Today I was linked to a post he wrote for the GeekOut Blog on CNN. His take on the current popular geek culture really struck a chord with me and brought me out of the non-writing funk I’ve been mired in lately.
It seems as if there’s a lot of grumbling and bitterness online over the mainstream acceptance of all the fun awesome things that were once considered “geeky” in the derogatory sense. I’m only 30 and even I had to mentally work to get over the notion that comics, D&D, role playing, video games, etc were “not cool”. Many of the “real geeks” who put up with bullying, teasing (or worse) turn up their noses at the “cool people” wearing Green Lantern t-shirts or the “gamer girls” who have been coming out of the woodwork the last few years.
I’m what I would call a “late bloomer geek”. I’ve always had the tendency to be instantly passionate about things that caught my interest. My initial internal reaction to things that really catch my attention is to “SQUEEEEEEEEEE”, jump up and down, talk a mile a minute and want to devour EVERY IOTA of information about whatever it is that I’ve immediately fallen in love with. However, I learned early on that my overwhelming enthusiasm, no matter what it was for, was usually met with that all-too-familiar expression of “…really?”. You know, the expression where one eyebrow dips low while the rest of the face remains stoic? It’s the reaction that says “Wow, umm settle down. Seriously?”
The problem with that is things CAN be that great. I LOVE RPG video games, fantasy novels, D&D, dragons, unicorns, magic, science, astronomy, technology and hundreds of other things. But being a shy, insecure person up until about 10 years ago, I was conditioned very early on to not appear too excited about things because it was “weird”. I internalized a lot of my enthusiasm and would only indulge in it privately. I would look longingly at comic book stores and gaming shops but never go in. It was like some bizarre purgatory where I WANTED to get excited, ask questions and learn everything I could about geeky stuff, but was afraid of being picked on, teased, or (worse) condescended to by the geeks themselves because I didn’t already know.
I didn’t have the personality to be able to be weird like I wanted to because I was terrified of being criticized, teased and not being accepted, even by people who weren’t being accepted themselves!
When I moved out on my own at 19, I met a group of friends who got me into D&D. I was probably the most enthusiastic player they’d had in years. I wanted to know everything. I borrowed Player’s Handbooks so I could study up and make sure I didn’t say anything stupid. I remember being taken to a hole-in-the-wall gaming shop and buying my first set of dice. (They were crystal red.) I had a Half-Elf Monk once that eventually got such ridiculous stats she had to retire to a monastery. (Best. Character. EVAR!)
This was the same time I started working for AOL and really got online. The internet allowed me to research things and take subjects as far as my brain desired. Suddenly, I could research any topic I wanted and not have to worry about asking someone who might roll their eyes at me and burst my bubble. (My bubbles burst easier than they should. I’m working on it.)
For me, the current popular acceptance of all these geeky things and the shift of the term “geek” from derogatory to complimentary have both given me the opportunity (and the overwhelming amounts of available awesome stuff) to finally indulge my natural enthusiasm for subjects, whatever they may be. I’ve geeked out over Synesthesia and Meyer’s Briggs Personality Types most recently. I love Dr. Who, even though most of my IRL friends don’t watch it. And I have people around me who don’t mind my enthusiasm for things, and who even enjoy listening to me to go on and on about whatever subject has currently caught my interest.
This current popularity will wane eventually and some new sub-culture will be the next “in” thing. But right now, it’s a good time to be a geek.