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Being Geek Is Very Chic

By ryry in News
Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 02:03:38 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Chronicling the new wave of "geek chic," CNN.com has an article up which explores how geeks, once known for biting the heads off of chickens, are now lauded for their technical abilities. Particular focus is given to Jesse Dailey, who is the subject of Jon Katz's recent book, "Geeks." The article uses Jesse as an example of how geeks are being slowly accepted into mainstream society, although it points out that kids' fear of an alienated geek lifestyle means that hundreds of thousands of jobs will go unfilled this year.

What it seems most people don't understand, especially when confronted with articles like these, is that you can have and exercise a love of computers without being a "geek." Many friends of mine (myself included) have a healthy off-line social life and a sunny disposition, and yet somehow manage to write code, slap together custom computers from off-the-shelf parts, and fix systems when they stop working. Some of us even (gasp!) play sports and have significant others. There needs to be more coverage of the non-stereotypical geek - and less of the lonely alienated high-school student.


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Being Geek Is Very Chic | 34 comments (32 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Geek vs. "geek" (3.60 / 8) (#3)
by dvicci on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 12:34:24 PM EST

I'm certainly no expert here, but I have some experience to say the least. Here's my take:

Being a geek isn't about knowing or loving computers/programming/hacking/etc.. It's about knowing or loving <pick your topic> almost to the point of obsession, and sometimes beyond. That's it. It has nothing to do with social life, ability to use an erection, ability to play physical sports, or the degree of one's love of the outdoors.

I'm a computer/computer gaming geek. I program and admin systems all day at work, and I program/admin systems and play computer/console games pretty much all night at home. Sometimes I go out and play billiards, other times I go to bars with friends. I OFTEN go out to movies. I have a steady girlfriend (with whom I successfully use my erection - thus negating the no-sex-life myth), and absolutely adore my Shipperke Squanto.

I have an active social life, and still consider myself a geek. By the same token, I consider myself a nerd under definition 2 of the Jargon file.

I do not, however, consider myself a nerd under definition 1. Dork, Waldo, and Dweeb all fit under definition 1, and likewise do not apply to me at present... though some might disagree. ;)

In the end, it's all a matter of semantics and self-definition, and thus both inconsequential and incredibly far-reaching in scope and consequence.

Re: Geek vs. "geek" (4.50 / 2) (#18)
by warped1 on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 12:16:50 AM EST

class geek : public obsession <Topic>

I've heard arguments like this before about "geek" applying to anything you obsess about, and I disagree. Ever hear of a football geek? That to me just sounds, and feels, completely wrong, and yet by your definition, it is valid if that person obsesses enough about football - which alot of people do. 'Tis why they have football packages for satellites that show many, many, many games. :)

I think a geek is better described as an intellectual, and social outcast - if you were going to try and pin it down to a few descriptors. Although, I think an earlier post describing how the word was just too hard to pin down to a simple definition, is in general correct.

[ Parent ]

Re: Geek vs. "geek" (3.00 / 3) (#24)
by dvicci on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 09:14:43 AM EST

Heh. I've never heard the phrase "football geek" before, and the immediate image that pops to mind is some skinny kid sitting in his/her room, surrounded by memorabilia, with fantasies of running the winning touchdown against <pick your offensive line> and being carried off the field in a hail of glory. This person rarely thinks of anything but football, has the most minute details of his favorite player's careers set to memory, and the major stats of most other major and minor league (IS there a "minor league" football??) players set to memory, and/or written in his stats tome.

No, he/she is not a player... the players are the jocks. The geeks are the information hoarders.

However, a jock CAN be a geek, if the jock fits the above description in full.

I've known some people that I would classify as "car geeks" due to their obsession with every aspect of their favorite line of automobiles, from performance stats and history, to actual "behind the wheel" handling.

This is, of course, my own take on things, which I find particularly useful in conversation, but which doesn't necessarily apply to anyone else. :)

[ Parent ]
Re: Geek vs. "geek" (none / 0) (#34)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 06:38:28 AM EST

Where do you think sportscasters come from? Somebody out there has to come up with things like "This is only the 5th time in the last 13 years that a tight end, has made a reception, a touchdown, a tackle AND run for over 100yards in the same month".

[ Parent ]
Geek and proud of it (3.20 / 8) (#4)
by h2odragon on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 01:27:12 PM EST

...and damned glad to see society finally recoginizing us as the true underpinnings of all that is good and right in the world.

You who have lives outside of computers do well not to take the honored title of "geek" for yourselves, for you piss us TRUE geeks off at your peril. To hell with identity theft, machines being cracked, etc; we'll look up your airline reservations and re-route your next flight through Alaska.

