they might talk to ‘outsiders’ about their obsession when others asked about it during the course of everyday conversations. Although they might openly resent it when others don’t get their ideas or jargon, deep inside, the geeks take delight in the fact that they’ve established themselves to be an expert.
Given the amount of time and effort that geeks are willing to devote themselves to the object of obsession, it’s quite understandable to be proud of themselves. After all, it is very much their life goal.
Even when they’re geeks for a particular field, chances are that they have developed a preference within their passion. Take for instance the case of the stereotypical computer geeks. Sure, they may be crazy over computer technology and the latest technology trends in computing, but they often focus on a particular brand or system.
It’s like going to the second layer of fanaticism, where you delve deeper to find one niche. It’s why we always hear of the battle between supporters of different operating systems like Android vs iOS.
Being a fan to a specific OS, comic superhero, cosplay costume, sci-fi movie, programming language, and others is one thing, while sticking to it no matter what happens is another. Geeks do both. This is what makes them so different, so special and perhaps so intimidating to ‘outsiders’.
They are willing to stand up for what they believe in, even when times are really bad. It’s not really about the objective assessment of the object they love; it is more than that. It involves emotions when it comes to their fandom.
One is not a geek if he or she is knowledgeable about the subject but lacks the passion about it. A real geek is totally into it, intellectually and emotionally. This idea explains why geeks will stay true and loyal to their idolized OS or superhero till the end; they have grown emotionally (or even spiritually) attached to them. To speak ill of their passion is to speak ill of them.