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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.


What It Means To Be A Geek

My girlfriend’s youngest sister came over to our apartment last weekend with her hair in a Katniss braid. She hadn’t been to a convention or a movie screening. That was just how she wanted to go out into the world that day. The Hunger Games has been consuming the majority of her brainpower lately. She’s been binging on the soundtrack, and she got through Catching Fire in seven hours. At a recent family dinner, she put up her hands and walked away from me when I said I preferred Gale to Peeta (I’m sorry, I do!). She gets like this about books and movies. She’s read The Silmarillion multiple (!) times. We have talked repeatedly about how much we’re both looking forward to The Avengers.

But while she was over the other day, she said something offhand that surprised me. She and her friends won’t go to our local comic book and SF/F store. Setting foot in there, apparently, makes you a geek.

Now, it is obvious to both you and I that this young woman is already a geek. But we also know what she means by it. When she says “geek,” she means “a social outcast with no hope of getting laid.” She means “forever alone.” I bit my tongue, because, I, too, was once eighteen, and I get how important those social markers are at the cusp of adulthood. But I did think a lot about how different our definitions of that word are. When I identify myself as a geek, I’m not saying anything about my personality traits or my ability to socialize. What I mean is that I am perpetually passionate about video games and science fiction, that I enjoy healthy samplings of high fantasy and comic books, and that I feel that same giddy rush towards scientists and astronauts as some do towards rock stars.

…but that’s different than what it means for you to be a geek, right? (Or a nerd, whichever you prefer; I believe the definitions of the two are nebulous enough to be used interchangeably.) You might not like gaming or sci-fi at all. Maybe you like urban fantasy or mathematics. Maybe you like programming or kitbashing or writing fanfic. We might have some similar interests, you and I, but quite possibly, we may not like any of the same stuff at all. Yet here we are, sharing the same virtual space, feeling kinship in our geekhood. Just look at the topics that have been covered on The Mary Sue over the past few days. I see stories on natural science, popular culture, historical figures, celebrities, visual art, and My Little Pony. Am I personally invested in every single one of these topics? No. But I — and you, too, most likely — instantly recognize all of them as valid components of geek culture.

So, then, if being a geek isn’t about social aptitude, and it isn’t about one shared set of interests…what does being a geek really mean?

Let me lay out the things that are most easily recognized as geeky fields of interest: science fiction, fantasy, video and tabletop games, comic books, science, technology, and math. Purely by definition, what do these things have in common? Honestly, not a lot. We can draw parallels between some of them — SF/F and gaming is the easiest — but what is the one thing that all of these fields share? What does a cosplayer have in common with a molecular biologist? What does a dungeon master have in common with a case modder? What do dragons have to do with black holes?

Details. All of these things are chock-full of tiny little details, just waiting for a curious mind to patiently examine them. Want to write code? Mind the details. Want to develop a good strategy in a game? Pay attention to the details. Really like that sci-fi book you just read? You’ll enjoy it even more when you look at the glossary and the galaxy map. They’ve got tons of details.

The thing that all geeks have in common (other than carbon) is not what we are interested in, but how we go about consuming our interests. “Consuming” is the perfect word for it, because geeks are rarely a passive audience. We devour our interests. We are driven to know how things work. It isn’t enough for us just to enjoy something. When something piques our interest or elicits an emotional response from us, we have to know why. We have to dissect it, put it under a microscope, and come to understand it on a molecular level. This mental process is the same, regardless of whether we are talking about breaking down narrative structure or sequencing a genome or designing a costume. The impulse to engage with the world in this fashion comes to us instinctively, and allowing ourselves to explore makes us excited. Since a feeling of excitement is initially what spurred us to dig deeper, this means that our interests drive us into this wonderful cycle of bliss in which every detail we uncover makes us even more stoked about the thing that got us so stoked in the first place. The more details there are, the happier we become. This is why we love things like DVD commentaries and roleplaying rulebooks and insanely intricate fanart. We enjoy seeing things that were made by like-minded people. We like making things that require us to be meticulous. We like using our brains, and we like to interact with other people who like using their brains, even if we don’t use our brains for the same things. We can remain interested in a topic or story for decades, even for our whole lives, so long as the details remain enticing. Once we run out of details, we get bored. But that’s okay. There are always new things to get interested in. You will be hard-pressed to find a geek who isn’t currently obsessing over something.

