When most people think of a “geek”, a stereotypical image will most likely pop into their head. A lanky, skinny guy, with buck teeth and glasses, walking awkwardly down the hall. He might be wearing plaid pants (held at an abnormal height by suspenders), a striped shirt, and tall socks escaping his tight fitting dress shoes. Geeks are commonly held to be losers with no life. Part of this is due to the way they act. They never go to dances, football games, or parties. Instead, they stay at home and do weird things, like read, study, and program computers. Therefore, the thinking goes, they must not be very interesting or have anything useful to contribute to society. Right?
This stereotypical view is one that is held by my friend Alton Wampler. He said that when he thinks of a geek, he sees someone who “is really obsessed with schoolwork and getting good grades, and doesn't take time to have fun.” He also says that a geek “does a lot of work with computers and stuff that no one really understands.” His description of a typical geek includes glasses, a graphing calculator, and flash drives.
The Wikipedia definition also does a lot to advance this commonly held view. Wikipedia defines a “geek” as “a person obsessed with intellectual pursuits for their own sake, who is also deficient in most other human attributes so as to impair the person's smooth operation within society.”
My view of a geek, however, is much different. Part of this has to do with the fact that I consider myself a geek. I don't wear tight fitting pants or walk around with a graphing calculator in my pocket (those belong in a backpack), but I am still often called a “geek” by my friends. This is mostly because of my interests in academics and computers. I read computer manuals for fun, thus making me very geeky; or so say the people around me. But, although my friends make fun of me, they're very happy they know me when their computer crashes. They know that I can help them, because this is my area of study and expertise.
So, instead of defining a geek as someone “with no life”, I would say that a geek is someone who is extremely dedicated to a particular subject matter that just happens to be perceived as abnormal by the large majority of people. I think geeks are able to separate those things that are important from the things that aren't, and will pursue those things that are most likely to benefit them in the future. A geek is willing to sacrifice his perception by society to do something great.
A good example of this would be Steve Jobs. Perceived by the rest of world as a loser, Jobs dropped out of Reed College during his first semester so that he could “stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting” (Stanford University). One of these was a calligraphy class that would later inspire the beautiful fonts on the Macintosh. Jobs' invention of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, have literally changed the world by making the internet more accessible to people no matter where in the world they are. Although most thought Jobs' obsession with technology was “weird”, he made an impact in the world through his dedication and commitment to something he was passionate about.
Essentially, I believe that being a geek is about being different, and I think that the following poem, entitled “Here's to the Crazy Ones”, sums it up very well.
Here's to the crazy ones
The misfits, the rebels, the trouble makers
the round pegs in the square holes
The ones who see things differently
They're not fond of rules,
and they have no respect for the status quo
You can quote them, disagree with them
glorify or vilify them
About the only thing you can't do
is ignore them
because they change things
They push the human race forward
While some may see them as the crazy ones
We see genius
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world
Are the ones who do
Apple Inc. Apple Steve Jobs The Crazy Ones – NEVER BEFORE AIRED 1997 YouTube, 01 Feb. 2009. Web. 24 Oct. 2011
“Geek.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia. Web. 13 Oct. 2011
Stanford University. Steve Jobs' 2005 Commencement Address YouTube, 07 Mar. 2008. Web. 28 Oct. 2011
Wampler, Alton. Telephone Interview. 22 Oct. 2011
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