A journey through history with the geeks
To break with some myths about the geeks of today, it is important to look back to the origin of this culture. Back in the early 1900s, the geeks were carnival performers who enacted morbid or disgusting acts for the amusement of the audience. Some of the acts they performed included biting the heads off live chicken. But by the decade of the 1950s, the term geek evolved drastically, and being a geek rarely involved biting the heads off chickens. During this period, geeks were considered unsociable people devoted to intellectual activities. In the 1980s, the term geek was used as an insult to address people with deep computer and technology knowledge.
With this information, a geek can be defined as a non-mainstream, socially awkward person that is typically obsessed with technology or has an intellectual pursuit. It is often used as a pejorative term, but with the growth of hipster trends over the past few decades, many use the term “geek” as self-reference or even as a source of pride. Today, it is typically used to refer to a person who is heavily invested in their interests or hobbies.
But one does not have to be a technology savvy to be considered a geek. The evolution of the so called Geek Culture has been such that the term now encompasses more areas of knowledge. There are car geeks, Harry Potter geeks and wine geeks. The term has even lost its reference to lacking social skills: it is important to clarify that nowadays geeks are generally sociable.
Drawing the line between nerds and geeks
Now that we know that geeks are knowledgeable people that follow intellectual pursuits, it is worth noting that being a geek is not the same than being a nerd.
While geeks and nerds share similar outward traits, the difference becomes clearer when we look at their approach to life. Nerds are typically unattractive, irritating people who are focused on intellectual, non-social pursuits and enjoy solitary pastimes. When it comes to human interactions, nerds are generally more introverted while geeks usually have normal social skills.
With these differences we can now see how much the program has evolved over the years. The term geek went from being used as an insult to a source of pride and identity. There is even a fashion trend called “geek chic” that arose in the mid 2000s. Young individuals started adopting “geeky” fashions such as braces, high water trousers and the popular, oversized black horn-rimmed glasses, sometimes even worn with non-prescription lenses.