“Move!” the oppressive beeper-equipped geek howls in utter contempt at the perfectly inoffensive white collar worker. The worker has been given no chance to do anything, but he is already condemned of failure. The geek, clearly the master of his domain, wishes to make sure all around know who’s the boss of the computer realm in which they aimlessly wander. And all the normal users, with their completely reasonable requests and questions, are incessantly scorned by the geek’s insane derision.
The worst of the geek stereotype, and more, is ridiculed in this popular Saturday Night Live skit by Jimmy Fallon. I greatly dislike such portrayals. This is certainly an exaggeration for comedic effect, but it is funny to people because it has an air of truth to it. My problem is that the truth is not so easily discernible as appears on the surface.
I am a self-admitted geek. I wasn’t so much when I was younger, but I grew into it. I was always smart, and always hid it. It was not until I was out of college and fully immersed in the techno-geek culture through work that I really began to accept the geek mantle. At that time, in the early days of the new millennium, I began talking of the Internet to my college friends, and they would look at me with that oh-so-common look that declared, “Nerd!” I learned not to cross the Internet with the real world.
Nearly ten years later all those friends have found their places on the Internet, mainly due to Facebook. Whereas I hid from my geekdom before, now because the early majority have come around, I have no shame whatsoever in identifying myself as a geek. But despite widespread adoption, when I tell people today they usually respond reassuringly, “Oh, no you’re not.” The stereotype’s negative connotations persist.
On the surface of the stereotype lies the idea that geeks are socially inept. This might have been true once upon a time, but that is simply no longer the case. In my Computer Science class there were probably 120 graduates, and of those only 2 would I say clearly fit the “Revenge Of The Nerds” image – and they were twin brothers. The shy and introverted may gravitate to the facelessness of Internet communication, but a small percentage of the geeks in that world are anything like Hollywood’s lowest common denominator. The lack of socialization skills just isn’t there in numbers. Don’t believe me? Go to DragonCon. Geeky? Yes. Introverted? Not at all. Most people’s geek friends are normal looking, and while perhaps quiet, not anything like the image of the computer scientist circa 1980. So I can shrug off as good fun the thick-spectacled Hollywood archetype as being something with which most people can no longer identify.