Previously on Our Multimedia Culture… Gospel X, our intrepid author who claims he is too busy to regularly update the blog, decided to no longer include himself among those who call themselves geeks and nerds. He decided it was more important to focus on the things we like than the labels we use for ourselves. Isn’t that the point?
It’s been two and a half years since I wrote about no longer throwing in with the geeks, nerds and otaku. For the most part, it has been a very smooth road. It was surprisingly easy to navigate this identify, even when trying to put myself way out in the open to draw in others with similar interests. I created a group on Meetup that didn’t necessarily have to do with the labeled cultures, but those most interested all called themselves geeks. The trick was to create a group that appealed to them but didn’t use the label. I chose enthusiasts. It was regarded as a mere idiosyncrasy of mine, and no one asked why I didn’t just call it a geek group. And no one asked why I didn’t identify as such.
Unfortunately, in retrospect, I realize I just inserted one label for another. What’s the difference between enthusiast and geek in this context? Granted, I never said I was an enthusiast, but it doesn’t matter. One word for another.
Another issue is that in the associated keywords I chose included “geek culture”. It’s hard to win sometimes.
It’s also hard to win when you do admit that you no longer use the label and are questioned about it. I’ve learned this very recently thanks to the online communities I frequent. Discussion on the matter leads to being backed into a corner with the implication of your using us and them language. And people aren’t wrong, especially when I say something along the lines, “I don’t want to be associated with geeks because of such-and-such.” It’s a difficult situation to be in and one I need to learn how to navigate better. It’s important to realize that when people self-identify so strongly with an identity that makes them feel like they truly belong, it offends them to hear that you want nothing to do with it based on people they feel are on the fringes of their culture.
I went to a life recording of The Nerdist Podcast in Royal Oak, Michigan the other night, and it was an eye opening experience for me. Not so much because of the stand-up acts and the podcast, which were incredibly funny, but because of the realization of who I was among the sea of strangers who were cosplaying as well as tweeting whatever they could to read it on the big screen before the show started. (It was a great interactive measure, actually. They projected the results of a live reader that finds any tweet with the Nerdist hashtag. The problem is that not everyone who thinks he is a comedian is actually funny… In fact, most aren’t.)
This isn’t a new realization but rather a deeper realization following my final 2010 post about Patton Oswalt’s defense of geek media from mainstream consumption. Back then I denounced the status of the labeled enthusiast. I was ready to move forward on the same path I had already been walking, sans the luggage of status-seeking. It hasn’t been the easiest path. It gets really hard when married to an Astronomy PhD grad student who surrounds you with people who constantly use the labels and think it’s cool to do so. More power to them, but then I get looks when they make a graph to plot everyone’s level of geekery and I lack enthusiasm about it. When the graph includes an area for “fake geeks”, how can I give them them a thumb up? They’re what I’ve been considering wrong about the labeled culture. Read the rest of this entry