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Do We Need a New Word for "Geek"?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013



Last week Felicia Day - who I love -  posted a quick video talking about the next season of her Youtube channel, Geek & Sundry. In it, however, she posed some interesting questions and observations on the label "geek." Here, take a look:

(Video link here for those who need it.)

I've seen some push back on this, of course, with people accusing Felicia of adding qualifiers to "geek" and therefore risking more of the fake geek girl controversy that has been beaten to death this past year.  Overall, though, I think the response to her stance has been pretty positive.

Personally, I see both sides of it: by defining "geek" - or any label, really - you automatically add exclusions, which risks a "geek police" mentality. But on the other hand, if "geek" means anyone who owns an Xbox or watches Game of Thrones, then you risk diluting the term to the extent that our sense of community is lost.

Why does that matter? Because the geek identity is something that draws us together, and (ideally) lets us know we're among friends. You may be into Anime and I may be into Steampunk, but we share this common thread of experience: of loving something even when it's unpopular, of being ridiculed or excluded for it, and of not letting other people's judgement dim our passions, but rather fuel them. THAT, to me, is what being a geek is all about.

You can already see that definition changing, though, as things like Avengers and Star Trek and, yes, even mash-up t-shirts go more and more mainstream. That's not a complaint, by the way - I LOVE seeing more people get excited about everything from comics to steampunk, and if I'm being marketed to more now by savvy businesses, then that's a win for everyone. I'm more than happy to support sites and stores like ThinkGeek and etsy sellers that cater to my interests, so hey, bring on the geek gear!

Still, the question remains: how do we remain an open, inclusive community while still retaining a strong sense of identity? Or should that even be a concern?

Do we rename "geek", or reclaim it? Do we start using words like "nerd" or "fangirl" instead, or maybe just qualify what kind of geeks we are, ala a Dizgeek, comic book geek, etc.? And keep in mind I'm not talking about labeling ourselves for the sake of labels; I'm talking about a means for finding each other - online or off - so that we can share our passions and grow together as a big, geeky family.

It's easier for me, I know, since I put all my interests right out here in the open on Epbot. When I get to meet you readers IRL, you already *know* who I am and what I'm into. Like I tell everyone: if you think we'd be friends in real life, then odds are you're right. Letting all my awkwardness and crazy passions hang out online makes it SO much easier to find kindred spirits and new friends - but what about everyone who *doesn't* write a geek-centric blog? Even I have a hard time connecting with geeks offline, so frankly, I don't know how the rest of you do it!

I can't claim to have all the answers, but I do know I'm never going to stop sharing the things I love here on Epbot, with the hope that inspires the rest of you to get unashamedly excited about the things *you* love. We're geeks, and I like to think we know who we are and what that means. Whether we find a new label or reinvent this one, I believe as long as we remember the ultimate goal: of sharing our passions and banding together to encourage others to do the same - we're going to be just fine.


So what do you think, guys: Rename, or reclaim? Also, how do you connect with your fellow geeks, both online and off? Let me know in the comments!

Posted by Jen at 12:55 PM Labels: ,

83 comments:

  1. I watched this last week and felt a very passionate response to it. She says that to her, a geek's mantra is, "Your judgement is not my problem." I may not have everything it takes to have a lot of "geek cred" - I'm not a gamer, I'm really not that into comics, I've never played D&D (though I want to). So why have I identified as a geek for so long, and why do I so often gravitate towards those who also do? Maybe because I've never quite understood why I should care what someone else thinks about me. I've heard geek defined as being passionate about a topic or a set of topics, but I think it's more than that. It's having a defiant sense of self in spite of any possible pushback from your environment. Along those same lines, I don't think it's necessary to "rebrand" our community. Because we love what we love and aren't afraid to share that, we'll always be able to find each other.

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    1. Barilla- I love your comment.I don't think we need to rebrand. I am reminded of the controversy last year regarding convention girls. John Scalzi wrote an amazing piece and said
      “Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think — and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking — that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing. It’s the major difference between a geek and a hipster, you know: When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “Oh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.” Any jerk can love a thing. It’s the sharing that makes geekdom awesome.”

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    2. Barilla, I think you hit it bang on when you said "it's having a defiant sense of self". We like what we like, whatever it is. We aren't afraid to share our likes. And I think we celebrate being smart and passionate and interested, and are always on the lookout for other smart, passionate, interested people. And, more than that, we are optimistic about the future. My geek-girl friends tend to be the smartest, kindest, happiest women I know.

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    3. Tia: I think you've hit it on the mark with that quote. "You love what I love, come with me and let us love it together" <-- I love this. We're not afraid to love what we love, we don't care if other people don't love it, but when we find somebody who DOES? YAEYS HI FRIEND!

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    4. I agree with this one hundred percent! For me, being a geek means not being afraid to share my passions and interests with other people. I'm not afraid of being mocked for wearing a Care Bears hat (which actually has gotten me a ton of compliments!) or carrying a Star Wars lunch bag to work every day. If someone compliments me on it, I feel like I've made a connection. The sharing of interests is the best part of being a geek, actually. My husband and I met because of our shared geeky interests (Star Trek and Mystery Science Theater, among others) but since then both of our interests have expanded. He got me started on Godzilla movies; I introduced him to Doctor Who.

      I think there's a danger of geekery becoming exclusive--using Doctor Who as an example, there are people who've been fans of the show longer than I've been alive. Five years ago, I had never even heard of it. There are probably some longtime fans who would feel that they're "more" of a fan than I am--"You love what I love but I'm better at loving it." Not that I've encountered any of them personally, but there are elitists in every group. That mentality is just as stupid as "The wrong people like the thing I love."

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    5. Monica,
      I love that you take a Star Wars lunch bag to work because I take a TARDIS lunchbox. And I agree with all you lovely people, being a geek is about sharing your love for something. I've personally gotten four of my friends interested in Doctor Who. And that is awesome, being an influence for good like that. lol.

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    6. Barilla, you put it better than I ever could.

      You can either have a little geek or a lot of geek in you. Just because someone may not be into something a full-on geek would, doesn't mean we have to chastise them. Some could say the same about me. Like some have said, it's all about passion. You can be passionate about Dr. Who, Star Trek/Wars, and comics. Or, you could be passionate about just Star Wars/Trek. We all have a little geek in us.

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  2. Jen,
    This is an interesting post. I've never really thought of myself as a geek and still don't really. I've only recently been introduced to things like Star Wars, Firefly, and Buffy, and I'm 31. However, I can understand the comfort that there is in having a community of like-minded individuals. I'm not sure that a label like "geek" that is becoming more and more abstract is a necessary element of that community, though, but I could be wrong. I think that as long as you're following your heart and reaching out to other people with similar inserests, we can all feel as if we belong somewhere.

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  3. I personally use the term nerd for myself. I started out as an academic nerd with a passion for history and then became obsessed with traditional geeky things many years ago. But, to me a geek is more interested in the sciences, computers, techy, things while nerds are interested in the humanities, comics, etc.

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    1. Ditto. I have never felt like "geek" has described me and I think the current meaning feels even less like me. I still feel like a nerd, though.

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  4. I would agree that "geek" has become much more of a general term for a person who has interests that were considered, at one time, to be less-than-popular. I think a big part of this community is finding joy in the differences and secretly (or not so secretly) trying to win everyone over into your own special niche.

    That being said, I can see that one of the reasons folks might be a little more defensive about how popular geekdom has become is because they're *used* to being alone or in very intimate settings. Another would be time invested. For example, maybe you were a hardcore Thundercats geek back when it first aired. You painstakingly recorded all the episodes on VHS each week. You wore out those copies from watching them so many times. You took dozens of hours to make a costume of it. Anyone new to the show can just use Hulu or Netflix to discover the series, watch the entire thing in a matter of days, and buy a costume online.

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  5. It's always been a challenge to fit in when you have interests that differ from the crowd. As geek culture becomes more mainstream, I occasionally find myself fitting in a little easier. Not because I've changed who I am, but because other people are more open to exploring new interests. I've always believed that if the masses weren't so afraid of being themselves, more people would be like me. It's sad that so many women feel the need to limit themselves to what's popular - they are missing out on a world of fun and interesting things. I hope that with "geek" being not quite so taboo anymore, more women feel free to discover who they really are. I still don't fit in at the office most of the time. The star wars mug and lego calendar on my desk aren't big conversation starters in a prominently female office managing fashion apparel. But, at least some of my co-workers also thought Thor was hot. It's a start, right?

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  6. I have never labeled myself as a geek, and I refuse to do so because I'm always afraid of being judged "not geeky enough". So I like what I like and I leave what I don't. In recent years, I have been on the outside of different internet communities, most not particularly geeky, but fringe interests all their own. I have left most of them too, because 1. I am not very gifted at connecting to people through screens (point against geekiness, mmorpgs scare me), and 2. those communities eventually seemed defined by their defensiveness, cliquishness, and anger.
    So I may be a devoted fan of Benedict Cumberbatch and really disappointed in how bad the Percy Jackson movie was, and I may call myself a Browncoat all day long, I definitely shy away from the term geek.

