Being Geek: Born, Bred Or Just Creative (an article by GF Willmetts).

January 3, 2021 | By | Reply More

One of the first lessons I learnt in General Semantics is that labels are imprecise names because no one or thing is a precise fit. In that respect, we should treat being geek in the same category.

The simple proof is geeks are invariably seen as loners with odd specialist interests. Hands up those of you who are married and with children or even been that way? Exactly. It just goes to prove there isn’t a typical geek. Saying that, there are some common traits that make us geeks but not necessarily related to relationships. As with any ‘label’ identification, there will always be a selection of those who are unlucky in love, never get relationships or just plain loners but this also applies to non-geeks, so it’s not exclusive. It’s not common to just one label. Proof, if anything, that most people belong to more than one label or category and labelling isn’t an exact science. Labels are maps and only represent reality. General Semantics rules. We live in an imperfect labelling system that describes traits more than precision. It’s only when they mount up in one direction that we fall into a label or category that many people will actually agree on as to what dominates your life.

Even so, it does raise a couple interesting questions. Why do we categorise when no one is an exact fit? It isn’t as though we apply this to our own species, everything is categorised from the animal kingdom to different forms of mathematics and sciences. Nothing is untouched by this imperfect method, it’s just a means to make sense of a universe that doesn’t always allow easy categorisation, especially where organics are concerned. If anything, categorisation just gives some common ground when discussing a subject without having to go into every detail when addressing a particular subject.

In many respects, labelling does make it easier in communication if we understand the representation. If you can tell someone the difference between a horse and a zebra simply by saying it has stripes on its body. But if stripes were the only thing, you would have confusion with the likes of an okapi which has some stripes on its rear. Ah, you say, stripes all over the body. If it was just spots, would you be able to tell the difference between a giraffe and a leopard by the same definition without adding more details? No, this is a simple lesson is you need more than one characteristic to tell things apart, especially when describing to someone else. The brain can build up a picture of what is being described providing you give enough details that match something you recognise.

Being Geek: Born, Bred Or Just Creative.

That has also become a grey area, more so when you read of school kids who have never seen real farm animals and wonder what’s happened to picture books. I’ve come across people who haven’t, through one reason or another, who don’t carry the same identifications or what we would regard as normal things like metaphors and have a problem in explaining something in language they understand. Artificial Intelligence has a similar problem which is why the divide between them and humans is still so vast. They can’t work in close approximation yet and need a lot of information for clear identification. AIs don’t have our kind of identification ability…yet.

Before you say does General Semantics covers this? It does for similar identifications. You just have to be more precise in your descriptions and try to match to someone else’s identification system when getting down to specifics. Ergo, yon don’t say ‘two little girls did this’ but give their names to show that these two girls are not to be confused with any other pair of girls. I’ll let the idea that that across the world that there are possibilities that there are more than two other girls together with similar names. Of course, if you indicate a particular place then you are adding more precise detail, which is why space-time is also an active part of General Semantics. A lot of the time, humans can make this jump by association but we do live in an imprecise world and odd education over the decades that allows for such assumptions, providing they are ultimately right. Much of the time, this becomes a shorthand based off assumption that is becoming increasingly less so.

But back to the original question: So what should we consider as the significant things that constitutes ‘geek’, bearing in mind some of them might actually also belong in other categories. A good imagination with a slant for creativity, a perchance and fascination for unusual hobbies, which also has an imaginative slant, hence we tend to be drawn to Science Fiction and its grey cousins, fantasy and horror. We also tend to avoid trends and stick to them through thick and thin and use them to cultivate our hobbies around. This certainly tends to separate us from sports or other geeks who carry a lot of information in their heads about their subjects. The knowledge base is only part of being geek.

This leads into our collecting habit. Being innate loners tends to hold a bigger question mark these days in our reality of the social media habit. However, per unit mile, I still think there are few of us around and only the Internet creates larger collectives and probably the most unusual time in history that this has happened. In our current isolation predicament we are probably likely to tolerate it better than most. As an open experiment, we are likely to learn a lot about the various groupings in our various societies.

Oddly, even groupings of geeks tends to display people who want to stay in step with each other, while others stand out in terms of knowledge. Look at how many geek-like groups you belong to and how many speak and the rest stay quiet. It doesn’t mean you’re any less geek but a demonstration of the wide spectrum within a category. If anything, it shows that even in groups, we can still evolve into leaders and followers and even those who can’t be categorised that way. In that respect, we are no different to any other group assembly. Logistically, it is not the geek aspect of being a loner that makes us different to other groups or humans, it’s also the accumulation of our other creative talents that makes us unique.

It would be interesting to explore social grouping on-line but I’m not really part of it. I only belong to one small grouping, centred on a single season 1972 TV show ‘Search’ but we all appear to be of the same age and have long gaps between communication since we got Warner to release the pilot episode and series out on DVD 9 years ago, which sold very well for them. However, we yap about other show connections and surveillance subjects, just not regularly. I know the talking number who reply the most belong to other social groupings. In my case, I’m not in the habit seeking them out and I didn’t with this one. I was introduced by one of their number when I referenced the TV series here at SFC because I had an article a couple decades back in a now defunct magazine. ‘The TV Zone Special’ on spies, Trying googling ‘Search’ on its own without some other pointers and you’ll spend a long time looking.

