From the overwhelming initial information on what a geek is, I still am struggling to get the true picture of one. The only thing I am sure of at this point is that it is a slang or informal term. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as an odd or ridiculous person and The Oxford Dictionary defines it as an unfashionable or socially inept person, both meanings quite related. In both definitions, note that nowhere do we find any word that has something to do with the brain, the intellect or knowledge.
One thing that caught my interest in the Oxford definition, though, is an addendum, which clarified that when used with a modifier like a computer geek, computer geek would mean a knowledgeable and obsessive enthusiast. Surprisingly, The American Heritage gives the following slang terms as synonyms of enthusiast: freak, junkie, nut, groupie, bug, head and fiend, some of which are popular with geek, nerd, hippie or other similar groups.
In my own analysis, a geek, when used with a modifier could mean an odd, ridiculous, unfashionable or socially inept but knowledgeable and self-driven person. This definition has both positive and negative connotations, which can be confusing and may even be irreconcilable to the main stream or more conventional groups. Just like anything else on this planet, words as a component of language have their own origins and evolutions. This means that the original meanings of words can change with time because they also adopt to the circumstances in which they are used. They have to undergo their own evolution so that they do not become extinct.
In the past, nerds, freaks and hippies were frowned at and they were confined to their own groups. With the emergence of the computer industry in the 1990s, the geeks became known as they manned the computers, indicating an exemplary level of their prowess and passion. Computers were not user friendly then and not just anybody could operate them. Human beings, geeks included, have needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs includes the physiological needs and the motivational needs, the latter being the higher needs. I can see that the geeks, with their mastery of computers, have a need for recognition for the milestone they have done for technology. They also have to satisfy their need for esteem and self-actualization to erase the negative role their predecessors have been known for in the past. The present day geeks deserve this and there is nothing wrong with it as long as they don’t kill and rob other people, and respect their rights.
If we are to go by the definition of Oxford, anybody with an expertise can be a geek like a math geek, or an astronomy geek, or a religious geek, or a music geek, or a health geek, or a carpentry geek, and the list could go on. What is this fuss then about contradicting perceptions of geeks? Are they good or are they bad for society? Who knows, being a geek may even be just a fad.
The geek culture is a relatively young movement and it is too early to make a categorical stand at this point. It is said that experience is the best teacher. Maybe, just maybe, we all have a little bit of Geek trying to burst out….