I was IM-ing a friend of mine a few days ago, and was telling her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to remain a programmer, commenting that I wasn’t really a geek at heart. She replied “you’ll always be a geek though. you can be a pundit geek”, which got us into a brief discussion as to what defined a geek. My attempt: “a geek is somebody whose passion for something overrides their fear of social ostracism”, building off of Paul Graham’s essay on nerds and popularity. Because that’s pretty much what a geek is – somebody whose love of Star Trek or sci-fi or Buffy or computers or physics matters to them more than what other people think. It’s why people often fear and envy geeks simultaneously; people fear geeks because geeks’ blatant disregard for the social norms that they spend so much time trying to observe implies that perhaps those social norms are not the laws of nature they seem to be, but are, in fact, just arbitrary rules. They envy the geeks because it would be so freeing to not worry about what other people think and just pursue one’s own passions, let the rest of the world be damned. So, in at least some parts of my life, I’m a total geek. In others, I am still all too prey to the insecurities of social ostracism. Part of what I’m trying to do with my life is find new passions to pursue.
I guess I don’t have as much to say on the subject as I’d thought. But this will get its own post anyway, because I really wanted to title the post “The Passion of the Geek”.