AI: Geeks taken over by cool kids?

Earlier today I asked my Twitter peeps what it meant if, while sitting at a drive through, my husband and I both pulled out our phones to check up on Twitter and Facebook. A few people responded saying we were either geeks or nerds. One person got the answer correct: it meant that we are awesome.

But really, is social media that geeky? Is understanding technology geeky anymore? Or are geeks refusing to admit their schtick has gone mainstream?

I’m posting this from my iPhone from the pedicure chair at the spa BTW!

Is it time for geeks to admit that techis now what the cool kids do? And accept that this doesn’t make them cool by default?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I think that it’s a false dichotomy. As technology becomes easier to use (Blogger, Facebook, and Myspace for example, allow even the least tech-savvy to create and maintain a website), older (personal computers have now been around for more than three decades), and more familiar (most fo us use computers at work, and as such we no longer have a fear of them because we better understand them) it is less necessary for someone to be willing to dedicate themselves to technical knowledge to do many things for which one once needed to be able to write code.

    The tech-geeks/nerds still manage to push technology in all manner of wild directions that the rest of us don’t, but they’re less visible because most of us don’t need their help at every interaction with technology.

    So, yes, there are computer/technology functions that the “cool kids” now do that were once the home of techies, but they only do them now because there are tools that allow someone who isn’t particularly tech savvy to do them. Basically, the geeks have made things that let the mainstream folks take on tasks that were once geek in nature. The geeks haven’t vanished or given up technology, though, they have simply moved forward to push into other areas.

  2. There is still a type of being geeky that isn’t cool. But social media is not that type of geeky. Social media is very cool kid kind of thing.

    This is of course why I stink at social media!

  3. I keep trying to edit the above comment to add something, but the editing function has gone wonky.


    One other thing has happened – many of the once-geeky lines of work have come to be seen as valuable, and as such people who might once have gone for an MBA in search of respectability may now find themselves more attracted to something such as software engineering. My own experience, from when I worked in the tech industry, is that these people still retain many of the traits of the classic geek (curiosity, ability to dedicate themselves to an esoteric project, etc.), but are often people who are just this side of non-geeky enought hat in the past they wouldn’t have pursued these careers.

    In other words, the wide acceptance of technology may mean that the geek/non-geek divide may be in the process of being revealed for a continuum with no sharp distinctions between gradations rather than signatory of two distinct groups.

  4. I think the largest part of “cool” is caring what other people think of you. Geeks and nerds don’t care all that much. We do what we do in spite of popular opinion. It is possible for a geek to unintentionally appear cool, but they probably still won’t care.

    (This is posted from my chair at work because even though my project is finished I think it could be better.)

  5. Social networking is techtainment. Like watching youtube videos, or hulu. Whenever I hear people say they’re “such a geek” for doing something like putting up a blog or joining facebook I really try not to laugh.

    I think that geeky is more of an attitude/culture than doing any specific tech related things anymore. Because the cool kids don’t get the culture that has built up around being a geek.

  6. The products of tech may be for the cool kids, but understanding how that tech works and manipulating it? That’s still geeky.

    Sure, cool kids may like tweeting on their sleek iPhones, but they still seem to call geeks in when they need to update their video card drivers or configure their home network. There’s always a geek niche.

  7. This is a rather interesting question (then again everything that Elyse says IS interesting. Did I say that right Elyse? ;) ).

    Over the years science and technology have become more and more integrated into our usual routines. I remember when mobile phones came out, and I didn’t yet have one. I felt like one of the loser people because it WAS the cool thing. Then I finally bought my own and now cannot fathom going anywhere without it.

    The world is so massive, and yet these things called mobile phones and internets, and twitters and facebooks make it so effing easy to keep in touch with friends on the other side of the country (or globe). Whether it is sending the cutest kid in the entire world (my bff-nano Moose) a video to say hi and that i miss him (along with his amazing parents), or to just see what is going on with friends on twitter.

    Tech-geekery is like the ring in Lord Of The Rings, minus the evily-stuff. It brings us together, it can be addicting, and is something that you don’t fully understand until you hold it in your hands and then you cannot imagine a day without it.

  8. @Tim3P0: slight correction (since I didn’t get the edit button in time), I was born in I didnt mean when “mobile phones just came out”. Just meant that I remember how in school all the people that had them were considered really cool, and out of that felt like in order to fit in, one needed to have it. I never did get one in grade-school, and actually didn’t get my first mobile phone until about 7 years ago. And, surprise surprise, I am neither a loser nor one of the “cool” people, but rather just my own geeky self. Anyways…

  9. This reminds of that episode of The Cleveland Show, where Cleveland takes Cleveland Junior to a Star Trek convention to show him what happens to men if they don’t have sex.

    Then it cuts to them in the car on the way home with heaps of Star Trek memorabilia and he says something like “I forgot about all the great stuff there is to do when you aren’t having sex”.

    Lack of sex jokes aside, he’s right. Being a geek is awesome. I can’t blame all those non-geeks for wanting to get in on it.

  10. @buyjupiter:
    Indeed. Using a computer is not geeky, building your own is geeky. Writing in a blog is not geeky, writing a blog about the finer points of physical chemistry is geeky. Watching television online is not geeky, writing a program to record online videos is geeky.

  11. Does buying vacuum tubes on ebay from a guy in the Ukraine count as geeky? (And no they aren’t for an audio amp or guitar amp).


  12. It’s only properly geeky if you’re using non-mainstream tech. Using an iPhone to do anything an iPhone is intended to do is not geeky and Facebook is certainly not intrinsically geeky – everyone is using it.
    I’m writing this on a netbook which would also be entirely non-geeky except I’ve uninstalled Windows from it and installed Linux instead. That makes it geeky since your typical tech non-savvy person doesn’t even know Linux exists or what it might be and certainly doesn’t use it. Doing anything with Linux is, I think, still geeky. Yes, even if it’s Ubuntu.
    Basically, it’s only geeky of you’re either using some non-mainstream tech or using a mainstream tech in a non-mainstream way.
    The goalposts for tech-geekyness keep moving with the penetration of technologies.

  13. I live in a town that despite having Google move in and set up camp, still sees the same things as geeky as it did 20 years ago. Whenever I draw comics in public I’m half expecting someone to crack wise about it. Other cities I’ve lived in would engage me in what I was doing. Here, the best I can hope for seems to be people avoiding the tables around me so I’m not disturbed, like I’m that chimp that ripped the woman’s face off. Once (ONCE!) I was engaged in conversation by my waitress, whose job it was to talk to me to see if I needed another coffee, the conversation, though, was a nice little bonus.

    Twenty years ago, it was geeky behavior, and now it’s still viewed as geeky behavior. Besides, talking to the guy drawing comics might make them late to go see Kick Ass, the Losers, Scott Pilgrim, or Iron Man 2.

    Waitress, can I have another latte with some extra irony this time?

  14. Indeed, 30 years ago, if you owned or knew how to use a computer, you were geeky. 20 years ago, if you could write any kind of software program (even in visual basic) you were geeky. 10 years ago, if you used your mobile phone for anything other than calling, texting or playing “snake”, you were geeky.

    Nowadays, I’m not so sure where the line is.
    What I do know is that most of the things I could do with a computer 10 years ago are no longer considered geeky today, because too many people already know how to do those things.

    Although most of those people would still be afraid to take a screwdriver to their PC and find out what it looks like on the inside …

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