We are, perhaps, the most enthusiastic people on the planet.

That said, being a geek doesn’t require you to be a walking encyclopedia. As Susana discussed at length in her post about “fake geek girls,” some have this weird elitist view of geekery, as if we are some sort of secret cabal that only the most dedicatedly knowledgable are worthy of joining. Just because you like details doesn’t mean you have to know all the details. It’s an inclination, not a mandate. Being a geek is all about your own personal level of enthusiasm, not how your level of enthusiasm measures up to others. If you like something so much that a casual mention of it makes your whole being light up like a halogen lamp, if hearing a stranger fondly mention your favorite book or game is instant grounds for friendship, if you have ever found yourself bouncing out of your chair because something you learned blew your mind so hard that you physically could not contain yourself — you are a geek.

I’m incredibly biased, of course, but based on that last paragraph, I think we geeks sound like pretty awesome people to be around. So why, then, the lingering social stigma? The obvious answer is that stereotypes die hard. And yeah, some geeks are socially awkward. We could examine the why of that at length for hours, but the core reason is that because some people are socially awkward. Engaging in activities that tickle our detail-oriented brains has nothing to do with our ability to socialize (and honestly, if socialization is hard for some, why should we begrudge them finding an activity that makes them feel more comfortable?). People who want social interaction will always seek it out. In my experience, very few geeks are loners. We may engage in some different social activities than others, and our conversation topics may be different, but we still go to bars and cook dinner for our friends and start families and all that normal, social stuff. When someone with that tell-tale mindset says “I don’t want to be a geek,” what they are unwittingly saying is “I don’t want the potential to meet other people who share my enthusiastic interests.” That sounds pretty lonely to me. I’m not saying you have to personally identify with the term, or kit yourself out in geeky clothing, or go to conventions, or any of that. I just think there are an awful lot of geeks in hiding who haven’t let themselves really explore their interests or those interests’ surrounding communities, purely because they’re afraid of the social ramifications (from where I stand, those ramifications are fantastic).

There’s not really anything to be done about the negative connotation of being a geek except to just wait it out. I do think that public perception of geekery is changing. The explosion of the digital revolution and the emergence of mainstream SF/F series (Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and so on) has definitely given us more cred than we used to have. Personally — and again, I’m biased — I think that laser-focused, playful mindset of ours is a real asset to society, and the fact that the term “geek culture” exists at all shows that we already have a foothold as a cultural entity. As for my girlfriend’s sister, she can call herself whatever she likes. I’m considering coaxing her to try out Dragon Age with me. I think she’d really dig it.

Image credit: XKCD.

Becky Chambers is a freelance writer and a full-time geek. She blogs over at Other Scribbles.


  • Captain ZADL

    Once “geek” got too popular, I decided to go with “nerd,” but yeah, the same rules apply. :)

  • Nikki Lincoln

    This article was amazing. I don’t think there is any better way to put it than to say that we are avid consumers who are curious about learning more about things. I recently started re-watching the X-Men animated series that I loved as a kid. Since I was 6-11 when the show was on air, a lot of the details got lost on me even though I still loved the characters and stories. Watching it now, I find myself checking Wikipedia all the time to find out more about the intricacies of each characters powers, relationships and histories so that I can tie together all of the episodes and movies (I never read the comics). I’m sure there are people who can watch an movie or tv show and leave it at that but I always want to know more. I think it comes down to exactly what you said – we are just curious people and it’s not limited to pop culture or science or typical “geeky” fare. After going to Versailles, I went home and watched the Marie Antoinette movie, read up on French history and started a Tale of Two Cities for the second time. We don’t just want to know something – we want to know as much about it as possible. It’s a great sign that our culture is moving in this direction – it’s great to think that we’re accepting people for being passionate about learning and knowing and thinking and being curious. 

  • Giu Alonso

    A-MAZING! I just love when people get it. Just like John Green says, nerds are people who *like* stuff. And I absolutely ADORE stuff!

