Reading, Doctor Who, comic books, Star Wars, coding, Back to the Future, science, Harry Potter, math, The Big Bang Theory, glasses, Lord of the Rings: These are some things that could be associated with the geek culture, which is becoming more and more popular these days.
Growing up in a mid-sized suburban city in the 80s/90s, it was always impressed on me that being a nerd wasn’t cool by the majority’s opinion. I think back then if we even used the word geek yet, it was synonymous with nerd. Take shows like Family Matters (Urkel), Saved By the Bell (Screech, Violet), Boy Meets World (Minkus), or even Beverly Hills 90210 (Andrea), for example…those were my references. It also didn’t help that I went to private schools where the cultural bubble was even smaller.
So, I hid my “geekness”, and kept it to a minimum. I would read (but not talk about it to everyone); I was introverted (which people just called shy); I worried about having to get glasses or braces; and I tried my best to only watch the mainstream shows and movies. When I saw those who didn’t fit in with the popular kids (to the point of getting made fun of) liking comic books, superheroes, and Star Trek, I knew who, and what, to avoid. I mean, it was popular to want to fit in and be popular (or at least to blend in and remain invisible).
Then, when I started college, it seemed it didn’t matter anymore. Either growing older helped me to realize how others’ opinions aren’t as important when it comes to being true to oneself, or society has developed more and now the popular majority has shifted.
It’s probable that it is both, in my opinion. With fandoms popping up everywhere for various books, movies, TV shows, etc., people are more accepting and realizing that enjoying what was once pronounced “geeky” is actually pretty cool. Even mainstream shows display the characters deemed most popular enjoying “geeky” interests from time to time. (For example, Penny on The Big Bang Theory gets a role-playing video game addiction.) Other shows’ main characters have a broad set of interests. (Like how Barney on How I Met Your Mother is a total ladies man, but he also likes Star Wars and laser tag.)
While book clubs are becoming more and more common, technology has also helped paved the way, with the SciFi and Fantasy genres producing more innovative and exciting things (such as movies, books, etc.) to enjoy. Not to mention that the tech industry is affecting our culture and job industry today in a big way.
So what end of the spectrum are geeks on today? And do you qualify? I was once told I’m not a geek because I don’t fit the criteria or belong to all of the fandoms. But I am interested in a few of them; so where is the cutoff point?
And wait, is a geek even just one clique anymore? What defines it? Popular kids can also like a “geeky” movie (or movies); jocks can be comic book readers; and the same goes for cheerleaders, goths, punks, and those who never thought they fit into a group before.
I believe the lines between subcultures are more blurred and fluid than ever before. We don’t need to figure out how to define ourselves in one word.
In fact, I’d rather we didn’t. Because trying to be just one thing is so limiting. And saying that others can’t be in the group is too excluding. I enjoy embracing many kinds of interests and learning from others who have even different ones than me.
Be unashamedly passionate about your hobbies or interests, whether they are/were considered geeky, nerdy, trendy, or cool. Find others who share them. And keep an open mind to new things as well. You never know what the new “cool” will be for you, and it’d be a shame to miss out on that because of the popular opinion, which is constantly changing.