As geeks, we pride ourselves on not following the herd. Maybe it’s because we like stuff that’s deemed to be a little weird, or maybe it’s because we have no interest in being considered “normal” anyway, but we have gotten comfortable with our non-conformist identities. Or have we?
How many times have you wanted to do something, but didn’t, due to the fear of being mocked? I’m talking about scenarios as small as second-guessing yourself on a movie quote in casual conversation or as big as standing up for someone who other people see as “too mainstream” and therefore unworthy. I admit, I have experienced these problems firsthand, and I have witnessed it happen to my friends.
In some geek circles, if a slip of the tongue turns “Star Trek” into “Star Wars,” the speaker is met with a chorus of their friends booing “faaaiiiiil” and turning it into a brick joke that lasts for an hour. Isn’t that the kind of stupidity and immaturity we normally associate with mundanes? And speaking of mundanes, let’s say there’s someone who is classically popular/beautiful/athletic/charming/etc who is just getting into geekery. When your friends start dogpiling on, would you speak out against them? You know deep down that you don’t want to propagate the high school stereotypes, but are you brave enough to take action? It can be tough.
Tough, and ironic, considering that geekery is seen as a safe space where people can tap into their unusual sides. While this sanctuary for creativity and fandom certainly needs to be protected, let’s make sure we don’t give it a figurative autoimmune disorder. You can’t protect geekery by bullying people out of it. Anyone can be smart. Anyone can be creative. Anyone can be a fan. I dare say, anyone can be a geek, and the only way we can assure that our precious safe space remains intact is by keeping its borders open. That means refraining from stereotyping people one way or the other. It also means being a little kinder to our friends. Yes, we love facts and trivia, but that means we should be sharing knowledge instead of chastising those who don’t have it or don’t present it properly. If your friend botches a statistic or a quote, let it go if you think they merely misspoke or correct them if you think they were mistaken. Do not go “faaaaiiil.”
Protecting geekery also means living by example, meaning we cannot conform to the anti-conformists. It’s okay to like sports and D&D and shopping and rap music and video games and anime all at once. You’re a real person, not a flat stereotype, and those who attack you because of that are threatened because you upset their biased expectations. Don’t live for the trolls. Don’t live to conform to their notions or to overturn them. Just be yourself. Let other people be themselves, even if they come across as geeks acting mundane or mundanes acting geeky. Besides, if we waste time obsessing over who is or isn’t a “true geek,” that takes time away from our hobbies. Oh noes!
If we want to maintain geekery as something fun and safe rather than snooty and hostile, we need to take action. Geekery can only survive if people are free to mess up within it; otherwise, the bar is set too high. I’d love it if a person could, say, misquote something and not be ripped to shreds over it. As Yoda said to Indiana Jones before retrieving the Triforce of Power from the TARDIS, “make it so.”