  • Tamora Pierce

    Why not go to the comics store with her?

  • Jen Roberts

    I loved the article, except for this:

    “There’s not really anything to be done about the negative connotation of being a geek except to just wait it out.”

    I must respectfully disagree. The public perception of “geek” as a negative is reinforced by incidents like the Cross Assault sexual harassment (as an example that springs immediately to mind), and the only way to fight that is to stand up and say, “I’m a geek, and I know how to treat other people with respect even when I’m in competition with them.”

    We’ll probably always have our lunatic fringe, because every subculture/religious/political/special interest group does. But we need our voices to be heard clearer and more often than theirs; we need to let people outside of geekdom know that the stereotype doesn’t fit us all – or even fit most of us. Otherwise we risk letting the very rare few who live up to the negative expectation define what “geek” means to those who aren’t geeks themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Yes! This article 100%. Being geeky is just about being enthusiastic about SOMEthing is a ridiculous degree. 

    Details! I LOVE details! In the last year, I started collecting vintage diner-style dishes in a particular pattern (because buying a set of dishes in a store is so boring) at antique store, yard sales, and Goodwill. I became obsessed with looking at the makers’ mark on the
    underside of all the dishes, and I ended up researching the various china companies that made the dishes. I checked a book out of the library on makers’ marks, and then drew up a spreadsheet to keep track of each individual dish in terms of dimensions, markings, and estimated year of manufacturer based on the markings. Seriously, who gets geeky over dishes and bowls? I have all the usual geek obsessions like books, movie, Doctor Who, etc…..but I also get excited over vintage dishes (and pots and pans!).

  • Anonymous

    My coworkers call me Wikipedia because I’m on there constantly looking up some random fact. I’m bad with movies too…I’m that person watching who suddenly goes, “…..Fargo! That guy right there was in the movie Fargo! I KNEW I recognized him from somewhere…”

  • Anonymous

    Another reason the stereotype is still prevalent, perhaps, is that some don’t want geek culture to be “mainstream” or “popular”.  I, myself, am guilty of this from time to time.  When we finally embrace ourselves as geeks, and aren’t ashamed, we want to preserve, in a way, the special qualities of the culture.  Part of which, could be that a lot of us first experienced these activities and subjects as part of a minority.  This could ultimately lead to the geek elitists and exclusionists who sometimes so narrowly want to define what geeks can be.

  • Anonymous

     I’ve been going through that on Netfilx this month as well!  Such a good show :)

  • Anonymous

    I’m surprised you dedicate several paragraphs to pointing out that being a geek is about details and forget the stigma that comes with “wasting your time”. The social default is that one’s activities should primarily be useful, and general geek detailing isn’t going to be of much use to yourself (aside from whatever good is enjoying your life) or the world. Surely that mindset, that one’s activities should always have to do with advancing in life, adds to the geek stigma.

  • April

    “At a recent family dinner, she put up her hands and walked away from me when I said I preferred Gale to Peeta (I’m sorry, I do!).”

    Heresy! Gale’s a dick!

  • Caitlin

    Does this mean people who memorize countless details about their favourite sports are geeks?

  • Ariana Nicole Escamilla

    I definitally agree with that line of reasoning, but what about the jocks who are so balls-deep in football that they can name anything any player has ever done?  Would they be considered “football geeks” for knowing all the details associated with the game?  I think there is a more distictive line that divides us, but I don’t exactly know where it is drawn.  It seems like the broad scope of subjects you mentioned are tied together in a way that allows us to recognize a trend; but, as you pointed out, they actually have nothing in common.  Therefore, we generalize the scope as “geeky” or “nerdy” without having to actually define it in more precise terms.  I believe that what we all have in common is that higher level of comprehension required to truly appreciate things like video games, anime, physics, and everything in between.  The “average” person, who generally takes things at face-value, wouldn’t devote the time and brain-power required to really understand how a machine works or why our ‘imaginary’ D&D characters are so important to us.  It’s that subtle unspoken communication that goes on between a person building a custom gaming PC nodding to somone holding an X-Men comic book; as if to say, “I get you,” while the stranger with matching football team hat and jersey sighs, “Freakin’ nerds!”