I will bet that the others belong to groups related to the early TV shows more than those that are current, which would be an indication for the younger generation in that we like our original enjoyed safety blankets or it’s a generation thing. The common denominator being purely of age. Considering I’m kept busy across the whole range of SF subjects at SFC where I am more than layman, I’m kept pretty busy but it does match my loner geek profile.

Just because you belong to a lot of Internet social groups doesn’t reduce your geek status as you’re just getting your knowledge base to grow or correcting mistakes in others’ knowledge. I think that would depend more on physical socialising and how often you do it. As geeks, especially with computer knowledge, we are seen as gurus to come to for information although not necessarily for much socialising unless something is wanted. How true that is should make an interesting reaction from you people out there. I suspect there is an entire range now. With the advent of computers, being a geek is more a respected term than a reason to bully us for being different. We have an innate skill that makes us different from the ‘norm’ but no less useful to those who struggle with technology. Oddly, it also demonstrates that people can be trained as computer technicians without needing the geek instinct. When we do that, we make educated guesses from a lot more knowledge and often outside of standard education.

Then again, someone being a ‘normal’ is also a contradiction in terms as we try to define what is ‘normal’. It isn’t as though there are talented normal people but if we use the bell graph again, they just blend in better and we geeks tend to be at the other end or extreme part of the curve. Presumably, at the other end, are people who are sociable but fewer extreme talents. In a crisis, who would you prefer to help: someone who talks or someone who does things with assured knowledge? Talent rules when it is demonstrable.

Of course, when we discuss what is ‘talent’, we come across a wide spectrum, also suggesting that it might not be geek specific and, in some instances, as with art, depends a lot on having a good eye for colour and co-ordination. Anything else is self-taught or taught or a mixture of both. Which way has the head start is debatable as most kids scribble art when young. Certainly, most geeks are heavy readers with some making the transition into writers. We just keep our youthful enthusiasm without letting the rest of the world changes with age affect us as much. I doubt if I’m wrong that we tend to prize what we are interested in and getting physical representation of it as we start off as hoarders before turning collectors.

Because you’re here, then so our interest is Science Fiction, fantasy and horror, as well as science and art and you can pick them singular or in combination. All different levels of geek. We don’t appear to be that fussy in our specialisation unless there is a need to. However, we have geeks with other interests so it’s not an exclusive taste, just a different specialisation. It’s a shame no one has ever tried to survey geeks or those who think they are. After all, some think they are true geeks until they find someone with an even more serious habit. As I pointed out at the beginning, there are levels of geekiness and some people are deeper than others. Applies to all things but our section tends to be more creative.

Makes you wonder what non-geeks reading here will think. Going back further, is there anything else that distinguishes geeks from the norm. Hands up those of you who are single children or where there are other siblings, they tend to be much older so are less likely to relate to your hobbies. As such parents tend to indulge any hobbies but you don’t tend to develop many close friendships. Add any extended isolating illness and you end up being out of step with class-mates as well and often ahead of them. You either sink or swim from being isolated for so long. Any of that sound familiar? A common denominator of isolation and creative talent allowed to develop with free spirit and ability to think should be seen as elements that contribute to being geek but, even so, it doesn’t necessarily turn all people geek. It just means those who are truly geek being easier to recognise against the so-called ‘norm’.

So are geeks born or made? Again, a very grey area dependent on a nascent creative talent or skill base. I suspect we also don’t like boredom and like to be stimulated as much as possible. Left alone with a wad of paper and a pencil or pen, then we will do our best to express our ideas than look gloomily out the window wishing to escape. As geeks, we like to be creative. It’s in our blood.

The jump from just being seen as imaginative to being creative depends a lot on how we let the talent out. Isolation and a need to do something to pass the time is certainly an incentive. It does tend to suggest an odd state of circumstances for some level of geekiness. When young, we all assume we’re much of a sameness until we do something that looks a little odd to classmates. For us older geeks, we were always the subject of bulling when young which isolated us even more.

In the current days of the Internet and social media, school bullying is less discriminatory and bullies pick on anyone and not necessarily just the geeks, although I hope someone can correct me on that. I do wonder if today’s young geeks avoid such media and belong to groups more fitting to their geekiness. After all, I think that’s would I would do. Let them squabble amongst themselves

Can you make a geek? I mean, can you take advantage of any of your children’s illnesses and potential isolation for a few weeks for the geekiness to show itself? Probably not. It depends on other factors like a real healthy dose of creativity, not feeling sorry for themselves and actually enjoying the isolation but still with a willingness to learn, oh, a touch of bloody-mindedness in not willing to give in. At least, that’s me using myself as an example. Again, you could have those in any combination or level in making your own geekiness.

Individualism tends to grow from all manner of things and combinations, not to mention dealing with a lot of envy and being bullied because we don’t conform to be normal basics. Today’s generation does have one advantage, most parents have some familiarity with Science Fiction and its grey brothers and less likely to feel intimidated by it because it has become a norm in society with so much being released on an annual basis. Saying that, we should also consider over-saturation also means we’re finding different ways to differentiate between levels of quality. Even too many ‘Star Wars’ and super-hero films becomes more a case of feeding the cash cow than being innovative. They might not necessarily the intensity of your own interest but less likely to steer you away from it. Creativity can work that way.

Understanding what it means to be geek is just a touch introspective as well as seeing how we have evolved in society or they have caught up with us or rather our position is better appreciated now. A bigger question is whether we should become the ‘norm’ or is there enough of us to say that.

© GF Willmetts 2021

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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