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    1. My thought exactly Kandyce.

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  7. I loved Felicia's statement, partly because it addressed some of the backlash some geek hipsters are feeling toward the mainstreaming of geek culture. On the other hand, I have concerns when a group defines itself by what it has been denigrated for. Maybe it's intended to be something similar to African-Americans taking back the n-word, but it doesn't align with my experience. I was never teased for being smart. I was told I was fat (which I'm not) and ugly (which I'm not), but I wasn't teased for being smart or for liking to read incessantly. Does that mean I'm not a geek because I wasn't teased with the word? Maybe that means I'm a geek fan-girl, since I love geek culture (smart and funny, what's not to love?) but it hurts a little to hear that because I don't conform to someone else's definition of geek, I'm not one.
    Heh... maybe the judgment that I'm not geeky enough to be a geek is the judgment that allows me to say "your judgment is not my problem."

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  8. I have a feeling that we won't need to do either, rename or reclaim. If we just keep being who we are and loving what we love, we will be geeks long after the current mainstream popularity of any given subject. Like Barilla said above, it isn't as much about what we like as it is that we like it whether others do or not. Liking Star Trek right now doesn't make you a geek or a faux-geek or whatever. I am excited to have so many people to go to the movies with since my fandom is popular right now! But in 15 years when the new Star Trek movies look as dated as STNG does today and popular culture has moved on to something else, I will still get together with my friends and watch them with brownies (our tradition), and quote lines, and all the good geek pass-times. Along with our other great qualities, geeks have staying power!

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  9. You know what I wish? I wish that in high school I'd been more open about who I was and what I liked. In high school, I adored comic books, manga, computers, and video games, but because I felt that was not "girly" type stuff, I was sure I'd be ridiculed for it. Maybe that would have happened. I don't know. Because I never put myself out there and instead I hid myself from everyone and wondered why they couldn't actually see me.

    I don't really know if this has much to do with the topic at hand. (My computer seems to have decided that I'm not going to have sound on this particular load up, so I'm going to have to restart.) But I've heard Felicia Day speak before about lack of role models and the exclusion of some geeky-types over others. The first comment I see mentions how she doesn't play games or isn't into comic books. Personally, as a more traditional geek, I say that's okay! You know a geek when you see one. Most people assume I'm quiet until they get me on a topic I'm enthusiastic about and then WHOA. Suddenly I have a personality. Even if they aren't into what I'm into, they still respect it. Which is why I totally wish now I hadn't repressed myself in high school. I could've been cool before it was cool to be a geek, lol.

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  10. Love these comments! I'm not sure what I have to say will be as eloquent, but here goes:

    My whole life, I was teased and called a nerd. I have always felt like an outsider. I'm extremely quiet, shy, and awkward. I'm passionate about reading and writing and always have been but I've never really "put that out there." I've never gone to a writing convention.

    When I see the modern definitions of nerd/geek it makes me feel like even more of an outsider. I'm not into Star Wars or Star Trek or any other sci fi; I'm smart but I'm not THAT smart, especially about science and math. I'm not a gamer. I appreciate how cool Steampunk looks but I'm not really into it.

    I guess what I'm saying is, I don't fit into any other group, but I'm not sure where I fit in the "geek" community either. As Meg Ryan says in French Kiss, "I am currently without country."

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  11. Geek is about self-identity. Who are we to say someone else is not a geek, if that's how they see themselves? We, as geeks, need to be accepting of differences in all their forms.

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    1. My thoughts exactly. How can we say that we are accepting of others into our enjoyed subjects, if we are then going to say "hang on a second, too many people are calling themselves geeks, we need some kind of rules." Do we have to earn geek status now? It's a bit high school to be honest, 'ooh I'm popular enough to hang with the cheerleaders!' only it's gone the other way and the geeks are the awesome ones!

      One of the nicest things about a lot of geek 'groups' is that they are excited when someone else gets interested. I mean of course you get the sneerers, but you get them everywhere and hopefully they're the minority. That's how I've experienced it. I hope this makes sense, I'm not always very good at putting my point across.

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  12. I know sports fans who are super passionate about their teams, but they're definitely not considered "baseball geeks" or whatever. I think the geek thing has to do with sci-fi or fantasy-related things. Steampunk, Disney, comics, anime, video games are all geeky because they're not real-life, they're imagined things. There are probably exceptions to that definition too, but I guess that's how I see it. Then again, you could probably be a PEZ geek if you like PEZ dispensers...and now I don't know what it is. Geek:Mainstream::Hipster:Mainstream - it's a sliding scale, but it's not mainstream.

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  13. To me "geek" means "knowing a lot about". So someone who watches Game of Thrones but can't remember which episode such-and-such an event took place in wouldn't be a Game of Thrones geek, whereas someone who knows the series in-depth, either encyclopedically or analytically, could describe themselves as a Game of Thrones geek. Either might be a [something else] geek though.

    I love fantasy, but I am a psychology geek (and trust me, generally people no more want to hear about the real-world implications of differing working-memory capacities (though it explains so much!) than they do about which characters appear in both The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion (I don't know)). Knowing so much about something that your conversation on the topic can easily be off-putting to anyone who knows little is partly where the term originated as an insult, and I'm sure it's only through mistake that it's become associated with certain specific interests.

    So I don't know. It's a shame to see people fighting over who gets to be seen as the weirdest or the biggest social outcast though, that suggests to me that they might be better off analysing themselves a little to figure out where that need to be the biggest freak has come from. But then I would say that.

    Kind of on-topic, NSFW, the mighty Queerer Than Thou: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_F3iev3Nlc

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    1. I love this definition! ...there's a little geek in everyone.

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  14. I'm a little late to the geek party. A few years ago I might have mumbled that I played D&D style RPG video games...sometimes. Now I'll talk your ear off about them and tell you why I think they are so great if you let me. It's led me to discover new things and groups of people that I probably wouldn't have had the confidence to do if being geeky was a "thing" a the moment. I've embraced a side of myself that I wasn't so sure about before.

    As for the term, personally I use it as a general descriptor. Yeah, I'm geeky/nerdy. If someone is interested I'll tell them what I'm into. Kind of like if someone asks me where I'm from, I just say Texas. I don't immediately go into details about my hometown unless they ask.

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  15. I wasn’t a geek growing up – just weird. In high school I joined up with theater (tech) kids because they were welcoming, and we had a lot of fun together. Nowadays many of my HS friends would be called goth. I wouldn't, but we got along because everyone was non-judgmental.

    Mostly, I identify myself as an engineer, because it’s so descriptive. But I’ve been told numerous times that I’m not a typical engineer (too personable, ha!). I found many of my life-long friends in engineering school. But I wasn’t really a nerd either. I’m just good at math/science (it comes easily to me), and I skated through school. I’ve recently developed interests in Star Wars, LOTR, and astronomy, but don’t base my friendships on it largely because I don’t know others who enjoy these things. My husband does, though, and that’s part of what drives the interest.

    I read your blog mainly because I appreciate your inclusiveness. I’m not much of a geek, but your blog is inspiring on many levels: including people / standing up to bullies and also jewelry / craft ideas. I’ve been accused of having a “sick sense of humor” probably largely due to The Far Side, and I enjoy your jokes. I get a laugh looking at men dressed up like Disney princesses (for example).

    If I can fall into the generalized geek category, I'd have to agree with the commenter who thinks it’s about wanting to share what we love. I’ve recently been posting cool astronomy stuff on pinterest / fb (like the Smithsonian.com article showing pictures of major world cities without any light pollution) and get disappointed when no one cares. And it brightens my day to read an article about why people are so drawn to Gandalf, because it's nice to see people talking about cool stuff like that.

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    1. I just have to say - I clicked on that article link - and it is AMAZING! I would love to have a print of one of those hanging in my apartment!!!

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  16. It sometimes grates on me when I hear about people who are suddenly 'really geeky' or 'really nerdy', but I usually shrug it off. If they're genuinely into a thing, whether they're new to the party or they've been there for years, then awesome. Welcome aboard. If their hearts aren't really in it, then they'll bounce off to the next Big Shiny New when it comes along. I don't think we need to re-brand as a community. Thanks to the interwebs, we're pretty good at finding our own.