  • Terence Ng

    After seeing X2 in theaters, I jumped back into X-Men and comics the same way you did, primarily out of nostalgia for my 90′s cartoon childhood. A great resource I used was not only Wikipedia, but’s issue summaries and Character Spotlights. I consumed all of it like the Charybdis in the Strait of Messina.

    In fact, after doing so, and diving back into X-Men, I started contributing primarily to the comics group for X-Men pages on Wikipedia.

    Check out’s stuff. If you’re doing similar exploring like I did, I think you’ll LOVE it.

  • Terence Ng

    GREAT article, Becky! :D

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article, and there are a multitude of other ways to be a geek of course – some of which are not associated with geeky things.  For instance, American Musclecars are innately cool, but knowing where the overspray should be for a factory-correct 1971 Dodge Challenger thats been restored is definitely geeky.

  • Kylie Bilbrey

    Is there really a reason they shouldn’t be considered such? Other than they are in a much more male orientated, culturally accepted “fandom”.

  • Anonymous

    My good friend’s fiance is a HUGE history nerd. He participates in between 6-20 civil war/revolutionary war reenactments a year (depending on where they live and how much disposable income they have). He wanted to get married dressed as a civil war officer but my friend put her foot down. He’s definitely a hardcore geek, but he always qualifies it as “History geek.” Like, you can’t just call him a nerd or a geek in his presence or he will correct you. Is anyone else like that? I really like him, he’s a super nice guy, I was just wondering if this is a quirk particular to him or if it is pretty normal among geek circles.

    I’m pretty geeky too, and I don’t do that. But to be fair, my nerdly persuits are varied (manga, anime, board games, Sci-fi, fantasy, astronomy, politics, and nuclear science). I’m not just one kind of geek.

  • Anonymous

    I get the impression that, at least in some circles, it’s “cool” to be a geek now. My best friend (who by nearly any metric is an incredibly cool person) used to tease me all the time when we were in high school because I read sci-fi almost exclusively.

    We’re still very close and now, suddenly, she’s finally reading Game of Thrones, watching Dr. Who, going to see Marvel movies, and making Star Wars references. And she’s doing this with other ‘normal’ friends. She still won’t touch a lot of my favorite books/TV/comics/manga, but there is DEFINITELY a growing main stream geek niche.

    Media depictions of geeks (The Big Bang Theory, Community, etc.) are also increasingly positive. It might be an extension of the hipster thing, but it’s almost as if geeks have come full circle: we’re so lame we’re actually cool.

    Now, of course, there is still a LINE that most people wont cross: cons, cosplay, comic book shops, etc. but it’s not nearly as much of a social stigma as it used to be. I was lucky that I never suffered socially for all my geekiness (or at least I never felt burdened by it socially), but it’s actually not as negative as it used to be. Granted, if you want to be accepted by certain social circles, this will be a problem. But on the whole, I think society and popular culture is much more accepting of the geek subcultures than it used to be.

  • Anonymous


  • Gloria

    This was fantastic. I identity as a geek. I love to think about things, build upon them, analyze, be enthusiastic, and find others who feel the same. It’s an awesome state of existence, in my opinion.

  • Nikki Lincoln

    Wow, thanks so much for the tip. I will definitely check it out!

  • Sheila

    This is why I don’t call myself a “Geek”. Not because I think people will dislike me, but because labels are used to pigeon-hole people, and sometimes we even do it to ourselves. “I can’t like that… I’d have to turn in my geek card”, etc… It’s just silly. We’re all humans, and humans like different things. No need for labels.

  • Sheila

    My boyfriend is all of those things. But he’s not into gaming or sci-fi or any other “geeky” pursuits. I don’t think “geek” is what we’re describing here. “Of a scientific mind” is a much more apt description, in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    “I believe that what we all have in common is that higher level of comprehension required to truly appreciate things like video games, anime, physics, and everything in between.”

