Not Just Us Geeks!

So, last week a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to a post written in 2003 about five Geek Social Fallacies. Normally, I might have simply passed an article like this by — thinking it more of a joke than a serious piece — but her Fb tagline caught my eye… effectively stating that reading this made her even more glad that she was “leaving geek culture behind.” Now, it’s certainly her right to leave geek culture – and that’s the last I’ll say about my friend here. Taking the time to read the post though… I have a few problems with the whole thing. And yes, I know it’s older, but I feel as if the same thoughts keep churning in the geek community and I hate to see a recycled idea like this cause anyone pain.

I’m not going to completely rehash the original post, you can follow the link and read it if you like — but I thought I’d list the five fallacies brought up by the author as a touchstone for those who may not have time to read right now — and to make my points more clear.

1. Ostracizers are evil
2. Friends accept me as I am
3. Friendship before all
4. Friendship is transitive
5. Friends do everything together

It is fair to mention, right from the start that I do not disagree with any of the social fallacies that the author points out. In my many years of geekdom I have experienced all of these. Of course, I have also experienced these in academia, the workplace, other social endeavors, organized sports… And that is the first issue I have with this post. These are not uniquely geek problems. These tend to be problems that crop up in any fairly tightly knit group with a constructed and “institutional” identity. Hang around some Frats or Sororities. That may seem like an unfair comparison — but I could extend that to other types of fandom, etc. Such a comparison also points up another important point. Geek culture (as it is often perceived) is the realm of the young. Many of these social fallacies are self-correcting as one becomes more mature. I’m not saying that all young geeks have these problems and I’m not saying that all older geeks magically mature and these problems go away — but on the whole, these fallacies all reek of immaturity and tend to mellow with age and gaining experience.

I suppose another item that bothers me as I read this is the nature of geek interaction. For many of us, the bulk of our geek interaction happens in public, open venues. Conventions, gaming clubs, gaming stores, tournaments. This causes two effects. It is much easier to see the microcosm of any culture in enforced settings of social interaction (and returning to the maturity issue, these settings tend to have a population that ranges widely in age and life experience). The second issue is that in these settings — especially gaming clubs or groups — since they are “open” you cannot control the population of the group. If you are in a college gaming club you don’t really have a choice to exclude “cat-piss-man” because he’s a student too.

I suppose another thing that bothers me is the desire to simply exclude “Cat-Piss-Man” rather than doing the truly friendly thing and politely, respectfully discussing why “cat-piss-man” is not very popular with the group and not calling him “cat-piss-man.” Maybe that’s just me.

I don’t want to belabor this post too much. Suffice it to say that even though this post is from 2003 I don’t feel like geek culture likes itself all that much more than it did almost a decade ago. And since I’m a huge fan of us geeks, I feel compelled to defend us — even from ourselves.

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3 responses

  1. When I’ve written before about geek culture, I also noted that the same things could be true of differing social groups. They often have their own languages and phrases, seem to exclude others, and jump in to defend their own just because they’re part of the same group. I love being a geek, and I love hanging out with other geeks, but not all of them are RPG geeks, the same can be said for music fans too.

    http://shortymonster.co.uk/?p=87

  2. I think it’s only fair to say that I don’t get the sense that the 2003 post ever intends these things to be unique to geek culture. He’s just saying that these are fallacies that are common to geeks, and explains why they’re common. That doesn’t mean they won’t crop up elsewhere.

  3. Oh, I’ve got a non-geek friend who is very much a GSF4. 🙂

    But I do think geeks have some of this a little worse because of the higher incidence of people on the autism spectrum. We have a bit harder time figuring out the social rules. And we’ve all felt rejection, so we’re probably a little less likely to reject.

    I also have a theory about geekdom and the neurodivergent. They work well together because many geek social activities are somewhat structured. (though it would be hard to determine which one caused the other) I’m not very comfortable going to the average party or to a club – I usually end up leaving early or clinging to the couple people I know. But a roleplaying game is usually based on a stable group and you know what you’ll be doing for most of the evening. Likewise a gathering to watch a movie or TV show not only covers part of the evening, it ensures that you’ll have something common to talk about. A convention lets people with issues follow a schedule and know what each activity is going to be like.

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