The self-proclaimed "Society for Geek Advancement"* has, via a helpful PSA*, been kind enough to inform us that geeks are no longer people who spend far too much time with computers, or who play Dungeons & Dragons, or who engage in/suffer from all other the things with which we have so long identified the term. It seems that the New Geek is a person who knows how to write a blog post, or add a friend on MySpace, or - as the video implies - even use an MP3 player. And - no surprise here - the New Geek looks down on all of those stereotypical Old Geek elements.
So it seems that the term "geek" has now been co-opted by users of "new media" (defined herein as blogs and social networking sites - not "new media" as I had come to know the industry definition of it over a decade ago). By this new definition of "geek," anybody who manages to swim in this century's sea of technology can label themselves such. But the geek stigmas we Old Geeks have suffered with for decades still exist - and the New Geeks still make fun of the Old Geeks.
Of course, I'm typing all of this with my tongue firmly inserted into my cheek. I don't honestly believe that one group's club-handed attempt to "advance" the geek either reflects or has the capacity to initiate a larger popular trend to reassign the label. All of this is really a means for me to sarcastically deride the Society's ill-conceived and shoddily executed attempt to do - well, whatever it was they were trying to do.
You see, I'm offended by this video. I'm offended because it - under the banner of "advancing" geekdom - makes digs at the foundations of true geekdom (although these are, allegedly, intended to be humorous) while simultaneously presenting a series of "pretty people" claiming to wear the badge of "geek." (Some of whom are just geeks, but most of whom wouldn't know a real geek if one put down his polyhedral dice and crawled out of his parents' basement long enough to bite them on the ass.)
Don't get me wrong: I'm not claiming any "geekier than thou" status - even though I do believe it takes more than listening to your iPod or posting to a blog to make one a geek. (And just because you appear in an allegedly pro-geek PSA full of subliminal advertising for Apple doesn't make it any more true or believable.) I'm not upset that these people called themselves geeks. I'm upset because, at the same time, these talking heads derided things that are inherent to so many of us, whether we wear the geek label willingly or not.
I have been called both "nerd" and "spaz." I do play Dungeons & Dragons. I would drink Mountain Dew (if I weren't diabetic). I do speak Klingon (well, a few words - at least enough to get me beaten up by a bunch of costumed attendees in an alley behind a Trek convention). I have suffered from social anxieties. I have been a misfit - and I suppose I still am. I have been teased, picked on, tormented, harrassed, and beaten up for not being like everyone else.
I AM A GEEK!
*Note: I won't post a link to this group's site, nor to the PSA in question. Sorry - if you want them, I'm sure you know how to find them.
Oh, and by the way: this Society's Web site indicates that proceeds from the sale of its t-shirts go to "Room to Read." (At least they've done one thing right.) I happen to work for a not-for-profit company that supports adult literacy programs in the U.S. and abroad. We don't sell spiffy "I am a Geek" shirts (like a geek needs one of these to identify him-/herself) but if you donate, at least you can sleep soundly knowing that 100% of your money is going to help the cause. (As opposed to knowing that some of it might go to help the Society produce more PSA's like this one. /Shudder)
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