    This sounds vaguely elitist, and I don’t agree with the conclusion (as it seems to me) that it requires a geek to appreciate a geek and that all geeks appreciate all other geeks. There’s tons of directions geek-dom can take – the ability to accept another’s geek-dom is a mixture of an individual’s own skills at recognition and how far the individual’s own points of “obsession” are separated from the the other’s.

    You kinda stereotype sport fans as egocentric butts. That does not seem fair to me. A few undoubtedly are, but it’s not innate to being a sports enthusiast. And I can guarantee you my brother, who puts together his own gaming PC, won’t be “I get you” towards someone holding a X-Men comic. Heck, I have a huge European comic book collection and not even I would go “I get you” towards someone holding an X-Men comic due to the huge differences between the USAian and European comic book markets. Sighing might be too much of a sign of disrespect for us to engage in, but we wouldn’t want to use energy to consider X-Men unless when we’re in a particularly good mood or perhaps nostalgic about our childhoods, in which the cartoon was a regular. (Okay, fine, and I could be goaded into talking about it if one would start with: “You know who they should (re)introduce? Aurora Dante.”) You’ll notice this semi-sharedness of geek-dom is only because of a very specific overlap, and that it fades as soon as that particular angle is not used anymore.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    I thought the difference between ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ was social aptitude.  In that geeks tend to have social aptitude, while nerds do not.  This isn’t dissing nerds though, they’re also, from what I can tell, a hell of a lot more knowledgeable in specialized fields that I’d completely flounder and fail in – they’re who push the envelope.

  • Danielle Stanard

     Yes, YES!  We also need to monitor how geeks are portrayed in the media and continue to criticize those stereotypes that are portrayed OVER AND OVER, and pay close attention to unique and fair portrayals of our community.  I think you’ve hit another thing on the head, as well, that we need to check our own behavior and the behavior of others.  Being insular and exclusive and guarded have served lots of geeks well- our secret hand-shake days, when you had to prove you weren’t infiltrating by possessing some sort of specific knowledge- but now, it’s mostly just keeping new geeks from identifying with us.

  • James Willetts

    Of course, for the really geeky stuff, you need to be finding the details on TVTropes: Never have I lost more hours of my life to a better undertaking than my decision to read the TVTropes pages for every book, film and TV show I read or watch. I am infinitely enriched by it.

  • Adil Kurji

    So that makes you a… `Hipster Nerd’, I assume? :)

  • Anonymous

    Calling yourself a history geek as opposed to a regular geek is just a way of distinguishing yourself I suppose. If he’s only got one super obsessive interest it would be a way of telling everyone he’s not into othe subjects usually labelled as geeky.
    At least he’s admitting to the geekiness of history. I knew a girl in highschool who was absolutely obsessed with Ancient Greece, but woe betide anyone who called her a geek.

  • Anonymous

    I love this! I have heaps of really geeky friends and we’re all into different things, and even my friends that aren’t all that geeky understand that I have a crazy obsession with sci-fi, fantasy, history, archaeology, evolution, Richard III and rocks, and accept that.

    Oddly enough it’s the last one that gets me the most weird looks. I’m a recent geology grad and every time I stoop to inspect a piece of basalt my non-geo friends invariable giggle and spout a variation of “Tabitha you so weird”. Even though geology is, you know, an entire branch of science.

  • Angelica Brenner

     As someone who has tried time and time again to get “into” a variety of sports only to be utterly befuddled by the sheer amount of names and numbers and organizations to keep track of . . . yeah, I’d say sports enthusiasts are about the same configuration as, say, science fiction enthusiasts. Who’s to say my love of old-school Doctor Who and shonen manga is any “higher” than another person’s love of NASCAR or mixed martial arts?

    (They’re also, I rush to mention, hardly mutually-exclusive groups. I work at a comics shop and plenty of our regular customers come in wearing sports-themed shirts.)

  • Anonymous

     Disagree. Watching sports and obsessing over makeup are also wastes of time but these are socially acceptable.

  • Anonymous

     Agreed, it’s just a way to distinguish his own brand of geek. I know that when I tell people I’m a nerd or a geek, a lot assume that I’m excited about anime or super heroes. So sometimes I feel like I need to add a subtext, “Oh, I’m a total geek….not like comic books and stuff, but more like regular books and Doctor Who and science and cool bugs.”