What pisses me off is the fact that the "geeks" the media latches on to as examples of the type are at best weak examples of geekish tendancies. TRUE geeks leave the house once a week, if they can remember to. TRUE geeks haven't had dates in 7+ years. TRUE geeks make riot inciting anarchists look like a church club in terms of sociability.

There doesn't need to be more coverage of the non-sterotypical geek; that's virtually all there's been. What we need is some reporters brave enough to beard the geek in his den and get a clue about what geeks really are.

That's not an invitation for reporters to come ask me, either... If you can see my dwelling, you're in gun range.

Script Kiddies (1.00 / 2) (#11)
by Neuromancer on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 05:11:11 PM EST

Don't forget the script kitties (please take one home, or I'll have to put it to sleep).

I really hate poseurs and wannabes. My ex-gf dates this script kiddie. She thinks that I hate him because he's dating her. Truth be told, I thought he was a bitch the day I met him, go figure.

[ Parent ]
Re: Script Kiddies (1.67 / 3) (#15)
by nuntius on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 07:49:29 PM EST

another 3l337?
I hereby authorize you to shoot him.^H^H^H^H

My lawyer says I never said he said that. ;-)

[ Parent ]
Re: Geek and proud of it (5.00 / 3) (#21)
by Inoshiro on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 06:15:48 AM EST

TRUE geeks leave the house once a week, if they can remember to

No, I'd say "true" geeks just do what they damn please. If it pleases me to spend a few days huddled in front of my computer, playing with the intricacies of a boot loader, than that's what I'll do. If I do go out, I have a reason: like watching an interesting electrical storm (once the computer equipment is secured, of course ;)), or going to get another load of instant food (so I'm not distracted from thinking about a problem once I get into it by hunger or cooking).

True geeks are purely creatures of intellect, living for the thrill of understanding and knowledge. We're not "antisocial, " we just don't see any point in talking to certain classes of people who are bound by the thrall of different pursuits (such as drugs, or "death sports," or other things which any monkey or small rodent could do with ease).

True geeks bear no ill will to anyone. Why? Simply because killing or hurting a sentient creature is so counter to what drives a geek (the quest for further knowledge). It's ok for a geek to say, "here, let me do this, it'll go faster," because they're not lieing -- it will go faster. Conversly, if you can do something better than a geek, and the geek needs to do that thing, except a polite knock. Geeks don't play political power/head games, they just want people in government who knows what's going on and can let them get on with living their lives

As for the dating bit, well... geeks are attracted to (and attractive to) intelligent women (for obvious reasons). Once you have chatted with, and gotten to know a girl, it's just a matter of waiting for natural attraction to kick in..

[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Re: Geek and proud of it (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by mezzo on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 10:24:58 AM EST

As for girls dating geeks.. I am female, and I definitely prefer geek guys. They are usually intelligent, and can discuss about other things besides the sunday football scores. And another thing.. fewer of them feel threatened by women who can think.

"The avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote."-- Kosh
[ Parent ]
Re: Geek and proud of it (1.00 / 2) (#30)
by cesarb on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 02:09:22 PM EST

We really need a +6 rating for ¨above 5¨ comments like this one.

[ Parent ]
Unless you work for CNN and want us to see lots of (1.00 / 6) (#5)
by b!X on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 02:51:20 PM EST

...can you people please give the URL of the article in question when posting about news stories?

If you work for CNN and want my eyeballs on as many ads as possible, well then fine I suppose. But if you don't work for CNN and just want people to discuss the story, POINT US RIGHT TO IT.

Re: Unless you work for CNN and want us to see lot (1.00 / 3) (#6)
by ryry on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 03:07:27 PM EST

Hmm? The word 'article' hyperlinks to the article itself.

--too lazy for a .sig--
[ Parent ]
Hmmm.... (3.20 / 5) (#7)
by 3than on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 03:41:21 PM EST

