Redefining Geek for the Next Generation

I figure I should start with my personal vision of what a geek is. This is a two part article on the topic redefining “geek” and how the mainstreaming of the term influences how a geek parent is raising the next generation.

The definition of geek seems to have stemmed from an older word, geck, meaning a simpleton or one who is deceived. From then on, the word has had a checkered past of negative connotations. So why are we now ready to embrace the word and wear it as a badge of honor? What is a geek and is it time for a redefinition of the word?

So what makes a geek, a geek? If you read the long debates in the comments after any List of Geeks in Movies found online, it doesn’t seem like there is a standard definition and everyone has their own personal opinions. Some have a very strict definition, usually involving a specific interest in computers/technology and a large amount of social awkwardness. Others see geeks a little more broadly, over lapping with other tags such as nerd and dweeb and intellectual. Can Hermione Granger and Indiana Jones share the same moniker as David Lightman and Kate Libby?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “geek” as such:

1: a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake
2: a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked
3: an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity <computer geek>

Obviously the first definition is out of our frame of context, so out it goes. (Though ironically, I read that possibly, the image of superheroes in tights and capes may have been inspired by these circus geeks, who were similarly costumed.)

So it comes down to social abilities (or lack thereof) and intellectual interests. Which is more important in the equation?

I think once upon a time social ability was a big part of the definition. But with the advancement of technology in the last 25 years, I think geeks are coming into their own, socially. Or at least found a hack into the communication network of life. My example would be MMOs – millions of self-proclaimed socially inept humans, manage to pug and join guilds and socialize with the worlds they play in.

So we move over to a geek’s defining interest. Are specific interests required to be a geek or can geeks have a passion for anything outside the general mainstream, or even within if the passion is consuming enough (sports geeks)?

I think to redefine the word geek, it is required to use the word “geek” in a way have I have heard spoken, but yet to find in a dictionary – as a verb – such as “I’m really geeked about that comic” or “I’m going to geek out playing [insert favorite console game here] tonight.”

There is one website I have found that illustrates using the word geek in this manner – They define the verb geek as:

1: To love, to enjoy, to celebrate, to have an intense passion for.
2: To express interest in.
3: To possess a large amount of knowledge in.
4: To promote.

So perhaps a “geek” can be defined as a person who expresses interest, is knowledgeable and completely passionate about their pursuits and be willing promote it to others. Promote, you ask? Mostly likely optional, but what are fan fictions, blogs and podcasts, except promotions of our interests. What are cons, but large celebrations of shared passions?

Does it really matter what that passion is? Cannot someone be just as geeky about the “dead” languages as someone else might be of computer language? Is there middle ground for the math geek and the cosplay geek? Some geeks have a singular passion, while others have many.

It would be my humble opinion that the redefining and mainstreaming of the word geek has evolved from geeks ourselves, finally finding a community of like minds, developing our own voice and creating our own definitions, rather than allowing others to define who we are. Look how far have we come from the “simpleton” or the 1980’s movie stereotype. We are the geeks, we are the proud, we are the many.

Of course an opinion is only that. Agree? Disagree? Have your own spin on it? Comment and let me know.

Up next, part two, sharing our geekiness with the next generation, bolding going where no geeks have gone before…

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