  • Teresa Jusino

    That’s the difference between geeks and nerds, and how I use the words (ie: not interchangeably). “Geek” has to do with enthusiasm, as you say. Being a “nerd” has to do with how much you know about the thing you geek out about. All nerds are geeks, but not all geeks are nerds.

    Your friend’s sister will come around once she feels more comfortable in her own skin. :) And yes, she already is a geek. She sounds awesome. And I bet if they came out with a Hunger Games comic, she’d read it!

    I think that society is coming out of the irony-ridden culture of the 90s and early 2000s hungry for stuff that’s more genuine, which is part of the reason for the Geek Renaissance (if you wanna call it that). Whereas enthusiasm was once suspect, now it’s something people strive for. I’m glad for that, because apathy is boring.

  • Carmen Sandiego

     They both suck.  TEAM CINNA!

  • Carmen Sandiego

    Maybe her interests are not in the realm of comics.  After all, just wanting to see Avengers doesn’t mean you like comic books.  Does she actually read or want to read any comic books?  Maybe it’s just not her thing.  And that’s okay. :D

  • Lisa Lacey Liscoumb

    Fantastic article, and one I can really identify with.  I always say I’ve been geek since before it was chic.  I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve referenced the article and quoted a couple of linesin my latest blog post (giving full credit, of course, and a linkback to this article and to the Mary Sue in the post), which you can find here –

  • Nikki Lincoln

    Aka the most dangerous site for geeks ever. This pretty much sums it up: 

  • Anonymous

    But obsessing over makeup brings up results that advance you in life, in that looking your best is socially expected and does help in many situations. And even then, it’s controversely socially acceptable at best since makeup matters can easily bring out the worst of femmephobia and misogyny.

    As for sports, point, but the ‘acceptable level of interest in sports”s got a threshold too. Perhaps higher than conventional geek subjects, but it’s definitely got a threshold.

  • Cable Flame

    Labels only pigeonhole people if they let them.

    I personally LOVE labels. I have a TON of them for myself. They’re adjectives (sometimes nouns) that let me tell people who I am & what matters to me about my identity. However, if *I* start letting myself get holed in by a label because (for some ridiculous reason) I think that to be XYZ I have to do(/not do) ABC… well, the label isn’t the problem there, but the mindset surrounding labels. Labels tell the world who we are (if we can ever agree on very specific definition for labels, but that’s more of a reason for greater taxonomy)… if you find yourself confining yourself because of a label, then, well, you’re doing it backwards. Find the label that fits you, don’t fit yourself to a label.

  • Cable Flame

    Yup. And by this definition, my dad is definitely the biggest fishing geek you’ll ever meet.

  • Cable Flame

    Obsessing about something like computers that can become (or may already be a career) is both very geekly, as well as advancing in life. *shrug* You have an interesting theory, I just don’t think it holds water.

  • Anonymous

    LOVE it! I found myself giggling, nodding throughout this article; thank you! Another thing I find myself doing as a geek is “connecting the dots”. I get such a rush when I connect a song, movie or something in reality to what I’m currently obsessing about. And of course, the details! I read a passage about an organization in one of my rpg books, fell in love with it, and immediately bought an entire book on them. It couldn’t get here fast enough (a whole month, agony!) In the meantime I was searching online for web sites about it every day.

  • Anonymous

    This passionate, insane love for details is true for a lot of subcultures that don’t necessarily fall under the stereotypical “geek” labels. I’m thinking of stuff like sports geeks, fashion geeks, music geeks. These people are geeks too, even if they don’t know it, because they engage with their favorite things, whether it’s player stats or Fashion Week or old vinyl, in the exact same way we do with SF/F etc. I love that.

  • DeflectorDish

    Thank you. This is an embracing article that lets people into a community rather than excluding them for not meeting specific requirements. Let’s share our love of all things nerdy and wear our ironic t-shirts with pride because we want to, not because we have anything to prove to anyone. High school is its own twisted universe, but in the real world, let the geeks unite. 