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  17. I don't consider myself a geek. I subscribe to some geek-related interests, but I don't bear the hallmarks of geekdom, which to me include seriously deep interests in the sciences, technology, and math, which then give way to interests in fantastical versions of these subjects like comics, gaming, cosplay, and gadgetry. That geeks have become successful in marketing their interests in fun ways just proves their intelligence as worthwhile to society, but society at large cannot simply jump on the bandwagon and claim to be geeks because they like what's come out of that culture.
    I married a geek. He was a nerd in school, with the weird sense of humor (which I immediately took to when I met him in freshman year), and the mind-boggling retention of facts that nobody else cared about. He was hacking before most people knew what a PC was. Since we got married our dining room table has hosted most of our friends' computers at one point or another (it even survived one of them catching on fire), and our driveway has had its share of broken cars brought in for examination. We follow geeky blogs, hang out with engineers and techies, love the films and shows and to a lesser extent the games and comics, we've got the mugs and the t-shirts and get all the "inside" jokes. We're homeschoolers, for pete's sake!
    I've always gravitated to the nerd section. I can sew you a mean costume, crosstitch an irreverent sampler, find a tasteful way of integrating a velvet painting of the alien queen into your living room decor. I'm a professional ballet dancer by trade, with a love for acting. It's my love for my husband that has drug me much deeper into the geek culture than I ever would have gone on my own (but perhaps with my taste in men, this was inevitable?). No, I'm an artist. And I will not fix your computer.

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  18. I'm unabashedly geeky - but I do find with the explosion of geek I end up labeling my own obsessions more often. For example, I'm not a huge gamer (first person perspective makes me heave, so there's 75% of the games right out - which sucks, because that means no Bioshock for me), but I am crazy geeky about animation. I can't recite all of the Star Trek TOS episodes by heart, but I'm a huge data nerd. Geek is such an all-encompassing term these days, so sometimes specialised labelling helps to find people who are into the things that I'm into or to find common ground with those that aren't. I might not have super film-nerd cred, but I can find that overlap in the ven diagram with someone who's into classic films by talking about Termite Terrace, or with a maths nerd by ranting about statistical methods. I think its really exciting that geek culture has grown so much that there's now a critical mass of geeks in just about anything worth obsessing over (and quite a few things that aren't ;). Incidentally, grammar geeks - do you put a closing parentheses after an emoticon or not? I never know.

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    1. Emoticons are not standard grammar (yet), so there are not standard rules. However, as you are essentially using the accident of the shapes of the punctuation marks to create a picture, not using them to demarcate your grammatical units in the sentence, I think it makes sense to have a closing parentheses following an emoticon. To avoid looking like you have a double chin, you might add a space or two in-between, or have your emotion rotated 180 degrees. (-:

      My language changes.
      Aristophanes wonders
      why his colon sees.

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    2. (Another option is to close your parenthetical statement before you emote.) :-)

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  19. I love a lot of things associated with geekiness, but I just don't possess the Special Interest gene that allows you to take the step from 'love' to 'obsession'.

    Funnily enough, I've actually had to work on admitting my love for popular, mainstream things rather than obscure ones: Those, I always proudly displayed as a sign of my vast intellect. I was an insufferable hipster child (before it was cool, naturally) who couldn't tolerate anything widely appreciated among other children.

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  20. As a current high school student, my opinion would be that we should neither rename or reclaim the geek community. We should just continue being accepting and kind to everyone who has a passion for geekery, which could include anything really! Before I moved to high school I was teased and occasionally bullied for liking reading and other "uncool" things. The crazy thing I am ashamed to say is that earlier I even made fun of the kids who liked Sci-fi and such to hide that I secretly liked it too. I had an idea that people who were "nerdy" were automatically weirdos or not cool partly because that idea was spread to me through media and society itself. As I grew older and geekiness became more accepted I learned that it was okay to like those things, and it was even cool! I met people in high school like me, and that helped me to come out of my shell. Yes, there are still many people at school who think badly of me because I am "nerdy." But I have learned to ignore judgement like that because I know there are more people who also think the things I love are great too. Now I proudly call myself a geek. To me the term means someone who is not only enthusiastic about anything unique but is also happy to share that love with anyone who likes it too. That is why I think the geek, nerd, fangirl/boy, or whatever you want to call it (really, shouldn't they all mean the same thing?) needs to continue being accepting of anyone who has geeky interests or likes anything out of the norm. If I hadn't found such a great geek community through things like Epbot I would never have realized how happy these things make me. I know there are kids like I was out there who need the support of people like themselves too.
    -Kate

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  21. I’ve always wondered what exactly makes a geek geeky, so this post and the comments are enlightening. For me, it’s just been a feeling of always being different from the majority. I know that the people I’m most like have been described as nerdy, dorky, geeky, and awkward, so I figure I must be all of those things, too.

    I have also been wondering about Jen’s second question for years now. How exactly do I go about connecting with fellow geeks, and more specifically, how can I find my geek-girl soulmate? I’m so glad that Jen is bringing this up in a post, and I can’t wait to read all the comments here.

    I suggested last month (March 18) in the comment section that it would be fantastic if there was a way for Epbot readers (and other geeks) to connect. Since this post is partially about this very topic, and I know my comment will get more attention here than where it was, I’d like to repost most of what I wrote then so that hopefully it will be seen by more readers and commenters.

    I first asked Jen if she’d be interested in devoting a page on Epbot to readers looking for friends. She said that she’d love to do it, but the logistics would be a nightmare because of the number of people who would want to submit a profile. She suggested setting up a Facebook page for local readers.

    And here’s an abbreviated copy of my reply:

    Surely (and don't call me Shirley) you have some fans of CakeWrecks and Epbot who have the expertise, the desire, and the time to create a website where your readers can connect. Maybe they would be willing to donate their services or maybe someone could set up a Kickstarter (with your blessings) to fund the project. I know most dating websites require membership fees for full access, so we could offer six months, or so, of free access to anyone who contributes a certain dollar amount.

    I already tried sweetongeeks.com and gk2gk.com (geek to geek), but both definitely cater to daters (hah!) and are pretty dead when it comes to the "I'm only here looking for friends" department. I even put an ad on Craigslist and...wow...that is just a *gulp* scary place. Meetup.com didn't work for me either, and Facebook is a website I want to stay far, FAR away from.

    I know you must have plenty of readers in the same predicament as me. It's difficult (near impossible) to find like-minded people in real life. We're shy, dorky, socially awkward, and we don't leave the house enough. Even if we did get out more, some of us live in places that just aren't geek-friendly, so how do we even find each other?

    If anyone knows of an existing website where cool, geeky chicks can connect, please spill the beans!

    I'm happy to read that you're into the idea of this if the logistics can be worked out, because I'm certain it could bring love and happiness to so many lonely and misunderstood people. Some might just want or need a penpal; others might only want someone to go to conventions with. Some might be looking for a local friend to go see a movie with; others will want to search for a soul mate or a lifelong partner in adventure.

    Luckily, I have an amazing husband (whom I met online!) and a beautiful son, so I'm not all alone in the world, but I seriously long for a female friend in my life. I'm 37, and I haven't had a female friend since I was 16, and I swear I'm not THAT unlikable a person.
    -----

    Jen, thanks for letting me put that out there again. If all else fails, the Sweet On Geeks website owner is a self-professed “geek girl,” so maybe she would be into the idea of letting Epbot readers do a two or three month trial membership at her site. (Although, I think the regular fee is only $5 a month.) Should I contact her and try to set something up? It would be so great if all the Epbot (and CakeWrecks) fans posted profiles so we could find each other, learn more about each other, and connect.

    Anyone else have ideas?

    KW

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    1. OMGosh I LOVE this idea. I moved away from my hometown 3 years ago and I am SO lonely. It's really hard for me to make friends because I'm so shy and awkward! Chatting online to my old friends and commenting on websites like EPBOT are all I have!

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    2. Hi, I think this is my first post here. I'm from Brazil, and I've been a geek/nerd/etc for as long as I can remember and I just want to say how brave Jen is for exposing her personal life, her tastes and her experiences to us and how positive it has been. Thank you Jen for being this beacon of light that you always have been.

      Now back to the topic at hand: I absolutely love the think what we need is meetup.com. It's free to join, but paid to organize the meetings, but apparently is nothing related to dating or anything like that, just to bring people with a similar interest closer. What do you people think?

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  22. I'm subscribed to Geek and Sundry but have been swamped with work and didn't see the video. I found and watched it here on your site and wanted to say thank you! I was able to use this in my essay for class on cultural identity. We're discussing labels and cultural aspects, respect and diversity.
    I grew up thinking "geek" was the norm. I loved to read, loved Star Wars and Star Trek (thanks dad,) think Joss Whedon is a genius, and own a tech device for every room, broom closet and nook in my house. I love tech, build computers and decorate my walls with song lyrics. I don't need a label, I know who I am, but sometimes it IS the connection with those who share the same passions that makes the difference. If I wanted to be judged, I'd join a beauty pageant. But I just want to have fun and get to know cool people who share my interests.
    =)

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  23. I'm definitely in the camp of people who believe "geek" refers to one's depth of interest, not the topic in which one is interested. There absolutely are "sports geeks." They're not people who just watch Monday Night football with their friends, they're the people who can recite stats at you at truly confounding length.