That was the deepest article I've ever read.
See, people just don't understand that the 'geeks' have always been running society. But what's happening now is a total reversal; geekage has become so prevalent that it's the new norm. I just hope that a geek monoculture treats its outsiders better than the stereotypical 'jock' culture-or whatever the supposed opposite of geekage is.
I have to say that I find this friendliness towards 'geeks' to be fairly appalling. There have always been geeks in literature and society. I'd point to things like the Dr. Faust trope as prime examples. But our media have always been afraid of the kind of intense knowledge that some people have had. Faust is an obvious example; too much knowledge must lead to downfall. It was inevitable that the media would have to become 'geek-friendly' eventually, especially when 'geeks' are responsible for so much of the back-end of new media. But articles like this, and even phenomena like John Katz' book, to some extent, are in fact ways of preserving the 'otherness' inherent in the idea of 'geekiness.' With the internet, what has in fact happened is that all people have access to knowledge traditionally open only to 'geeks.' We have all become geeks, to some extent. But the phenomenon of geek-glorification has to be a reaction to this. It separates the truly elite from the garden-variety geek; in doing to, it preserves the separation into geek and non-geek society, and in some ways, enables the dark history of anti-geek prejudice in an era where general geekiness is increasing.
That said, it's a good thing that people have begun to truly celebrate their geekiness. But the myth that intense intellectual pursuits translate into some sort of social stigma not one that must be preserved. Deep intellectual ability change people subtly and deeply; the term 'geek' hardly expresses its true meaning, in my humble opinion.
But who asked me anyway. I'm just a geek...

If it's the norm (1.33 / 3) (#8)
by Neuromancer on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 04:00:23 PM EST

Then I need to move where you live, because I am surrounded by idiots (not at work so much, but elsewhere).

[ Parent ]
(3.50 / 6) (#9)
by jabber on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 04:12:17 PM EST

Now that being a geek is cool, and a new fad, can we expect former non-geeks to attempt geekhood to continue feeding their popularity hunger? I'm very curious to see how the conformist social butterflies will embrace geekhood, without either the technical knowledge or interest in the subject matter.
Will we see former preppy yuppies putting (LNX) and Linux-fish on ther Bimmers?
Will we see former High-School cheerleaders wearing tight T-shirts with Software logos on them?
Will there be "Server Statistics for Former Sports Enthusiasts" books in "For Dummies" colors?

Some sorry-ass company was already selling backpacks called The Hacker, The Cracker, The Elite SysAdmin... And then put up a fake "We've been Hacked!!" notice on their web-page.

Will the new pick-up lines at the local bad include "So... What's YOUR uptime?"

Somehow, I think that true geeks will once again get lost in the shuffle, as people with social skills, and practiced fad-followers out-geek us at our own game. After all, would that cute wanna-be geek-chick really want to hang out with you or I, when she can get that wanna-be geek-boy who smells like Drakkar to spend lot's of money on taking her to fancy Chez'Geek for a double Latte?

And most importantly: Do we care? Geeks are not geeks because they want to be; it's because we have other priorities. Aspiring to be a geek, because it's the "cool du jour", seems fundamentally misguided.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Re: (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by ryry on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 04:37:07 PM EST

And most importantly: Do we care? Geeks are not geeks because they want to be; it's because we have other priorities. Aspiring to be a geek, because it's the "cool du jour", seems fundamentally misguided.

Bravo! Well put. I sure hope "geekdom" doesn't overflow with new subjects but I do hope it gets to the point where geeks are not ostracized or put on pedestals or in any other way treated special or different from average people. Geeks aren't *better* than other people, we're just different ... but so are all the other compartments of society.

I'm sure I'll get some flames for this, but in a way this article reminded me of what is currently happening in the rave scene right now ... it is being popularized more and more in the mainstream media and there is a prevalent fear (at least here in MD/DC/VA) that so-called "insta-ravers" (perhaps a parallel could be drawn to "insta-geeks"?) that see a rave as the cool new hip place to be will overflow the scene.

The reason you do something is everything.

--too lazy for a .sig--
[ Parent ]
geeks not better? Heretic! (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by h2odragon on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 05:20:33 PM EST

Of course geeks are better than other people, that should be self-evident... Which is not to say that there are no other classifications of "people" that have some value, just that they don't have quite so much value as us.

I don't think that the yuppie scum or other trend followers hanker toward even simulated geek-hood yet, or that they will. What's required to fake being a raver? A stupid hat that makes you look like a mushroom, the ability to pop a few pills and wiggle rythmically?

Geekdom can't be faked, at least not in any context where there's more than a trace of the real thing. It's sorta like the martial arts; no matter how many Bruce Lee movies you've seen somebody with even the beginnings of real training is gonna rip you a new one without breaking a sweat.

On the other hand, I'd love to see geeks become "cool" long enough to attract chicks, 'cuz (as should be painfully obvious) I need a date. :)

[ Parent ]

Re: geeks not better? Heretic! (5.00 / 2) (#20)
by Inoshiro on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 05:42:43 AM EST

"Of course geeks are better than other people, that should be self-evident"

Ahem.. I'm of the opinion that all people should eat more humble pie, as swelled heads, and the effects of swelled heads (lust for power, money, etc) cause 100% of all the suffering in the world.. Since I assume that all smart people understand this, and that all geeks are smart people, it can be said that anyone who says that geeks are better than anyone else is in fact not a geek at all (not qualified to speak for geeks), but is a person who needs to rethink their attitude towards other people.