  • Signe

    I’ve lost HOURS to that site and you just reminded me and now I’m going to be sucked into it all over again.

  • Anonymous

    Psh, in my experience, if people don’t like you because you’re a geek, then those people are boring anyways. And as for “getting laid,” geek boys enjoy sex too! And if you can quote Firefly, they think it’s awesome. Personally, I have much more fun hanging with my band of nerds than going to frat parties

  • Laura

    Sometimes its hard to remember, as we grow up, that young people still have to go through a lot to “fit in”. I never was able to fit in and it was pretty painful. I never thought of myself as a loner but I still only literally have 4 friends, all male. Socially awkward? Yep. Sorry for reinforcing stereotypes about us geeks. : Upside, conventions seem to be the antithesis of being anti-social, most of those con-going geeks are really friendly and open people.

  • Anonymous

    I think it is more the enthusiasm and  technical aspects, rather than just the “details.”  One can be pretty detail oriented in one’s enthusiasm for baseball, for example, but one does not usually describe sports fans as “geeks.”

    I’ve considered the differences and similarities between geeks and nerds, in a convocation address I gave at the University of Minnesota back in 2009:

    Very good article, by the way.


    Your Friendly Neighborhood Physics Professor,

    Jim Kakalios

  • Mickael TSAKIRIS

    I completely agree with this analysis.
    I think the most “different” and precious think g33ks have is their ability to get enthousiastic about things or topics or other people.
    It’s something people loose once the grow adult i guess.
    Pardon my english if there’s any mistake.

  • Lorri Crossno Nevil

    Awesome article!  Nailed it! I do think you can be a scientist AND a rock star ;-)

  • Rob McMillin

    But while she was over the other day, she said something offhand that
    surprised me. She and her friends won’t go to our local comic book and
    SF/F store. Setting foot in there, apparently, makes you a geek.

    Now, it is obvious to both you and I that this young woman is already
    a geek. But we also know what she means by it. When she says “geek,”
    she means “a social outcast with no hope of getting laid.” She means
    “forever alone.”

    No, this is not what she means, and I really am kind of dumbfounded that you would come to this conclusion. What she means is “someone doomed to date geeks”, i.e. social undesirables. Women are keenly aware of social status.

  • Cherri Borey

    Just finished a book called The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins.  Read it–Frakking Awesome.

  • Jinal Patel

    This was AMAZING. This is exactly what goes through my mind. Nerds are people who get obsessed by details–> very true indeed. Just wish people around me could understand me as well as you’ve explained what being a geek is all about

  • TheEponymousBob

    My own summary is: knowing stuff is better than not knowing stuff. Always.

  • Bahia

    I think you’re right about the lasting stereotypes of being a geek as being a negative thing.  I think that while perhaps discovery and immersion in different worlds and going deep into something may be a component of this, I don’t think it’s necessarily the details that are defining.  I would say that hardcore sports fans and fantasy football players get very deep into the stats and minutia of  their chosen sports, including records of games and individual players.  I think this is actually very detail oriented and those who are interested in sports in this way engage in the same kind of fandom that “geeks” do – only the stereotypical association with sports guys has a more positive overall connotation in general.  So I think what you are referring to is a layover from the days when men must be men, and anyone interested in these odd little past times from math to D&D and board games didn’t fit that mold.  I think that it is definitely changing as SciFi/Fantasy is being more broadly consumed and I hope that in the figure there will be no negative association with being a geek – or rather, with being “too much of a geek”.

  • Winter

    “You are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.”

  • carlos_one_eyed

    Yes yes yes yes YES yes yes. This should be read by every young geek who is trying to find her/his identity and isn’t sure if being “geeky” is an acceptable thing to be. I have always held (in theory) that all individuals are entitled to be whatever the hell they want to be, but practice is much harder than theory and it’s not always easy for me to live up to my own ideals. It seems reasonable that a lot of other people feel the same trepidation as me about airing out their inner geek publicly, and this article is for them.

    As for me… well, this is the fourth article I’ve read today that specifically addresses the topic of what it means to be a geek, and it’s not even noon yet. I think I’m becoming a geek about being a geek. Is that even a thing….?