    Similarly, someone who owns an Xbox to play with their friends isn't a gamer geek, but someone who can discuss Portal maps in deep detail, who can analyze the story of Bioshock, who knows when the next installment of some obscure Japanese franchise is due, those are gamer geeks.

    And so forth. "Geek" has to do with level of interest more than type of interest.

    While I generally agree with what John Scalzi has to say about things, I'm not sure I'm on board with his idea that "geek" is about sharing one's interests -- I think there can be (and are) solitary geeks who are perfectly content to not share anything.

    Anyway, interesting stuff to think about. Clearly, some of us can talk at some length about what being a geek means. Which means we're likely "geek geeks."

    ;)

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    1. I'm a Cake Wrecks geek. :-)

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    2. I'm a Mozart Geek! I plan on analyzing his 626+ works of music on my site "for fun!" ;)Now that is a level of commitment NO ONE I know is comfortable with. And I think most people think I'm a little eccentric for it.

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    3. I have two Mozart geek friends. :-) If they ever were to meet, I think gorgeous organ music would spontaneous erupt around them. Come quickly, beautiful day.

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  24. Dorks Of The World, Unite!!!

    See, my friends and I never called each other geeks, we've always been dorks and proud of our dorkiness. We always viewed it as, we have interests in so many things but we're not an "expert" at any one thing. It's like we dabble a little bit with these TV shows, these anime/manga, and/or these comics/comic characters. Then nerds were the ones that had a little more dedication to their specific "things" and geeks were the ones that were the expert in one or two "things" and could tell you everything about them and everything that's happening with them at all times.

    Yeah, it's probably a weird and possibly "bad" thing to give fandom a hierarchy but it makes sense to us.

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  25. I loved reading all of these posts! I never put much thought into why I identified with the term geek. In high school I made an effort (sort of) to part of a group, but I quickly figured out that a book loving, physics enjoying, piano playing painter, who enjoyed a dirt bike, fishing, target shooting and hated Phys Ed really didn't fit into any of the other "groups" at school.

    Over the years I've found that other people who were passionate and interesting were the people I gravitated towards and they called themselves geeks so I guess I adopted the term.

    In reading all of the above posts, I completely identify with Joyfulwriter in an earlier post:

    "We like what we like, whatever it is. We aren't afraid to share our likes. And I think we celebrate being smart and passionate and interested, and are always on the lookout for other smart, passionate, interested people. And, more than that, we are optimistic about the future. My geek-girl friends tend to be the smartest, kindest, happiest women I know."

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  26. I'm a fan of an all inclusive term on TOP OF a specialty term. I'm a geek, and a band geek. I have the "traditional" general interests but I also have 10+ years of marching band experience.
    I'm leading a discussion on the ethics of hacking for a group of very much non-tech savvy students and trying to define anything with computer science is a mess. I prefaced my handout with "It is important to note that definitions in the computer programming community are fluid and often non-exact" and I feel like that fits with all of geekdom.

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  27. For years I considered myself a nerd, because I liked learning and did well in school. I'm majoring in aerospace engineering now, so I suppose some would automatically call me a geek. But I'm not. I can't call myself that. I can't obsessively talk about Portal maps (although I've played both games and enjoyed them) or Pokemon (my parents thought it was a waste of money). I have the love of learning, and I love hearing about new things, but there's so much of the culture I haven't caught up on. I /want/ to learn to play D&D, but the only group I know about is all guys, and I'm scared of approaching them because I think I'll look like a fake geek girl.

    Equating "geek" with "outsider" confuses me somewhat, because geeks are happy around other geeks--I mean, I'm happy around other people with the same interest. I like hearing about new physics or astronomy discoveries, and I'm totally psyched for the new Star Trek movie (been catching up on TNG!) but I can't hold my own in conversations about gaming. One of my good friends (who games a lot) one time told me that I'm not a geek, I'm just normal. It almost made me cry. I want to learn, and I want to fit in more, because most of what I see, I like. But, for example, I'd never go to a con, because I'm scared I wouldn't 'get' enough of it and wouldn't fit in. I'm sorry that I don't have time to play Bioshock. I'm learning to be a rocket scientist.

    When so-called geeks get too pissy about the qualifications necessary for a geek--the required depth of interest, as Jed put it above--they exclude those who are interested and want to learn, but aren't quite close enough yet. If we're going to reclaim 'geek,' we should reclaim it to be about the community of people who share things they love, not the community of what used to be outsiders now kicking people out.

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    1. All geeks are different, just as all "geekdoms" are different. In my experience, to be a geek is to accept all, be independent-minded, and be willing to honestly share oneself with others. It is more a perspective than an action or a given interest. I don't see being a geek as equated with being an outsider but, rather, it is sympathizing and helping/being open to the outsider. It is true that many geeks have experienced scorn or have been treated as an "outsider", but that does not define geeks (if it did, we'd all be pretty uninteresting). You don't have to be a gamer (I can't even remember when I last played a video game) or into anime (I'm not), into creative writing, scifi, or into science and math (guilty of this one--solar cells/ materials science/ electronic materials properties).

      I can tell you that there is no need to fear scifi conventions (although some fandoms do have exclusivist reputations). I am a total Stargate SG-1 geek (when I'm not doing schoolwork or research) and have gone to a few conventions. I have gotten into some of the most fascinating conversations (topics spanning the show, religion, policy, science, etc.) at these conventions. Last year, I brought a friend who had only seen a few episodes of the show. She really enjoyed herself and we have been talking about getting a larger group of fellow students to go as a networking event between our departments. That convention, I know, is not exclusivist in the slightest. Also, as a female, I have never experienced sexism within "the community" related to my geeky interests (the same cannot be said about athletic and (from outside the community) science/school interests), although I have friends who have. The best thing to do is to learn about the fandom's culture. One good way to leave yourself with an out if exclusivist or sexist aspects that sometimes disguise themselves as "geek culture" come out is to go to conventions or other events (or ask to play D&D) with a friend or few.

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    2. I often feel left out of geekery because I don't interact with most entertainment media. I don't own a TV, watch few movies, and rarely play the "awesome" games because they tend to be too intense and scary for me, as well as a massive emotional timepit. Mostly these choices have been to reduce unnecessary mental clutter in my life . . . but then that also means I don't get the jokes. If it wasn't for Cake Wrecks, I still wouldn't know what "huge tracts of land" refers to.

      It refers to cake in the shape of golf mounds, right? With the little old golfer curled into the warm crease of the soft, dark underside of the mound? I hope so because I ordered a "huge tracts of land" cake recently for granddad's 80th. We'll see how it turns out.

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  28. I'm so glad you brought this up.

    To me being a geek is really about a community that is created through people coming together to sincerely share what they like.

    Lately though that sense of togetherness has muted into some stereotypical cool table that is getting choosier and choosier over who's geek enough to sit with us. It's like now that we geeks are popular or at the very least, mainstream, we've forgotten what it's like the be the outsiders.

    So if someone new expresses an interest in your geek areas of expertise, don't shut them out because they haven't spent as much time on it as you have because we were all noobs once.

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  29. It's always so interesting for me to read discussions like this, because my idea and understanding of 'geek' tends to be so broad.

    Lately it's been intriguing to watch the word evolve into the new label it's becoming. The last time it was this sort of label it was to describe a circus/carnival performer, usually with a more derogative slant. Then it was to a derogative term for an intellectual. Now it's turning into a term for a community.

    It's interesting seeing how the word evolves, how individuals decide to define it, who identifies with the word and who doesn't, and their reasons for doing so.

    However, to me, 'geek' is more of a noun and less of an adjective. It's a person having a passion and sharing their passion with others of the same/similar passions. To me, 'geek' doesn't describe me as much as it describes an act I do regardless of how 'obscure' the subject is.

    I've seen a group of people sitting around a television, watching the big game, sharing the same sort of joy/community I feel when I'm really getting into a good pen&paper rpg session or various other hobbies/activities I share with others. To me this is all just the act of 'geeking out.'

    It's the adjectives and other 'labels' that define, help us find, and connect with each other.

    I don't type 'geek' to find others who have a passion for traditional artistry or a passion for Ni No Kuni or for Star Trek. I have to be more descriptive than that.

    If someone says to me: I'm a geek! It means very little to me as everyone that has and shares a passion is a geek.

    If someone says: I'm a DizGeek/car nut/gamer. Now I'm getting a better idea.

    While I find the topic interesting I'm not sure I like the term 'geek' as a label/adjective. I'm much more comfortable with it being a noun. An act. An idea. It's cleaner that way.

    ----------

    I've typed this thing out so many times in response to these discussions that have come up so often in the blogs and articles I read. But I never push send or publish.
    It always seems so different to what other people are saying that I think my way of thinking is wrong. I'm afraid of being flamed by peers I've come to respect and like.

    So here's to actually having and sharing an opinion for once.

