The psychology of the geek, in 6 basic characteristics

Hippies, goths, otakus, punks, heavy, nerds, geek, millennials… All of these terms and words have sounded relatively frequently lately. They are different cultures or urban tribes. This concept related to social phenomena refers to a group of people in which a distinct set of beliefs and behaviors develop that differentiates them from other members of the society itself.

An urban tribe is a mode of cultural and social expression presented by a set of individuals from the same society, this culture being chosen and modulated by the people who compose it according to their context and their way of life. Some are formed around a musical style or taste, others around an ideology and also exist linked to the existence of a common hobby.

One of those subcultures, urban cultures or urban tribes, which is currently enjoying increasing popularity is geek culture. But … Are there any psychological characteristics that define this group?

What do we mean by geek?

Coming from the English of a time when it was a pejorative label, the word “geek” refers to a person who has a high level of attraction and fascination with everything related to technology, Electronic entertainment and science fiction. There is a strong heterogeneity within this category, the common denominator being interest in technology.

Within this group, we could for example find hackers, subjects with a great fondness for gadgets, fans of science fiction and fantasy or individuals with a great interest in electronic entertainment (the latter better known as the name of gamers in the news).

While as initially said the term geek had negative connotations, today, this concept is more and more accepted and recognized by society, Being quite well appreciated for their culture and having even set up a “Geek Pride Day”.

But what characteristics generally possesses a person cataloged within this urban tribe?

Enter the geek’s mind

Several studies have been carried out in an attempt to analyze the characteristics of members of different subcultures and their distinctive personalities. Regarding geek culture, some of the results reflected by these studies (highlighting that of McCain, Gentile and Campbell) are as follows:

1. Interest in technology

The interest in technologies and their operation is, as indicated above, The common denominator of the different types of subjects called geeks.

2. Neophilia

Many so-called geeks (and self-proclaimed ones) exhibit what is known as neophilia, That is, a strong attraction and affinity towards (especially technology). This implies a certain level of rejection of routine and a certain capacity to adapt to change.

3. Political disillusion

Several studies with many volunteers reflect that a large number of individuals cataloged within this urban culture have an aversion to politics. In other words, they tend not to feel comfortable, ignored and unrepresented by political bodies. It also leads them to greater participation in non-political civic associations.

4. Creativity and openness to experience

Some studies conducted on the creativity level of members of this subculture seem to indicate that geeks tend to undertake more creative projects, both at the level of work and play, than the average one. An example of this is the group of hackers, which shows a great ability to find and create new methods and mechanisms in the world of IT.

5. Openness to experience and extroversion

While the stereotypical image of geeks seems to reflect introverted people with little social contact, the studies conducted point to the opposite, correlating the data obtained by the study with moderate to moderate levels of extraversion.

Perhaps the cliché is due to the low social esteem of this group when the concept of geek was developed.Something that could lead to their social rejection and, therefore, to people tagged with this term adopting a defensive stance based on their past experiences. In this way, the current positive consideration of this group facilitates the strengthening and quality of their social bonds.

6. Trend in depression and / or greatness

The people studied also had a propensity for depressive states and disorders, manifesting a low level of self-esteem. However, a moderate percentage of individuals drawn to the geek culture showed high scores on traits suggesting the existence of some level of narcissism.

Final considerations: the risks of labeling

While many people enjoy being positively labeled in this subculture and others, risks and excessive use of labels must be taken into account; categorizing people according to their tastes or characteristics can lead to various problems. Being included in a specific group means that one will tend to assume the presence of certain personal characteristics that may or may not be possessed, and also be a problem in making connections with people outside of one’s own group.

In addition, if the current social perception of what is meant by geek is acceptable, it is still true that until the 1990s, the term was used in a pejorative manner, assuming the existence of certain prejudices (some of which are are still latent today.) which, in certain situations, could harm people considered as such.

Being labeled within a group can help in the process of forming an identity, And carries the risk that the label does not correspond to our characteristics, and can lead to self-censorship to adapt to the in-group and to the establishment of competitive relations with other social categories.

Both in identifying with a group and in trying to label other people, one must avoid falling into stereotypical judgments and / or prejudices which can have serious consequences on the subject of labeling and / or labeling. social group to which it is cataloged.

Bibliographical references:

  • Arnold DO (1970). Sub-cultures. The Glendessary Press, Berkeley.
  • Bell, D. (2001). An Introduction to Cybercultures, Routledge, London.
  • Konzack, L. (2006). Geek Culture: The 3rd Counter-Culture. Accessed May 25, 2015.
  • McCain, J .; Gentile, B. and Campbell, WK (2015). A psychological exploration of engagement in Geek culture. PLoS ONE 10 (11): e0142200. doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0142200
  • Raymond, I. (2003). “Geek – The Jargon File)”. Accessed March 17, 2011.
  • Thornton, S. (1995). Club cultures. Music, media and subcultural capital, Wesleyan University Press, Hanover.

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