Monday, June 30, 2008

In Defense of Geeks

Update: July 1st, 2008 to the original post below from June 30, 2008

Disclaimer: It has been brought to my attention by some, more specifically my lovely girlfriend, that the following post may be somewhat offensive or come off as especially d-baggish. I'd like to apologize to my readers if this was the case with the post below. My intention was to empower all people and to help increase the self-esteem of nerds around the world who often face persecution because of their interests. The "In Defense of Geeks" post isn't meant to signify that myself or any other geek is superior to someone who is not a geek. In fact, the overall point of the post is that we are all geeks. Everyone has that one topic, that one hobby, interest or activity that makes them feel so good — that they are so passionate about — they love to immerse themselves in it. For those traditionally referred to as nerds, this usually involves some sort of technology, role-playing or other extremely creative means. The idea presented below is that those who realize their strengths, play on them, and who aren't lazy will get ahead in life. We now live in a digital world. That is an undebatable fact. We must be flexible and learn to adapt quickly to the ever-evolving networks around us. The message is, don't make fun of geeks, because we all are in some way — embrace your inner geek.




In place of a banner today, I decided to let Weird Al Yankovic preface the blog post. It has come to my attention lately that several acquaintances of mine have deemed me to be somewhat of a nerd, a geek, a dork, if you will.

Well, interestingly enough, the people who have not decided to bring this to my attention are the people who I designate in my mind as the coolest people I know. These are my friends who also enjoying discussing for hours on end which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle really would've made the best leader, which character on Super Smash Brothers Brawl is the most superior, and which latest Twitter or Mac app offers the best features. This is not to say I do not love and care about the rest of my friends, but they just aren't as geeky as some of the others.

But I started wondering, why is being a nerd a negative thing in most people's minds? The only explanation I can come up with is that they are jealous of our superior intellect and unparalleled ability to level up in RPGs, write HTML or find rare, valuable comic books. Seriously, let's think about some of the most influential people in the United States.

Steve Jobs, for example — complete nerd. This guy is the father of Apple, and his geekiness has certainly paid off in the past few years. Apple's ever-increasing market share is bound to be making PC makers and users nervous, and Macs are becoming the standard among media professionals and on college campuses.

Speaking of making people nervous, Bill Gates has monopolized the market for so long that he's so rich he probably could care less what happens to Microsoft at this point. Well, sure, he cares, but he would probably survive if they became #2. There sure is no way Gates is happy about the Mac vs. PC ads that feature a character who looks stunningly like the father of Microsoft. All in all, though, Gates is extremely successful. A lot of people have called him their boss. Why? Well, he sure didn't become who he is by lifting weights and drinking beer all day.

Jobs, more of a hardware/accessory nerd (iPod, iPhone), and Gates, more of a software nerd (MS Office, Windows), have something in common — they are nerds. They are successful, and they are highly knowledgeable. Warren Buffett, investment nerd. Michael Dell, computer nerd. The Walton family, cheap stuff nerds. Forrest Mars, Jr., candy nerd. Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, media nerds. Alan Turing, cryptography geek. Nikola Tesla, electricity geek. Mark Zuckerberg, face fetish geek. The list goes on. What's the point? The point is, everyone has their niche — everyone is going to be good at something, but nerds are just REALLY good at the things that other people aren't. For example, we can memorize long codes that unlock invincibility powers in video games (or invent the Internet).

Let's face it, the next time you make fun of the person who actually does their work; the person who incessantly checks e-mail, blogs and knows the difference between a typeface and a font; the person at the grocery store with Bluetooth in his ear; the one who tweets and uses the latest in technology excitedly; the one who can kick your butt in video games, Scattergories and Scrabble; that person who points it out when you use incorrect grammar; the one who stays up-to-date on politics and news (even in other countries); and the person who happens to enjoy reading some good fantasy/sci-fi fiction — you might be making fun of your future boss, professor or government leader.

Do you want to live your life knowing only a minuscule amount of the information that is our there? Or would you prefer to be a well-informed geek? Success is measured in many ways, and being the leader of a corporation or making millions doesn't necessarily make someone successful. Being happy and living modestly is enough for many people, as it should be, I suppose. But being uninformed and rejecting other peoples' views and hobbies just because you don't like them doesn't cut it. As human beings, we have a responsibility to seek out new knowledge and do what we can to make the world a better place — you can't do this just sitting on the sideline and criticizing others for what they do. I think most geeks would say, "Fine, you don't want to participate in the future, that's OK. Just stay out of my way while I have fun and move forward." In other words, just because you don't like something doesn't make it a public nuisance.

Luckily for people like me and many of my friends, geeks have made great advancements in recent history. There's even G4, basically a cable channel devoted to geekdom (formerly TechTV). Now, the highest-grossing movies are about comic books we knew about years ago. Oh yeah, Stan Lee, comic book geek, and the creator of those X-Men, Spider-Man, etc., movies you've enjoyed (and paid money to see). One store even has a prestigious Geek Squad to help customers. The Internet has done nothing more than fuel the fire, creating an astounding number of geeks, some who probably don't even realize it.

For all the younger readers out there who may get made fun of at school for toting your Nintendo DS around, for reading comics, for collecting action figures and for making good grades — keep doing it. These things will all make you more successful and more creative in the long run. Many of the jocks and cheerleaders in your class won't go to college, and you'll probably give them a wave next time you drive through your hometown. Now, I should say, there's nothing wrong with not going to college. But there is something wrong with wasting potential, with sitting at home settling for something less than what you're worth, and with being too lazy to do much else than live off your parents. I realize sometimes circumstances arise that are out of anyone's control, and I don't mean to criticize people these things happen to. What I'm saying is to apply yourself, work as hard as you can, ignore the naysayers, and see where you end up at the end of the day.

It's time all people just do away with the stereotype of being a geek. Though we may still be a minority, the popularity of computers and the Internet is on our side. No one can avoid using these things in a day-to-day basis at their jobs in many cases, though they may not understand the inner workings as well as we do. And that's where we step in. The world needs us geeks. They need to stop treating the word as though it's a bad thing, and start realizing the potential all human beings could have if only they embrace learning and technology. One way we can ensure the future of humanity is to embrace the onslaught of Web 2.0. Start socially networking and tagging, create some content and get the word out about your niche — about what category of geek you are. Through this nurturing of our inner nerd, we can become more peaceful, fun-loving people. We can perpetuate new technologies, new cures and better solutions to the world's problems.

It has always been nerds who were history's inventors and leaders, so become one, love one, or both — and watch the world fall into place for you.

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I've decided not to update every day on my internship. I realized I was including a paragraph or so a day, and I could probably just summarize what I've done and learned once per week or so — that should suffice. (Yes, I realize that was the original purpose of the blog... so sue me.)

I'll still update when I have realizations, have advice/need advice, etc., concerning journalism and public realtions. I'm still considering a bit of a redesign... just whenever I get time. I want to start whittling the blog posts down to one topic or so a day, hopefully with less clutter and more focus per post. Of course, this information below the fold, so to speak, is evidence that this will be difficult as I continuously come across links I want to put up here.

Speaking of links:

This editorial says in very eloquent terms some stuff I've been thinking about for the past couple of weeks concerning the credibility of the news media and bloggers.

Barack Obama keeps facing smear campaigns via the Internet and word of mouth from ultraconservatives who refuse to do any research or watch a real news station or read a real newspaper. The campaign has a solution, though.

Using Twitter in public relations.

Have you seen Ball Girl? Really? Did you realize it's a viral ad by Gatorade? The video is posted below, watch for the bottle at the girl's feet at the end.

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