So, I started thinking about this a while ago, but after reading articles like this one from PA: Report's "The Cut"
I wanted to share some of my thoughts and see how other people thought about the concept of the word "Geek", and also it's synonym "Nerd" (throughout this "geek" is going to be synonymous with "nerd").
I feel that the word "geek" has been changed dramatically in the past twenty years. After the advent of popular home gaming and, much later, social networking the concept of "geek" essentially lost all meaning. At first it distinguished the "geek and nerd subculture" of interests, literature, and hobbies. It was largely a term used to express and create a separation from "normal" life and pursuits, and used as both a pejorative by non-geeks and self-referentially by geeks. In a lot of cases "geek" was the term anyone of sufficiently high intelligence, or someone who pursued interests viewed as "smart" interests, received early in their life. This became the stereotype regardless of actual connection between disparate individuals or groups of "geeks", and despite claims to the contrary, it's a distinction that goes, and went, well into adulthood. Geek culture then became defined by such activities as literature, technology, and encyclopedic interest in a particular field. The biggest signifier at this time, however, was how outsiders viewed "geek culture".
As the culture expanded and became more and more influential, the pejorative description began to slip. No longer were "Geeks" simply synonymous with "freaks", they were now the masters of industry. Suddenly, without the pejorative description being the major driver, the culture began to be defined only by actions or interests that could be described as stereotypically "geek", usually using a definition that would only have applied decades ago. Thus, people who were not otherwise described as "geeks" or considered outsiders, were suddenly declaring themselves "geeks" because they spent a large amount of time on the internet or had an active role in video games.
However, geek culture moved past that conceptualization long ago. When video games became better and tuned for larger audiences, and then became a multimillion dollar industry, it moved beyond the outsider concept of "geek" and into the normalized concept of society. When the internet boomed and suddenly large numbers of people were using it for socializing, the portions of the internet that were geeky were still geeky and largely unchanged or untouched by this inrush, and society declared the internet to no longer be the territory of the geek.
Now, it's become almost easy for people to consider just about anything to be geeky. Memorize the stats to a football team, must be a football geek. Know too much about the military, must be a military geek. The word is quickly losing it's meaning. It's an odd idea because it uses a very small part of the stereotype, and then tries to apply it to not only all "geeks" but to subjects outside and even opposite of the geek concept. It's particularly appalling because this change seems to be happening from within geek culture. More and more people who are self-declared geeks are expanding the term to declare just about anything to be "geeky".
Maybe I'm just afraid of losing the cultural identity I cling to, as it's still foisted on me throughout adulthood. Maybe I just watch the people talking at PAX about the shared "outsider"ness of geekdom and still see that in a lot of cases declared geeks are still ostracized in modern society. Maybe I'm just not interested in including the same groups that continue to perpetuate the concept and image of "geek" as a pejorative
. I'm not one of those "take back Geek" people, I just think the culture moved on, and yet people still use the old concepts to define it.
What do you think about it?