    -Eve

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  30. I think part of the problem is that humans as a species just LOVE labels. Our brains are lazy, so to speak, and sticking things and people into categories defined by traits (Stereotypes) makes things easier. Then we don't see a person, we see a stereotype. I'm doing my PhD on this stuff, and it's been rather alarming/enlightening to see just how naturally people will judge based on a label (even without knowing it) rather than on the person standing in front of them. Now the stereotypes are changing, the geek label is becoming cool, and many of the people who defined themself, or a part of themself, by this label are feeling the ground shift underneath their feet (end academic blabbering).

    I've always identified as a geek, never been teased or ridiculed for it (not when there were so many other things for bullies to focus on, sigh), but have had a similar experience with the 'goth' label that some geeks may have had.
    I have/like a number of things that would be used to define 'goth' - the literature, aesthetics, and seeing the beauty in the macabre - but I don't look like one (Australia in the summer is not a goth-friendly place. Besides, I like my jeans). 'Non-goths' would think I was a goth, and goths that fit the stereotype more closely than me thought I wasn't goth, or was a wannabe.

    It took a while during my teens to realise that I didn't have to fit every aspect of the subculture to consider myself gothy, and even longer to realise that that was ok. Now, while I still call myself a nerd, geek, etc, I find that more often I think of myself as a person who loves (insert stuff here). I love Doctor Who (number 10 is my favourite) but I'm not too fond of the older seasons. And that's ok. I can still discuss the later episodes with those who followed it from the beginning, I love hearing about their favourite episodes, and I love getting non-fans excited about it (whee, more converts!). I like star wars and star trek, and while I'm not a huuuuge fan, hey, that's still an awesome jedi costume dude, how did you make the lightsaber? I haven't read the Silmarillion (yet, it's on my to read list) but I'd love to hear what you thought of it, and can talk your ear off about the prosthetics techniques used in the movies. I can't fix your computer, but I can tell you millions of psychology facts.

    So, to sum up all that brain vomit, I like what I like. If you know more or less about it than me, awesome, let's have a chat. If you like something completely different to me, cool, maybe one or both of us will come away with a new interest. If people are geekier-than-thou, well, I'm betting I wouldn't get along with them anyway. And if (as it seems some people are concerned about) geeky is becoming mainstream, hells yes! I can get more awesome stuff for less money, and people who may be 'faking' an interest in geek culture will either go away eventually or develop an interest. In which case, more people to talk shop with!

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  31. I want to share a couple things I've read on the interwebz that influence me to go, yeah, Felicia's right, let's reclaim this!
    Whenever I have a geeky moment, it seems that the only reference people can come up with is, "Like Big Bang Theory!" No, not like BBT. I watch the show, but it feels like they stereotype geeks and make fun of us. Here's a great blog post exploring this and comparing it to Community, which embraces geek culture. Problem with Big Bang Theory
    On pinterest, I found an infograph comparing nerds and geeks, and basically they boiled it down to geeks being up on Apple technology and nerds being into math. It's the only thing I've ever pinned in anger, with my own note: "You confused geek with hipster. You're not cool enough to be a geek." (here's that, if you want a hipster definition of geek vs nerd)

    I feel like I'm more nerd than geek, but mostly because I am married to a self-proclaimed computer geek (who abhors Apple and likes to break things so that he can make them work the way he wants). I'm more academically inclined-- I'm a total Anglophile; I love the BBC and Jane Austen and Harry Potter. I think labeling for the sake of finding each other would be okay, as we aren't all the same type of fanatic. Yes, the husband and I are geeks, but you'd think we shot someone when we said, "Eh, not into comic books, sorry." "Impossible! You have to like comics! You like computers!" Who says? Is there a checklist of, "Must like Star Trek AND Firefly to receive invite to geekdom?" I'm enthusiastic about a lot of things, but it takes a lot of focus to know those Hogwarts facts, I can't have the same fervor for everything. I feel like, be who you are... the label won't matter.

    Jen: Real world geeks ARE hard to find. We need signs for each other! (Like the Deathly Hallows symbol! -- can you tell I'm mostly a Potterhead?) It's so much fun when you do find others. I'm a relatively new Doctor Who fan. One of my students at school had a TARDIS on her bookbag, so we've had several Doctor Who conversations and jokes passed along to each other. During a major snowstorm, a neighbor made a Snow Dalek in his yard. (It was awesome; I even wrote him a fan letter.) When I showed pictures of the Dalek to my student, I made connections with five other students who had found each other (and then found me). You don't think of meeting 5th grade Doctor Who fans. Heck, it was a surprise to find a Whovian in walking distance of my house. But geeks are so wonderful-- if you put yourself out there even a little, that piece of common ground makes an instant friend.

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    1. Thank you for your wonderful, wonderful BBT post. Thank you for not being too modest to link to it.

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  32. I can't add much that hasn't already been said...but we need to stop with the "real geek" and "fake geek" nonsense. I'm never going to say, "We need a new name for "woman" because some women are idiots, or "We need a new name for "teacher" because some teachers are annoying" or "Let's rename our state because we don't like our governor"...

    I'm a geek. Why do we need to define exactly what that is? Once we start making rules about who IS and who ISN'T a geek, we are no better than any other cliquish, exclusionary group. Most of us spent high school dealing with being left out...I don't EVER want to make someone else feel like that.

    Instead of thinking of certain people as "fake geeks", I like to think of them as newbies. I discovered in early childhood the wonders of a geeky existence. Some people just take a little longer to get there! I hear it all the time--"I thought Buffy the Vampire Slayer was so stupid but all my smart friends seemed to love it so I watched an episode, and wow, it's awesome!"

    They aren't fake geeks. They're developmentally delayed :) They are gradually coming around to our way of thinking. And our way of thinking generally rocks. I am surrounded by friends and family who are exceptionally bright, funny, creative, accepting, warm, and altogether wonderful.

    Over Spring Break I went to visit my brother's family. I was telling them about my latest steampunk adventure, and my geek brother said, "You're such a geek." My four-year-old niece says, "What's a geek?" I said, "A geek is someone who gets to read comic books and play dress-up even after they're grown-ups!"

    I don't have time to dither about correct definitions and exclusionary labels. Comicon is coming. I have to go glue some LED lights onto my Steampunk Hoth Princess Leia blaster now. Tootles.

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    1. LOL!! Yes, just yes. I love the idea of new geeks being "developmentally delayed". With the right attitude and the awesome inclusiveness that is geekdom we'll get them there. :)

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  33. I love this!!

    I agree with the sentiments people have already expressed about that really no matter the terms we use to reach out to other people, as long as we just keep loving the things we love, it's all gravy.

    I use the words nerd/geek pretty interchangeably depending on if I'm talking more academic endeavors or pop cultures for myself. The only resistance I've gotten from that is in two situations: a)people who use alternative terms (jock, cheerleader, etc.) as a reason they don't understand what I'm talking about or b) when others in the communities invoke the Geek Hierarchy. As in, "I'm not a nerd, I'm a geek."

    The first, it's cool, let me talk about what I love then you can talk about what you love, and even if we confuse each other we can share our passions and joy and that's always a good thing.

    The second drives me batty. Who cares what term it is, or what differences you think you see between us, let's just share our passions and joy and revel in the bliss of understanding each other!

    It's like defining a difference between an artist and a crafter. Silliness! We are both creating things; we both hold visions in our head and are frustrated when they don't come out as we intended no matter how much people tell us it's wonderful; we both work hard and put our heart and soul and blood and sweat into creation because we see a need for it in the world and in our lives.

    Let us support and encourage, share and learn, revel and celebrate with each other!

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  34. Wow, Jen. This is a very inspirational and eye-opening topic. Loving all the comments so far!

    I've kind of always been a geek in some ways. My first actor-crush I can think of is Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: A New Hope. I was a tom boy growing up. I would rather be outside playing dinosaurs in my sandbox than I would playing dress-up and Barbies with my friends, (even though I did all three with them) who were mostly your typical girly-girls to some extent. Discovery channel was my absolute FAVORITE, and I always watched the shows about all the random animals, and especially the dinosaur specials when they were on. I thought I was going to be a paleontologist when I grew up. The Jurassic Park franchise, Legend of Zelda anything, Disney movies, were awesome! I read books like "Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights" and "Animorphs" and the Harry Potter series.

    I've always had a HUGE interests in dinosaurs, horses, and other animals. The girls in my grade school classes who openly liked horses were viewed as 'fat', 'ugly', or 'weird' so sometimes I pretended I didn't like them as much as I did, in grade school. I was pretty smart. I wasn't at the top of my class or anything, but I liked being smart and knowing about things (mostly random animal facts I learned from watching Discovery). I was also freakishly tall all through grade school. (like when they would ask everyone to line up by hight on picture day, I would just walk to the front of the line, with everyone else - even all the boys! - behind me) Some kids exploited the fact that I was so tall by using me as a wind shield and other things.