Do you really feel like putting down people you've never met?

[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
You've been trolled (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by pwhysall on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 11:32:04 AM EST

And with some style, it would appear. :)
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
[ Parent ]
Re: You've been trolled (5.00 / 2) (#27)
by Inoshiro on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 12:39:37 PM EST

Actually, I think this guy might just be this way. And even if it is a troll, what've I lost? Nothing, and others might even be better for reading my reply ;-)

[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Re: You've been trolled (3.00 / 2) (#28)
by h2odragon on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 12:46:16 PM EST

I only get that way every once in a while, and you're right, it can't hurt to say it.

Ain't it amazing how writing a good, cathartic flame can make you feel better even though the subject of the torch job has nothing to do with what's aggrivating you?

[ Parent ]

Re: (none / 0) (#33)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 06:30:43 AM EST

Of course it'll happen. Can you name an American (not sure about Europe..) subculture that this has NOT happened to? The beat(nik)s, hippies, disco, punk, goth... The only that's really stopping it right now is that there isn't a lot of GeekMusic out there. At first, there'll be a growing social acceptance (the 'net's taken care of this), which will help bring in some 'real geeks' who otherwise wouldn't have touched a computer in their lives. Then eventually, somebody's going to figure out how to market the image as something edgy, yet palatable; some simple way to associate yourself with being a geek. Perhaps The-Linux-So-Simple-I'd-Let-My-Mother-Use-It will do this, but the growth of Computer games has already done a lot of this. Most people here would argue that a Gamer is not neccessarily a Geek, but the general population sees very little difference. (Similar to the Goth/Mansonite situation) and since I'm posting anonymously, to hell with an inteligent conclusion

[ Parent ]
Classification is for the Insectoids! (3.50 / 8) (#13)
by Commienst on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 07:14:38 PM EST

I do not sit around and analyze whether I am a geek, jock, nerd, brain, prep, etc. I feel sorry for all the people who say I am a geek, why try to even acknowledge most people's standard of what social group you are in? Be free, nonconform, do what you want to do and leave classification for insects not yourself.

"Inspired" by Jon Katz (3.40 / 5) (#14)
by AbMan on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 07:16:19 PM EST

According to the article, Jesse was "Inspired by Katz" to move to Chicago.

If he finds Katz inspirational, he *definitely* needs to spend more time away from the computer screen.

Techo's who have lives are much more interesting than the monomaniacs, much like multitasking OS's are more interesting than the alternative.

Who defines Geek? John Katz? (4.00 / 6) (#16)
by makolee on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 07:51:31 PM EST

I am a geek.

If you ask me to describe myself in one word, the word I will chose is geek.

As you might guess, articles like this one spark a instense intrest from me.

I've been ostracized as a geek, I've lost girlfriends because my conversations with my friends were too geeky and I've made friends through using geekiness as commonground. I've been a geek since 7th grade and many years later, when I look different, act different, speak different, and have different friends, I still identify as a geek. At college and in other parts of the world, geek is a term around which communities are built.

And after 10 years of indentification as a geek, I find it difficult to write a definition of geek. I like sci-fi, I like computers, I like playing with machines and I've a bad case of something that can defined as technolust but I don't think that that is a recipe for geek. Geeks are very often male, does that mean geeks have to be male? I hope not. Can you be a geek if you use windows? If you hate sci-fi? If you can't program? How about all of the above? But it goes much much farther than that. That is something that Katz could even take on.

Am I alone in being slightly worried, and possibly even offended at the idea of book (and soon to be Hollywood feature film!) called "Geeks"? Jon Kats, who affirms the fact that he is not a geek, feels can write the definate or representative description. Maybe he can. I haven't read it. I'm hardly surprised. No geek would be so bold as to try to define the term.

However, what is someone wrote a book about "Blacks" or "Whites" or "Gays" or "Americans" or "Okinawans" or "Chess Players" or "Jewish Grandmothers".. anything? Would it go over as well? Geeks are around, they are real, they are dynamic, they are living, and working, and communicating and changing and the definition of geek needs to be flexible, owned, and defined by the peopel identifiying as geek. It needs to be as flexible as they are.

In some ways geek is a culture created by and for the excluded but in its romantization, it has been shackled to a definition, an action which condemns it to the very same exclusiveness.

