When I was a kid, being a geek was a bad thing. You didn’t want to be known as a geek in school and it certainly wasn’t celebrated, but I developed into a geek nonetheless.
Allow me to define for you how I see a geek, as there are so many definitions out there. Being a geek means loving something so much that you want to know everything about it — how it’s made, where it comes from, what its history is. You will know details that others will marvel at, quote phrases that others have never heard, and recite statistics no one knew existed.
I also believe that there are gradations of geek; there are little geeks who know more than most about a lot of things, and there are big geeks who go really deep into one topic. Sports are filled with geek fans — i.e., the people who can tell you all the baseball stats ever created. (Ironically, due to anti-geek bias, these sports geeks are usually called “rabid fans” or “big fans,” but let’s not fool ourselves — geeks they are.) There are science geeks, math geeks, car geeks, computer geeks, theatre geeks, and music geeks. In fact, I would argue that every one of us is a geek about something.
In my youth, it was cool to be a geek about football or cars (I grew up in Texas). It was not cool to be a geek about sci-fi or math. Yet my parents took me to see all the original Star Wars movies in the theaters, despite the fact that I was only four years old when A New Hope was released (don’t judge, they are geeks too).
My mom is a sci-fi geek, Star Wars nerd, and a Trekkie. She is also a math geek, and with only two years of college education “geeked” her way into being the first-ever Manager of Customer Specific Data for Bristol Myers Squibb. I’ll save her story for another time, but I think she’s pretty amazing. I am, of course, biased.
My dad is a mechanical geek. If it’s got an engine, he can fix it, restore it, or hot rod it. He knows more about Chevrolet than any book you will find and he can fix any problem you have with a toothpick, a paper clip, and some duct tape, MacGyver style (look it up, it was a great show).
As you can see, I was destined to be some type of geek. I am a little geek for a lot of things. I won math competitions in grade school with projects on Probability Theory. I learned to work on cars at a young age and can identify most old muscle cars on sight (make and model, not always year, but close). The top of my wedding cake admittedly featured Princess Leia and Han Solo. I can hold my own at poker and can also skunk the boys at fishing (and will do my own baiting, gutting, scaling, and filleting). Additionally, I am a musical theatre geek and have been known to break into song with the right phrase or jump into a tap dance because my heels are clicking on the concrete floors (the second floor of our office is a particularly exciting floor for me). I’ve been on computers since the Apple IIe (1983) and my family had email as early as 1990 on CompuServe, then AOL in the mid '90s. More recently, I’ve become a geek about cakes, baking crazy three-dimensional ones such as R2D2, Lego, Dora, the NYC subway, and a chessboard, Cake Boss–style.
If you didn’t already guess, I also married a geek. He loves sci-fi, Star Wars, Legos, Dungeons and Dragons, comic books, building computers, and reading about quantum and string theory. He registered his last name as a domain in the early '90s. (Ahem — super-geek.) Even while on vacation together this past week, we have taken note of how often we are debating geeky things, like the definition of a pond versus a lake or the first four schools connected by ARPANET. This is how geeks have fun.
There are three big tenets of being a good geek.
1. You must be proud of your geekdom. Embrace it with t-shirts, bumper stickers, odd Facebook posts, etc.
2. You must appreciate others’ geekness; geeks don’t judge geeks! They listen intently to their fellow geek and get excited for them.
3. You must always be thirsty for more. Geeks are always learning and evolving. A true geek never stops taking in new information, never stops looking for new things to geek out about, and never stops the hunt.
My hypothesis is that, in our own way, we are all geeks. Some of us just haven’t learned to embrace it. With that, I challenge you to embrace your inner geek. Raise your geek flag and fly it high, because we need all kinds of geeks in this world. Our future depends on it.
Shenan Reed is President of Digital at MEC media agency.