    I am a natural blonde, and I'm also pretty (that feels weird to say - because most of the time I don't think so - but deep down, I know I am). In middle school, I got made fun of for being a "dumb-blonde" even though I wasn't dumb. That got my defiant, stubbornness going. By high school, I purposely pushed myself to go against the grain, and like things that no one else was into, just to be different. To go against what people seen on the outside (tall, blonde, pretty) and be more open to the things that interested me. I played Zelda and Mario games, I liked random bands no one had ever heard of. I boycotted the pop music station until just recently (I'm still boycotting Starbucks to this day). My friends called me 'punk' and my family calls me 'alternative', but I don't have a mohawk or gaged ears or anything.

    I've always been artistic. A few years ago I fell in love with (again) The Lion King, and the night after watching it with my other married friends, I joined The Lion King Fan Art Archive and started drawing lions and other animals secretly. Now my whole family and a lot of others know. AND it inspired me to start drawing again, digitally this time!

    One time, I showed all my co-workers a digital art piece I did of a velociraptor from Jurassic Park III. ( you can see it here ). When my boss seen it he was like, "Wow, I had no idea you were such a nerd."

    I smiled at him happily and said, "Yes. Yes I am."

    I am a photographer/wife/artist/mountain biker/animal-lover/dinosaur fanatic/steampunk obsessed/nerd/geek. And I am no longer afraid to show it or talk passionately about it. I embrace it. Others should too.

    Like Jen, so eloquently said: "We're geeks, and I like to think we know who we are and what that means. Whether we find a new label or reinvent this one, I believe as long as we remember the ultimate goal: of sharing our passions and banding together to encourage others to do the same - we're going to be just fine."

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  35. Storm the KlingonApril 4, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    ARGH. I've bitched about this before, but here I go again; WHEN and WHY did the word "GEEK" start applying to NERDS, and worse still, when did NERDS start SELF-IDENTIFYING as geeks?! For real, will someone please tell me?

    GEEKS were sideshow performers that bit the heads off chickens and other disgusting, shocking acts, for money.

    GEEK was what you called someone that was a dork, physically awkward, a bumbler, unkempt/smelly, somehow unappealing. It was ALWAYS used as a straight-up insult.


    GEEK HAS ALWAYS BEEN A NEGATIVE WORD, something you called someone you found utterly unlikeable. "GEEKING OUT" was the act of acting like an idiot that no one wanted to be seen with. And to be female and called a geek? [shudder] You were obviously a MESS.

    NERD has always meant and will always mean "a very smart person who likes science fiction and stuff instead of the same goofy crap Normal People enjoy". Usually, someone who called you a nerd was just jealous that you were so much smarter than they were; it didn't make it any more fun to be insulted, but at least you knew that it meant you were smart, and not necessarily awful to be around. If some mundane needed help with a school project or they'd fail, they knew who to ask-- a nerd. The people who invented to the tech and created the wonderful works of fiction that spawned everything we love about Genre Stuff today were all nerds (Now, Bill Gates, bless him, that dude was a straight-up GEEK, and still is). NERD HAS A GRAND TRADITION AND A LEGACY OF PRIDE!

    I don't know, it must be a generational thing (I'm turning 45 in a month), but seriously, "geek" as a positive word just snuck up on me somehow in the past decade, and I've been going to cons longer than many of you have been alive. Is it an empowerment thing, like Wiccans "taking back" Witch, or gays "taking back" Queer? How can you be truly proud of what you are if you use a word to describe yourself and what you love that is SO vile in its origin? I blame the whole hipster/irony trend of Liking the Unlikeable Because It's Ironically Hilarious. If everyone's SO worried about Geek being appropriated by mundanes trying to be hip, then hey, why not go back to Nerd? Because then you will know who the REAL hardcore are, and let the poseurs keep posin'.

    [shrug] Call yourselves what you like, ladies. But there were/are generations of nerds, male and female, who suffered being called a nerd for your right to be nerdy with PRIDE. Calling yourself something that people that find you ridiculous has called your kind *as an insult* completely twists my mind, as well as my knickers. You can call me the B-Word or the C-Word, and I won't bat a lash; call me the G-Word, and I'll 'ave you.

    Your Sister in Nerdgirlish Pride,

    Storm the Grouchy Old Klingon Nerd

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    1. LOVE your comment! I'm gonna have to show this to my husband. My Mom calls him "Nerd Boy" because she is from Mexico and anyone who is very intelligent (especially in the sciences) is a Nerd. This is a good thing in Mexico. They don't have any words in Spanish that has a negative connotation for smart. There's really only "intelligente." To them, it means you're gonna get a good job and manage other people. However, the term geek I think just means "esoteric and insane level of interest" in a specific topic. So I think you can be a geek on ANYTHING. You can be a Beethoven geek, a foodie geek, or a sport geek. But yes, the term has been used for very negative reasons.

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  36. As I know them, geeks

    -- value knowledge
    -- never scorn others for valuing knowledge
    -- value intricate knowledge
    -- persist
    -- mix goofy with serious in correct proportions and without guilt

    I suppose there's more, but I ran out of hyphens.

    Noni

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  37. I have problems with the word "geek." Mostly because I see it being applied to people who just have focused interests. Maybe it's just my personal bias. I don't feel like the term "geek" applies to me. I don't find anything wrong with the community but it's just not a word that I feel describes me. Yet, because I like to read old science fiction books and I like goofy movies from the 80s (Ghostbusters and Princess Bride come to mind), people like to identify me in that subculture. Why do I have to be a part of something just because I like stuff? I'm not offended by being identified as geek but I don't feel particularly like I belong there either. Why can't I make my own decisions about how I identify myself? I just don't equate passion with geek. So maybe the word does need to be refined and re-imagined for a new era of geeks and its popularity. I want people who feel like they have found their community to really have a way of identifying their selves and for people who just like stuff that they like to identify their selves.

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  38. I remember a time when to geek out meant to be excited about something, anything. Maybe this was the mid 90's when people were still using radical. What bothers me is the "meanness" surrounding someone who claims the geek moniker for their love of game of thrones based ice cream flavors, baby sitters club steam punk alternate universe or just plain old scrapbooking more power to them.

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  39. I think it's too slippery a slope to get all "but how do YOU define a geek. I think the prevalence of it is more in that EVERYONE is some kind of geek. Everyone has some topic that they sqee about and have to geek out over. It's just become more acceptable to admit it. All our geekhoods overlap and intersect and to start using isolating terms is to start back with the isolation of the individuals. I don't know how others find like minded individuals, but I find them just fine, never using the word geek in the search terms; so no I don't think we're being lost in the shuffle. I find like minded geeks by going to cons and TALKING to people. I go to message boards on the topic and post (and geek out). I talk about what I'm excited about to non "Xgeek" friends and either their eyes glaze over or they get excited too and want to find out more. My sister when to her first con last year and was absolutely amazed at the atmosphere of inclusion, at how people were happy and friendly and just so darned happy to be geeking out in a crowd. The second we start with the "but they aren't a "real" geek, we loose that. Our local Steampunk club is run by the most annoying chick who spends more time at any given meeting defining steampunk down to (I swear to god) trying to exclude Jules Verne because that's "Squidpunk". Every second sentence is negative, is trying to be exclusive. And you know what that does to the group? Makes us not want to go and be judged and found lacking by some twit that decided SHE got to define something down to the right kind of sprocket being acceptable to be "real steampunk". It's divisive, and the absolute opposite of being a geek. I'm a sci-fi/Star Wars/Trek/fish keeping/historical sewing/cosplay/steampunk/Shakespeare/historical home economics/among other things geek and ANYONE who wants to geek out about any or all of those can find me just fine.

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    1. Storm the Klingon GothApril 6, 2013 at 3:16 AM

      A BIG reason I find myself not really into the whole Steampunk "scene" is that now that it's become hip, there's a whole Steamier Than Thou clique operating within it, much like the Gothier Than Thou refugees from Hot Topic that used to try to read me for being a Neo-Victorian Goth. (Really, Morticia, who died and made YOU so spooky? KICK ROCKS.) For some steamfolk, it took so long to find their niche/clique, they're ridiculously protective of it.

      Besides, I wear black and silver/pewter, not brown and gold/brass. (yeesh) I always end up a Steam Villian of some sort; it's my lot in life.

