There was a time when to be branded a geek was somewhat derisory: The word conjured up a picture of a self-absorbed, pebble-lensed spectacled, spotty loner, closeted away from the real world and lost within their own weird and wonderful subculture. Then, somehow in recent years, geek became chic! No longer considered a mild insult, to be considered a geek today is something of a badge of honour. Geekism is no longer the preserve of introverted no-hopers, but is a label proudly sported by representatives of all genders, ages and echelons of society.
SL seems to attract rather a lot of geeks – understandable perhaps, because of its rather niche appeal and the manner in which it came about. SL was established back in the days when the internet was a far geekier place than it is today; the .net was very much the preserve of those for whom mainstream was a dirty word. These were the days of message boards, MUDs and MOOs, of Usenet and alt.binaries – the mass-market globalisation of Google and Facebook were yet to make their mark and, for many, the World Wide Web was more like a well-policed village, moderated and overseen by a kindly matron aunt who went by the name of AOL. Consequently a virtual rabbit hole, like SL, was geek heaven – here you could be whatever you fancied and meet with thousands of like-minded people, and it was all non-judgemental, safe and secure.
The World Wide Web may have changed, but SL still has more than its fair share of those very special people and it is still a bastion of alternative realities. Such a relatively small community however does tend to distil and concentrate the characteristics of its users in a way that the wider web tends not to. Such a high dose of geekiness, of all sorts, also leads to cross-contamination: Whereas in the good old days, geeks of various persuasions would keep themselves to themselves, or move within well-defined and closed groups, inworld we see something of a more shared and open experience. As a result, computer geeks are quite happy to embrace their geeky sci-fi leanings too and are open to the suggestions of roleplay and numerous other pursuits that they can turn their particular talents towards.
Within my own small circle of friends, for example, there are those who are experts on the minutiae of 80s science fiction serials; Star Trek, Star Wars and Stargate; IT systems, servers and software; Northern soul, punk rock and ska; movie quotes and war film facts, along with a lot more… and that’s just one person! If you throw in the rest of the bunch, I have friends who take geekology in practically every subject you can name to a whole new level. We have some very interesting conversations!
This infectious style of geekitude has other unexpected outcomes too: When a few of us got together recently – just a normal social evening, no agenda and no plans – someone had the hair-brained idea to turn up as Batman. Not wishing to be left out, everyone else in the group – without hesitation – was able to slip into a DC or Marvel costume that ‘just happened’ to be in their inventory and, within minutes, we had a comic-themed party in full swing. I’m equally confident that all of us would have had little difficulty in producing a Star Wars, Doctor Who, Sooby Doo, hippy disco or 70s sitcom costume had the need arisen! You see, the vast majority of my friends are perfectly normal people, but they also happen to be utter geeks across a whole host of subjects and collectively seem to have formed some sort of geekological system that is extremely conducive to reaping the benefits of the environment that SL promotes.
I am, of course, completely immune to such flights of fancy.
Who am I kidding? I’m the biggest geek of the lot!
Superman never made any money
For saving the world from Solomon Grundy
And sometimes I despair the world will never see
Another man like him
Crash Test Dummies – Superman’s Song