Let’s get one thing straight. Geeks were always cool, the masses just had to realize it! The level of “Cool”ness is to the point of non-geeky people wanting to become geeks and accepted by other geeks, isn’t exactly big news anymore.
Increasing their social acceptance has also resulted in outing some myths that never quite held true anyway, like that geeks must automatically be socially awkward, that they must be predominantly men, or that they don’t care for any social and common sense conventions like dressing well, being well groomed, and so on. Stereotypes may have some roots in reality, but like all generalizations they never hold true to everyone nor are they really the definition of what it means to be something.
It was also inevitable for geekdom to become cool. It’s hard to escape the relentless march of technological evolution and its increasing penetration into our lives. Since the largess of the geeks were technology geeks, and ones whom are also largely to blame for this technological permeation, it is no wonder that they would go from weirdos to celebrated people.
So let’s take a look at exactly what is it that happened, why are geeks cool now?
1. They created the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Instagram
You just can’t come up with all of the complex technology that had to be invented for these services to be what they are today without the things that make a geek, a geek. It takes dedication, enthusiasm, and fanaticism about difficult things like software engineering, systems design, information architecture, and so on.
It takes many many geeks sitting in front of their computers for better part of their life to get you to the point of being connected to your friends on your smartphone at all times, and have a smooth experience at that, or to ask Google any question and have it give you what you looked for, or be able to post a bunch of pictures on Instagram and have them instantly show up to your followers.
These services are now mainstream. YouTube and Facebook are now probably more popular than traditional television. It’s the new norm. And they made geeks who worked their asses off to accomplish these things into a kind of celebrities. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page among many other Googleheads, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and so on. All geeks. Powerful geeks. The ones that make you want to be like them when in the past you might’ve scoffed at them.
2. They tend to get rich
In a connected technological world building technological solutions is big business, huge business. Apple is a technology company, and it was recently the biggest valued company in the history of Earth, valued even more than oil companies. That basically puts tech at the forefront of… everything!
So it’s no wonder that people who tend to be the ones to build all this tech will tend to profit quite significantly from it. And naturally, that sends a pretty strong signal to the rest of us. Being a geek could not only mean working on meaningful projects that could make an impact, but they could also afford you a life of wealth as a result. Follow the money, and all of a sudden geeks seem to have it all, or at least they are in the right place.
Mind you, this doesn’t just refer to a few top heads like the ones mentioned earlier. There is a bazillion of small tech companies that are doing quite well. There are companies founded and making money by just developing a single app you download to your smartphone. You’d be surprised at how much funding or profit they often generate.
Working in tech, and being a geek, isn’t a guarantee of such success, of course, but that’s true of any industry. However, it is one of the best places to be.
3. The internet crushed the walls of isolation
It used to be that if you felt particularly weird in some manner or had feelings, thoughts, or habits that seem just so crazy you could never ever admit it to anyone, you just kept that to yourself.
Then the internet came along, and with it a bazillion of online communities, and all of a sudden you could actually find people who have the same exact tendencies like you. Chances are you’ve had such an experience at least once, when you see someone confessing something in an online community that described you almost perfectly but could never admit before. All of a sudden you’re not that crazy anymore!
I bet that millions upon millions such little walls have been crushed thanks to the existence of these global online communities, and that had to have an impact on geekdom as well.
For one thing geeks could connect globally with each other into these massive communities even if they had nobody like them in their local community. This empowered them just as it empowered many other “fringe” groups, but it empowered them especially because the internet itself, this thing that brought them together, was a part of what they’re so passionate about, which set them on a path to dominate it with their businesses.
Secondly, just the mere fact that walls were brought down probably resulted in a generally more accepting attitude among people in general. If you saw strange things being treated as acceptable for multitude of times you probably slowly begin to think that those other people whom you typically considered crazy and perhaps even feared a little, might not be so bad or crazy after all.
4. They are deep wells of insight
What makes up a geek is basically a combination of enthusiasm, dedication, and strong hunger for knowledge and mastery of a specific set of topics that might not necessarily interest most people. They’re the kind of people who don’t need school teachers and parents pushing them to study something just to get it over with. They’re gonna study and work on stuff hard until they become wizards and experts.
And this capacity tends to spill over into other parts of life. They tend to approach everything as a sort of project to master. And the result are insights you might not expect from most people, or non-geeks, insights that may sometimes really change your perspective.
5. Geeks are the new handymen (and handywomen)
Having the world hooked on technology, everything from PCs and laptops to smartphones and smart TVs, has created huge demand for the skills that geeks typically excel in, and they know it.
Who do you call if your computer breaks? How many people owned computers 20 or 10 years ago as opposed to today? You get the picture. It’s hard to see a computer geek as a weirdo when you’re almost 100% dependent on their ability to fix one of the most important, if not the most important, devices in your life.
Furthermore, as more and more of the rudimentary jobs become automated, it is geeky jobs that become the most important ones.
All of this breeds respect, and makes these people seem far cooler than they used to.
In other words, geeks are the new handymen, and handywomen.
6. Movie blockbusters have embraced the geekdom
When you look at what Hollywood blockbusters tend to be about nowadays they seem to be all about superheros and their gadgets, or wizards and their magic. Star Trek has been infused with new life. New Star Wars movie is coming out soon. The Game of Thrones is all the rage. And even when they make fun of nerdy people, like The Big Bang Theory, they ultimately turn these characters into celebrities.
These are all kind of geeky things, and they’re all so mainstream that sometimes even geeks themselves wonder what’s going on, and in an attempt to preserve a little bit of their uniqueness sometimes actually shy away from the mainstream manifestations of their own geekdom. But the dam has been broken, and whether they like it or not, they’re the new cool kids!
(Photo: flickr/ Patrick Savalle)
7. Popular music has embraced the geekdom
Besides the sheer popularity of electronic music from RNB and Hip Hop to all the various forms of Electronic Dance Music, all of which are deeply rooted in their gadgety origins, the content of music is increasingly infused with references to technology, the internet, and various cultural idiosyncrancies within them.
An interesting example on the electronic dance music scene is Deadmau5. His artistic name resembles an internet nickname, and alludes to leetspeak (or l33tsp33k, if I got that right), a keenly geeky concept. His shows are filled with technological imagery and connotations, and he himself is a proud geek. The mouse mask with huge ears that he wears is in itself an iconic symbol of tinkered gadgetry, with the electronics inside that make it a flashy light show prop in its own right. And he wears this electronic thing on his head during most of his show.
8. Many geeks are now parents
We can’t finish without mentioning one of the obvious facts. The computer revolution begun in the 70s and 80s, and since we’re mainly talking about computer geeks and technology enthusiasts in general, this means that most of their early breed are born around that period.
During the 90s and early 2000s they were either teenage kids or in their early 20s, tinkering with computers. And then they grew up, and increasingly they’re having families, and their kids are now being raised by geeks and growing up without even being aware of the whole “geeks are weirdos” meme in their minds.
This had to have an effect on the overall perception of geekdom in modern culture. In a nutshell, they built this new technotopia we are living in, and as a result transformed its culture into one of their own.