If you’re reading this, chances are good that you grew up geeky; whatever that means to you. As a kid, my geekdom was an independent, closeted kind of thing. I loved school, loved to read, and was a goofy strange kid who was always trying to get the more popular kids to like me. I was beginning to be aware that not everyone felt the same as I did, which made me different, which was bad. I compensated by trying to be funny and talking too much, which resulted in me getting myself and other kids in trouble, which didn’t help.
Finally, in 4th grade, I moved up into middle school and was shunted into a new program where I was adopted by some awesome fifth-graders who introduced me to a little show called Doctor Who. For the first time, I had found my people. Anyone who is, as I am, older than the internet can tell you what a huge deal that is. From then on, I was happy to let my geek flag fly. I knew I was different, I knew not everyone would like me. I wasn’t necessarily happy about it, but I was okay with it. For the rest of my childhood, I sought out the funny, smart, geeky kids like myself and we stuck together and helped each other keep our heads down and survive into adulthood.
With my advancement into college came the advent of the internet. I know this because my first America Online screen name included my age, 18. Suddenly, we were all connected. Not only could I find new people to geek out with and new things to geek out over, but it was easier to stay in touch with the geeks of yesteryear. Emailing video clips and posting to forums gradually replaced mailing of VHS tapes and printed pages of fan fiction. It was the “let there be light” moment for a generation of geeks and there has been no going back. As the internet became more mainstream, so did being a geek. It’s not that there were suddenly more geeks, just that we were all “coming out.” Everybody geeks out about something and the more of us there were, the stronger we became as a community.
Now we are all grownups and geeks rule the world. It’s not to say there aren’t still bullies, but there’s a hell of a lot more acceptance than there used to be. So, with the stigma gone, what will growing up as a geek mean for our kids? I mean, we didn’t all become geeks as a rebellious reaction. Geekiness is a genetic trait. Look at your parents: they may not consider themselves geeks, but I bet there’s some little thing they love more than anyone else they know and can go on and on about it to anyone who will listen. This trait will likely flourish even more in the next generation. Our kids may not geek out about the same things we did, but that level of freakish obsession will be there. Hopefully, this means a couple of great things.
First, it could lead to the discovery and/or creation of a whole lot of cool new stuff. Previous generations of geeks, your history buffs and crafting nerds, tended to get into things that already existed. Our generation became interested in exploring new possibilities and making reality out of things only dreamt of. They looked toward the future, taking interests in new technology and venturing beyond the known, both on and off this world. Now the future is here. Advancements in technology, communication, and transportation that our parents and grandparents would have considered fanciful fictions are realities. That same exploratory spirit exists in the hearts and minds of today’s geeks, but they have a lot more cool toys to play with. In the entertainment world, where superheroes, mutants, aliens and space travel are all the standard of the day, imagine how cool the creative inventions of today’s young minds will be. Chances are they’ll come up with stories we never could have thought of. And when you extend that creativity to the practical side of life and combine it with the amazing ever-evolving technology they have access to, I predict some mind-blowing problem solving.
The second thing I expect for today’s geeks is a happier place to grow up in. There will always be negativity, but there’s no denying the positive effects of acceptance. Think what more past geniuses could have done if they weren’t considered outcasts and weirdos, unappreciated in their time. Today, geek gatherings the world over are places where an afficionado of the goriest horror movies can pull up a chair next to a lover of hearts-and-flowers manga and debate the latest superhero movie or action platforming video game with equal measures of informedness and excitement. Whatever you’re into, it’s ok with other geeks and furthermore, it’s ok with other people. Whether or not someone considers themselves a geek, there is just a greater likelihood these days that they will say “I may not understand it, but you’re into it and that’s cool.” It’s a far cry from getting stuffed into a locker, so to speak. It makes me excited to be a geek today, but even more excited to see what the next generation of geeks can do without the societal limitations their forebears had.
tl;dr – our geeky kids are going to make the future awesome because they can, they want to, and no one is telling them not to.