      Cheers, thanks a lot,

      Storm

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  40. An interesting question, with lots of interesting replies.
    For starters, over the past few years, i've been working onder the belief that the terms geek, nerd, and dork actually refer to different things: a geek is someone who is passionate about something society deems unpopular or whose passion for the subject moves well beyond the levels that most consider normal (Listening to music? Not so geeky. Listening to umpty-eleven bands no one has heard of and getting into massive games of sharing favorite bands and songs like trading cards and knowing what the drummer's new side project is? Pretty geeky). A nerd is someone who takes knowledge and learning, usually academic learning, to a level the society deems unpopular. A dork is someone who's socially awkward in a relatively benign sort of way. It's quite possible to be all 3, but most people aren't.
    That said, i know it's going to take some adjustment for those of us who are accustomed to our interests being denigrated to find ourselves so much in the limelight (some factions of geeks, like furries, are actually just as unpopular as ever). And i can understand the resentment some might feel to those who've joined our world but conveniently got to skip the hard part when folks made fun of us and when finding this stuff took some effort.
    But this state of affairs is temporary; we were unpopular once, there will almost certainly come a time when we're unpopular again. And since to me geekiness is all about degree (which usually includes an element of "omg why doesn't everyone love it as much as i do"), why not use this time period as an opportunity to do the geeky evangelism we all tend to do anyway? If you meet someone who's a fan of X but maybe not an X geek, i'm happy to just welcome them into that part and see if i can show them a new level of geekiness i just know they'd like. You're just discovering furry because you think the disney cartoons are awesome and you're really into puppets and animal characters? Awesome! Welcome to the gang. Now go drool over beautiful artwork by cool ppl like TaniDaReal, Ursula Vernon, and Dark Natasha.
    Note: being a girl with multiple largely non-overlapping unpopular interests (some of them just as unpopular as ever), and being both a geek and a nerd, maybe it's easier than most for me to let one or two interests become popular for a while and not lose my equilibrium.

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  41. Like some of the others here, I use geek and nerd interchangeably, although I know technically there are subtle differences. Either way, it still means someone who's on the outside. Even though it seems like geek has gone mainstream, I think it's just that we are finding (thanks to the internet) more people who share our interests and obsessions so we don't feel so alone. The main thing is that even when we WERE alone, it didn't stop us from loving and obsessing over our passions. We just may not have been as outwardly obvious about it. The biggest challenge I see (as Felicia alluded to) is that now we are specifically marketed to.

    I think the greatest challenge with the mainstreaming of geek is that we do run the risk of alienating people because they aren't geeky enough. I remember watching the first episode of King of the Nerds and feeling horrible for Alana when she was last picked for a team. Do we really want to do that? Remember when we were the outsiders (and in many circles, still are)? Is making someone else stand outside really helping us feel better about ourselves? We as a culture should be embracing anyone who wants to don the mantle. That's what geek culture has always been and should always be about. We don't want to be exclusionary just for the sake of it. Let your geek flag fly, no matter what you geek out about and no matter what level you happen to be at when you claim it.

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  42. In my opinion it shouldn't even matter. Why would anyone care who's using the term and how loosely? It seems petty, and very un-geek-like to me to be bothered by how someone else uses the term, or what tshirt they choose to wear, or how easily accesible it is. All of the friends I would consider "geeks" would be thrilled to know someone else is interested in the same thing they are, no matter how long they've been interested in it. A bigger question this poses for me is, if you're bothered by those things, why? My sense of community isn't hindered by what someone else is doing.

    Nikki T

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  43. I say geek means slightly awkward outside their element, but within it, an absolute ball of enthusiastic energy and knowledge and awesomepants.

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  44. My issue with the "geek" discussion is that it sounds an awful lot like the "feminist" discussion, who is and who isn't and who is but isn't 'good enough.' My take is that there's really no right way to be either, regardless of whatever anyone tries to tell you. And no, there's no way to be a "better" geek or "better" feminist than anyone else. To be a feminist, you simply have to believe that a woman's value and rights are inherently the same as a man's. That's it. To be a geek, you simply have to be unabashedly enthusiastic about something - anything. That's it.

    At least, that's how I've always defined it. In middle school and high school, the cool kids were apathetic or disinterested - at least on the surface - while "geeks" were openly interested in things. My group of friends cycled through being known as "manga/anime geeks," "'Doctor Who' geeks," "music geeks," "theatre geeks," and "'Labyrinth' geeks" in a span of about four years. In reality, we were a larger group of people that had diverse interests, got each other interested in what we liked, and didn't feel the need to hide what we enjoyed. That's it. And to this day, I still love "Doctor Who," "Labyrinth," and certain anime series.

    I'm pretty sure that society-at-large has just recently realized that all the things that go into being a geek - enthusiasm, knowledge, passion, talent, community, creativity - also tend to make you an awesome person, so all the geeks-in-hiding have come out of the woodwork. And I'm okay with that, because it means a lot more creativity and opinion and discussion is out there waiting for me.

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  45. This seems kind of ridiculous to me. Let's start with the fact that you can't "re-brand" geekyness as it isn't a brand to start with, its just a descriptor. Geek describes a person who is passionate about something that interests them regardless of whether it is popular or not. There is another descriptor for someone who is into non-mainstream things specifically to be different, to separate themselves and feel superior, the descriptor is "hipster" and if what you are looking for is to find a word that separates the "true geeks" from everyone else you may label yourself until your heart is content. Me I will stay a geek, a person who loves the things that I love because they appeal to me, not because of how many cool points they get me, and I will share admiration for anyone else who has passion.

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  46. Not sure about anyone else, but my love for something isn't proportionally diminished by more people loving it. Someone not being geeky enough is just another way of saying they aren't cool enough, and all of us who were branded Geeks/Nerds/Dorks to separate us from the cool kids know how that feels.

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  47. Wow Storm the Klingon - I LOVED reading your comment! I think you have it right on. The term "geek" has been so appropriated (and to use a "nerdy" reference), the collective BORG that is society has engulfed the term and re-assimilated it. ASSIMILATE! Lol. ;)
    Anyways, I am not a science fiction/comic book/etc... geek/nerd or anything. My husband, on the other hand is a straight up Trekkie and Science Nerd. If you don't understand science or the scientific method - he'll act like you said his Momma was fat, ugly and dirty. Snap!
    I have always considered myself a curious and intelligent person who sometimes gets labeled as a nerd/geek - but not always. I suppose I don't exude the aura of nerditude.
    But, people have called me a Mozart Geek - because if there's anything I start becoming socially awkward and cray cray over is some good Mozart, opera and classical music.
    Now, when THAT becomes popular - I will be a very happy woman! Then I can go to Mozart conventions and not feel like a total weirdo for getting giddy over a 200+ year old dead dude.

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    1. Storm the KlingonApril 6, 2013 at 3:42 AM

      Go on with yourselves! WORK! I don't know, "nerds" just sound like they have more intrinsic value as interesting, intelligent people than "geeks", which sounds like "that weirdo who likes Trek, I guess he must be smart or something, but what a dork."

      I'm totally serious, though; after attending conventions since '81, I thought I'd heard it all, but I swear to you by the beard of Kahless-- one year, NO ONE said geek, the next year, EVERYONE (under a certain age) was self-identifying as such. Over the course of a year, it was "geek this" and "geek that" and "oh, I geek out over (blank)". It was right about when Comic Con first blew up, now that I think of it; 2004 or 2005, maybe? Was it a meme, and I missed it?


      Confused and entirely too sober,

      Storm the Klingon

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  48. Terms themselves get muddied over time no matter what we do, and I personally don't get offended when someone "misuses" the word geek or claims that I'm not one; the words themselves don't matter to me personally. I know what I like and I tend to like other people who like similar things, whether they call themselves a geek, a nerd, or nothing at all. I also know that someone who claims to be a geek may not have anything in common with me either. I am much more interested in the personality and mutual interests of the people I interact with than the labels.

    However, I certainly understand why people would get hurt if they self-identify as something and are told by others "Nu-uh! You're not that. you don't belong". I also understand usefulness of labels as a means of finding similar people... I just personally don't mind the whole thing much.

    But, if you DO want to find a good definition for the subculture we mutually enjoy, I like the way Chris Hardwick has been defining "nerd" in the latest set of adds for his show, the Nerdist. "If you can obsess over it, dress up as it, talk about it, argue about it, and talk about it some more, we have got you covered!"

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  49. I've learned a lot reading this article and the comments...

    I wish I had something to contribute to the bigger question, What is the nature of Geek? I have only my personal experience to offer... I never felt like I was a true geek because typical things - sci-fi, math & science - were not really my things (although I LOVE Firefly - sci-fi + kissing = awesome). I did feel like an outsider, made friends with outsiders of all kinds, and have always appreciated people who love what they love and are willing to share. I'm more of a literature geek, and I'm sure my people are out there, but I haven't met them.

    I have crushes on Cap'n Mal, Leonard, and Chuck, and I married an engineer. So. There's that.

    What I appreciate on Epbot, as other commenters have said, is the sense that we're all welcome here. I identify with and appreciate things I've never been exposed to, and in a non-creepy way, I feel like I have friends. Internet friends are better than imaginary ones, right? :)

    So whatever you decide to call yourselves, or re-define yourselves as, please keep doing what you're doing. And I'll keep crushing on all the geek hotties :)

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  50. I've taken to calling myself a fangirl, both out of habit from using the term on Tumblr and because I hate getting judged by people for saying I'm a geek. I'm devoted to Doctor Who and fantasy/sci-fi books (*coughcoughharrypotterislifecough*) and enjoy playing certain video games, and haven't taken to comics or Minecraft or Star Trek- but just because I'm not obsessed with those specific things doesn't mean I can't be a member of "geek culture". I'm actually looking forward to starting on Star Wars, which I've never seen at fourteen, after getting interested in it when I went to Star Tours at Disney.

