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Friday, February 05, 2016

How to Be a Geek

Sean's friend Laura suggested I offer some thoughts on how to be a geek; she further suggested these thoughts should come in the form of a top ten list.

Of course, I cannot possibly speak for all geeks. If you think of yourself as a geek, you're a geek.

But for those people who don't consider themselves geeks but are curious about the subculture, I suppose some pointers on understanding the geek mind (or at least my geek mind) might be in order.

1) Read a lot. If you read a lot, you're likely to be exposed to something you can geek out about, whether that be a favourite writer, genre, style or subject. My own path to geekdom began with the printed page, starting with Superman comics and the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

2) Pursue your interests with passion. If you're a geek and you like something, odds are you'll not only enjoy that thing, your hobbies may revolve around that thing. You might even start producing your own versions of that thing.

3) Find like-minded people to discuss your interests. Over the years, I've belonged to a number of organizations, both online and in the real world, geared toward bringing geeks of one flavour or another together. This usually leads to amusing debates such as "Who's better, Kirk or Picard?"

4) Don't be self-conscious about what you love. While it wasn't easy growing up as a bookworm, film lover and Trekkie who didn't care for sports, there's no sense in hiding your passions, even if you wind up getting teased. If I'd kept my obsessions to myself, I would have missed out on meeting countless friends.

5) On the other hand, don't forget to explore. While that thing you love may indeed be the coolest thing ever, the world is full of all kinds of other cool stuff. Broaden your horizons constantly. I read a romance novel a couple of years ago for the first time ever, and I found its construction and tropes utterly amazing. It hasn't made me a lover of romance novels, but the experience gave me a better understanding of that genre's readership and of its impact on the things I like.

6) Learn how to handle your computer. Your PC (or Mac) is your gateway to all kinds of geeky experiences, beyond merely surfing the internet. Gaming, writing, photo manipulation, video editing, podcasting, virtual reality, music composition and all kinds of other pursuits are facilitated and enhanced by computers, and knowing how to do more than simply turn it on will make those pursuits much more rewarding.

7) Respect and celebrate the indifference of others. Not everyone is going to get into My Little Pony or Game of Thrones or model rocketry like you do. And that's cool. They almost certainly have some very cool interests of their own.

8) Pay attention to politics. I know, what a drag! But being involved is important because in a democracy, the people we elect pass laws that can either facilitate or hamper our enjoyment of the pursuits we love. It wasn't so long ago that people were trying to ban Dungeons & Dragons; some jurisdictions continue to ban all kinds of books. The Internet is constantly under attack by corporate and government interests who want to make it slower, more expensive, more invasive of your privacy, and more censored.

9) Reassess, revisit and revise your pursuits every ten years or so. Take a break from one of your obsessions and then take a look through older eyes once some time has passed. I've done this a number of times and always appreciate what a new perspective adds to things I loved at a younger age.

10) Read, watch, play, experience, or at least read the Wikipedia article about the following: Star Trek, Star Wars, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Planet of the Apes, Big Trouble in Little China, Flash Gordon, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Lego, Kenner, Atari, Pac-Man, Intellivision, Nintendo, Space Invaders, Futurama, The Simpsons, Battlestar Galactica, Civilization, Tron, bacon, Fallout, Grand Theft Auto, Dungeons & Dragons, usenet, Electronic Bulletin Board Systems, Harry Potter, Alfred Hitchcock, Godzilla, The Terminator, RoboCop, Stephen King, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Lois McMaster Bujold, Connie Willis, board games, memes, Photoshop, Live Action Role Playing, MUDs, Mary Shelley, Ursula K. LeGuin, David Cronenberg, David Lynch...

Well. That last bullet could go on forever, couldn't it? In the end, though, it's not really important what geeky passion you pursue; all that matters is you love it. 


Sean Woods said...

This was more serious/insightful than I expected. Great stuff.

Jeff Shyluk said...

"A geek is a nerd who can get things done."

I think you've found the path for the science fiction geek, but there are so many more options. I've known trainspotters who have never watched an episode of Star Trek. I know bird watchers who have never been to Star Wars. Wine snobs who are still looking for the ANY key. Sports nuts who wouldn't know Azimov from Dick (HINT: one is a hack). Religious zealots who decry global warming and get elected to public office.

I like the idea of a list. It gets things done. So, without bidding, I am adding my list here:

1) Get things done, without bidding.
2) Be argumentative.
3) Enjoy introversion (there are extroverted geeks, but the pursuit is introverted)
4) Be detail-oriented. Did you notice how I punctuated that correctly?
5) Adopt fads early :)
6) Hang onto fads well past expiry ̿̿( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)’
7) Be scholarly in your chosen field, hopelessly ignorant in all others.
8) Be a pedant.
9) Think in unusual terms, and hopefully be jestful. See next:
A) Understand hexidecimal.