Maybe it's just time I found a new word for who I am.
Mako Hill
"Geek" (3.70 / 3) (#17)
by tsunake on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 11:20:45 PM EST

My brother calls himself a geek. He's got an overclocked computer and plays video games a lot. He has trouble acting... normal in social situations. He just graduated from high school and is looking for a tech job.

But I built and overclocked his computer. He only plays games because he's got nothing better to do than sit around in my parents house. His social problems stem from his lack of self confidence; he's a follower in a big way.

He still calls himself a geek.

After a bit of thinking I decided I'm probably pretty close to the epitomy of geek. I don't call myself a geek or anything, although I did use the term 'hacker' as what I ideally wanted to be in a school paper once (of course you know which definition I specified...). I'm 16, ready to drop out of High School and work for a couple years (then go to college for a bit). I like to read... I wear what might be classified as slightly trendish clothes except they're always wrinkled or dirty or something (and a years old). I've got a(n excellent) job at a small (Windows only :/) game company... and I program. My social life is well, lacking. I have a few good friends, and then the people I work with. And I don't care about most things like how others see me or how bad something that happened in the past is.

I'm not saying that that is the definition of geek, just that I'm a geek. And that I haven't seen the popularization of the geek much, except that people will call you a geek when talking about you intending it as a compliment (not just a meaningless label) and that the other party will want you to make them a web page. It's more just the popularizing of gadgets and the internet.

So the real thing is everyone just wants to be in 'our club' or something. They've seen something cool and the star football player couldn't figure it out... Heh. Or something.


...You can be a geek in anything, as well. A lit geek, an art geek, a BDSM geek... Well maybe not the last one.

*sigh* and i thought kuro was supposed to be bette (2.00 / 3) (#19)
by orabidoo on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 05:13:02 AM EST

... and then we come here and find Jon Katz!!

Re: *sigh* and i thought kuro was supposed to be b (1.00 / 1) (#31)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 03:44:49 PM EST


Sorry, but a JonKatz post would be longer....

Much, much longer.

[ Parent ]

I wish I remembered my psych classes a bit better. (4.20 / 5) (#22)
by pete on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 07:56:28 AM EST

See what's going on here? It seems like half of the posts are people describing the true meaning of the word geek, and then unsurprisingly describing themselves as having all of those qualities. It's just an ill-defined word. You are who you are.

People are worried about yuppies and jocks possibly considering themselves geeks (gasp!). I just find it somewhat depressing that human nature is to be so divisive (not the exact word I want, but it will do). One would think a group with such a history of being 'outsiders' would be a little more cognizant of this.


Re: I wish I remembered my psych classes a bit bet (1.00 / 1) (#29)
by cesarb on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 02:00:39 PM EST

Damn why can´t I give a +6 to him?

[ Parent ]
Good Way to PISS OFF A MIDDLE SCHOOLER (3.30 / 3) (#23)
by Neuromancer on Wed Jul 12, 2000 at 08:02:37 AM EST

Ok, I don't mean to crack on my parents and the whole world and such. I was one of those Center for Talented Youth kids, which is run by Johns Hopkins University. It was ok. In 7th or 8th grade I scored around 1000 on my SATs. I was really dissapointed, since I accidentally wrote most of the math section on the wrong page, which really messed up my math score. Oh well, it happens. At any rate, the keynote speaker, in a great speech said something to the tune of "the kids who are calling you geeks and nerds now will someday be calling you boss." That was all fine and good, except that I wasn't a social outcast, and at the time, it wasn't exactly a badge to be either. The speach was good, the first time. I listened to my parents and people who had attended say that over and over again for months. Still, at this time, I was a fairly popular guy. Yeah, I was young and it was awkward (I mean, I just moved to the daggon place the year before and such, looking back, I really coulda done well with the ladies with a bit more confidence, but when you're 12, you don't see it like that). At any rate, what's the deal with outsiders telling us what's good for us.

jonkatz (2.00 / 1) (#32)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 13, 2000 at 11:10:21 PM EST

you know what...

fuck jon katz.

no, really. i've had enough of him being portrayed as a sympathetic viewer on the sidelines of geekdom. i don't give a rats ass what jon katz has to say about anything, let alone hear shameless plugging of the books he sells. jon katz is an ugly parasite that has latched on to the geek community so that he can shove his books down our throat. once everybody realizes that jon katz really doesn't care, and that he's just out to sell books, everyone will be a whole lot happier.

there is a truism about slashdot that would apply here at K5 as well...
"There are two types of people around [slashdot/K5]: geeks and Jon Katz."

Being Geek Is Very Chic | 34 comments (32 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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