    And personally, I love it when more people like the things I like. Every time I wear a DW shirt I meet at least two new whovians at my school, and have made many friends bonding over our shared interests in TV shows, movies, or books. I'm not going to stop liking Hunger Games because it's "mainstream" now, and I don't like it when others hate on people who have only read the books after seeing the movie. You like the thing, I like the thing, this is good.

    I'm very tired, sorry if this doesn't make sense. But go fangirls/geeks/dorks/nerds/whateverlabelyoupreferinserthere!

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  51. Years ago I went to a Science Fiction convention here in Los Angeles. Now, Sci-Fi fans in L.A. dress up. A LOT! And this convention was one that was proud of hosting ALL fandom - books, media, furry-fen, fantasy, anime, you name it, it's here. We shared the hotel with a concept car show so the folks walking around were three main types: Fandom, engineers and their spouses, and college studs with their bimbos (sorry to stereotype, but there they were in their lettermen jackets, pretty girls on their arms)

    The college kids universally sneered "Oh my god lookit all the WEIRDOS!" flounced away to snicker to each other. The engineers... could be seen watching us with smiles. "Who ARE these folks? They look like they're having fun."

    I had come up with a make-up job and hair covering that mimicked an antelope - fimo horns, my long hair pulled up to become a mane through the back and very striking cream/tan shading with a bold dark brown eye stripe. This older fellow came galloping up to me and asked, "What ARE you?" I hadn't come up with a back story, I'd had a cold that week. "Shame on you, come up with something! Have you read Heinlein, Delany, Asimov (great names from the Golden Age of SciFi) I read them when I was a kid, that's why I became an engineer!"

    Yes!! Folks, THAT is being a geek or nerd. That boundless, joyful enthusiasm about what is and what could be and delight in what someone else has made/built/designed that you didn't happen to build but has fired your imagination. That engineer had never seen fandom, I don't think, but his first reaction was "Wow, cool!"

    So whatever flavor of enthusiasm you've found, go for it! Keep enjoying it, and keep looking at everything with delight. Sometimes you don't have to do it yourself to be able to enjoy it, and that too is something unique to us geeks - Just because it's not something *I* did is no reason not to be impressed and let that person know it.

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    1. Storm the KlingonApril 6, 2013 at 3:21 AM

      I'm trying to find how to translate "You Betta WORK!" into Klingon, but the closest I can manage is "I COMMAND you to WORK!"

      So... WORK!

      Cheers, and costume on,

      Storm

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  52. I understand the point of view behind this type of thinking, but to my mind if we "geeks" decide to make a big deal about the term geek we're only playing into the problem. Trying to own or reclaim the term geek is like saying, "Hey this is our term and no one else can use it unless they obey our rules of what a geek is!" Trying to make it some sort of "call of the outsiders" just further separates people.

    Don't get me wrong, I know this isn't the intent, but it almost starts to sound like we're trying to turn it into some sort of code word so we all know who we can hang out with. I have friends who are geeks and friends who aren't. I don't ask people if they're a geek before I decide to be their friend. Frankly, I've met geeks who I didn't like at all and had no interest in being friends with, or geeks who were on a totally different geek "wavelength" that had no corresponding interests. To me it's more about finding common ground with people.

    I have a friend who loves Street Fighter and complained that there was no scene for it around here. After hanging out in video game stores and fighting game forums long enough he eventually found a group around here and started playing with them. Sometimes it's hard to find people who love what you love, but it's possible. That's true across the board, often regardless of your interests. The internet makes it a lot easier but I don't really think that trying to "reclaim" the term geek would.

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  53. Keep the label and don't worry about who wants to use it. With the internet and universal access to all kinds of music, art and other entertainment, fewer people identify with a single genre.
    I'm all for inclusivity and finding and building on common interests.

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  54. Storm the KlingonApril 6, 2013 at 3:34 AM

    Normal people take everything that is ever cool, mechandise the hell out of it, and drain it of all its coolness or shock value. They did it to black swing music in the 40's, black R&B in the 50's (WHY IS PAT BOONE STILL ALIVE?!), hippie counterculture in the 60's, punk/new wave in the 80's... it never ends. Now normal people who will actually admit they like Trek or Star Wars or D&D or whatever because it's hip (but have little to no actual passion for any of it) are cluttering the aisles, and all the merchfolk come out of the woodworks to cash in on The Hip New Thing.

    Jeez, I'm jaded like an Orion Slave Girl, but it's true; as soon as the mainstream norms find something cool to suck the fun out of, they're on it like lampreys. Look at the hideous logistical messes Comic Con and Burning Man have become, because Straight Media told everyone in the world that ever read a comic book or played a video game or made weird costumes/art that OMG YOU HAVEHAVEHAVE TO BE HERE BECAUSE IT'S THE GREATEST THING EVER, BEING PACKED IN WITH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HERE TO SEE THE SAME PANEL/ATTEND THE SAME EVENT, ALL BEING INDIVIDUALS TOGETHER.

    (growls) Aw, now I'm all angrified in the blood! I need a tonic! YOUTH IS WASTED ON THE WRONG PEOPLE!

    Grrr,

    Storm

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  55. I feel like I'm not brainpowered enough to comment after all these insightful posters before me, ow! But this "what is a [geek / nerd / gamer / etc]?" issue is something I've been battling with pretty much since I first laid my eyes on my cousins' Super Mario Bros. or happened to catch half of Empire Strikes Back as a toddler. I was a girl who'd play with My Little Ponies but also Biker Mice from Mars. I did practically raise my younger brothers though, so everything we did was pretty "gender-mixed" and never frowned upon by anyone in the immediate family (we used to play-act the Lion King a lot, and I always got to be Simba because I had long, brown hair that could be tied up to a mane, hah!).

    The thing is, I live in Finland, and while I never took notice of issues regarding gender normatives or normalcy in general growing up, the circles here aren't that big in the end. You'd be lucky to find another kid who listened to same type of music at your school, let alone the same class - so what are the chances of bumping into someone who would be into some sci-fi film from the seventies? Or weird Japanese "cartoons"? (Mind you, these things that used to be niché and barely available have boomed with the rise of the internet, I'm sure it's not as dire anymore.) Someone commented earlier that they were never bullied for being smart, but rather for being "ugly" or "fat". Same thing applied to me: no one minded that I was the quiet girl spending recess absorbed in books or tapping on a hand-held console. Throughout most of elementary school I was known as "the music geek" for my penchant of popping a pair of headphones on as soon as the bell rung, and that was all in good nature. Meanwhile I was bullied (and bullied some more) over having to wear glasses or having wide hips. Being a geek never got me disrespect - if anything, it made people see me in a more positive light. That's how I feel anyway.

    Despite it all, I've never really shared my nerdiness / geekiness with people. You'd have to be very close to me, or know me through the online communities I visit, to have learned that I love gaming or the X-men, for example. It's not just something that comes up in a normal, small talkish daily conversation. The only label I completely embrace is that of an introverted person - I'd rather spend my Saturday evening at home with the cat and a good novel, but get me started on the Mass Effect series one-on-one and you're in for a ride.

    The thing that's recently been making me more and more shy and closed up though is - and I'm kind of sad to say this, as I love her very much too - the kind of stuff Felicia's saying on the vid. I feel like I'm unworthy of being called a gamer or a bookworm or a sci-fi enthusiast, et cetera. I don't want to "reclaim" the word geek, and I don't need people to look at me through glasses of "is she good enough to join the ranks". I get enough of that playing MMOs, constantly having to prove myself for having been born with XX chromosomes. My best female friend knows that I game and love sci-fi - we don't discuss it in length, but between us it's just the same as the other being into make-up and horror movies. Different interests that don't automatically define us as one entity, but build us in bits and pieces into the personalities we are.

    There's a rather nice study on kids growing up around New Media, if anyone's interested: Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out. It gives a pretty good insight into what some people on these comments have been pondering about the better access and its effect on how people experience and share new forms of culture - or, to quote commenter Ali, how "fewer people identify with a single genre."

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  56. I think we need to reclaim it. In recent years the term has been lost on people who are only a fan of one or two things. They aren't really geeks because they aren't passionate about Sci-Fi, Magic, Fantasy, etc in general but kind of like one or two franchises. I wouldn't consider someone who likes only Game of Thrones a geek or just plays one video game and catches Doctor Who when they can a geek but someone who plans their weekend around the new Doctor Who episode and Game of Thrones while also balancing work, t.v., comics, and video games is a geek. Also I think as geeks we won't simply wear a mass made t-shirt but will go to the ends of the world to find something unique to share our love.

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