Friday, January 23, 2009

Speaking of Geeks...

Nerd. Dork. Dweeb. Spaz. Freak. Geek.

Nature or Nurture?

I only remember 4 things from the Intro to Psychology class I took 17 years ago. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Pavlov's experiments with stimulus and response (ring a bell?), the Id, Ego, and Superego, and Nature vs. Nurture. Actually, I am pretty damned surprised I remember that much. Back to my thought.... I was sitting here, finishing up my last little post when the thought hit me, "What makes me a Geek?" Is it what I do, what I say, how I act, or is it just who I am? Was I born to this strange fate or was I somehow influenced by my friends, family, or social circles? Am I genetically predisposed to Geekiness, or did my upbringing somehow poison my fragile mind and bend it to the dorkside? Let's investigate, shall we?!?!?

Let's look at all of the labels that could have been put upon me while growning up (this would have been the late '70s and the '80s):

Nerd: (ref: did you know the word first appeared in the Dr. Seuss story If I Ran the Zoo!) No, not me. Nerds are socially awkward, a bit single-minded, not very physically inclined, and can be a bit oblivious. They are usually too smart for their own good and don't understand why the world doesn't see things just like they do. Most Nerds have interests or hobbies that are deemed strange, unusual, or just plain weird to the general populous. Nerds tend to live within themselves and only associate with other Nerds. As for me, I seemed to fit in, for the most part, in school. I was no outcast or pariah. I did play a number of different sports and did have an understanding of social circles and where/how I fit in.

Dork: A Nerd who doesn't understand the basic points of social interaction and truly believes that what they like is actually of interest or importance to everyone else. They just can't keep it to themselves, to the incredible annoyance of others. I played D&D, arcade games, read comic books, and enjoyed watching cartoons. I did not, however, dress up as Gyrhawk, the 12th level half-elf Ranger/Paladin on days other than Halloween, nor did I argue in public with my friends on the "legality" of using a pencil between your fingers when playing "Track and Field" in the arcade. Sadly, however, there was a point in time where I actually played "Gotcha" or "Assassination" while in school (you may have called it something else; a bunch of guys with dart guns sneaking around campus trying to "assassinate" each other). That aside, I was not a Dork either.

Dweeb: This is an interesting one. In my book a dweeb is just an undeveloped, or underdeveloped Nerd. A little Nerdling. Can't be a Dweeb if you weren't a Nerd.

Spaz: Take a Nerd or a Dork and add a strong dose of ADHD and Voila! No, I did not qualify as a spaz either.

Freak: You remember this guy. He was the one that sat in the back of the class, obsessed with reptiles, pouring Elmers glue on his skin, letting it dry, and then peeling it off like a second skin (I sat next to this guy, I think he is an Accountant now). This was the weird kid everyone was actually a little scared of. No, not me either.

Geek: May be a bit awkward socially, doesn't really have friends outside of their social circle, has a single minded focus on things that are outside the social norm and is associated with that obsession; may be known as a "comic book geek," "computer geek," "band geek," or "a/v geek." Geeks can be athletic, good looking, and socially normal, they are just labeled by their devotion(s) to that which is seen as different, unusual, or strange. Harmless in the pursuit of their interests, they may even be looked upon for help under unique circumstances by others. Ahhh... this feels like home. Let's go down the list:
- read comic books
- was in band
- played D&D
- dinked with computers early on
- played sports
- acutally dated (albiet I was 16 before I could get anyone to pay attention to me)
- was ALWAYS raising my hand in class to be the one to thread and run the filmstrip projector
- hung out with others like me
- Everyone knew I was guilty of all of the above

So yes, by definition I was a Geek. Now, I ask myself, and you, why?

My Mother and Step-Father were certainly not Geeks; a stay at home Mom and an Auto Mechanic. My Step Sisters - nope. My Step Brother - career criminal and redneck, about as far from Geek as you can get. Early on in school I remember associating with all kinds of kids and having friends across the spectrum, but as we got older and developed socially my friends seemed to be more and more like me. I started in the school band in 5th grade. Everyone was either required to take band, choir, music theory, or wood shop, so I was forced into band, but I stuck with it through high school (and loved it, by the way). Did the Geekiness of my band mates rub off on me or was I inclined to remain? I could have quit after 5th grade. Most did. I stayed because I liked it. I didn't have friends that just happened to play D&D, I had friends that were friends BECAUSE they played D&D. As I stated in my last post, I certainly wasn't exposed to the latest and greatest in technology growing up, so that exposure certainly wasn't a positive in the nurture column. My strange adept ability with all things audio and video? I certainly didn't grow up in a TV repair shop.

The more I think about it, the more I am coming to realise that I was predisposed to be a Geek. This may not be you, but in my case, it has got to be genetic. I won't be shocked if 20 years from now scientists, very geeky scientists, somewhere discover the "Geek" gene in our DNA.

So ask yourself, what brought you to this point? Was it nature, or was it nurture? Do you believe, as I do, that geekiness can be inherent and that you are predisposed at birth, or do you see social factors that influence you into this life, this calling, this existence some may know as Geek.

My fate, it seems, was sealed at birth.

Thank you Mom and Dad. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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