So what really makes someone a geek? What makes someone a nerd? Is there even a difference? These are fairly normal questions to ask, but we have a tendency to answer them with stereotypes rather than real facts. The following video from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gives a couple of examples of geek and non-geek stereotypes.
Here we see a rivalry between two branches within S.H.I.E.L.D., the Science and Technology Division and Operations. Agent Fitz, a weapon tech specialist from Sci-Tech, is nearly too intelligent for his own good. Agent Ward was trained as a Ops specialist. His job was literally to go in alone, make a hit, and get out. Neither of these men have many communication skills, thus leading to many arguments throughout the show. Fitz is a thinker, Ward is a fighter.
What does this all have to do with my original questions? Paul Glen and Maria McManus argue that we should start using archetypes rather than stereotypes when trying to distinguish geeks, nerds, and everybody else. Unlike stereotypes which tend to be an assumption about a specific group of people, an archetype recognizing each person as an individual. For example, saying that men are always taller than women is a stereotype, but saying that men tend to be taller than women, yet still recognizing that there are short men and tall women is an archetype.
Being an athlete, redneck, and geek, I have had my fair share of stereotypes thrown my way. Each group has it’s own stereotypes, some may even contradict others. I guess the best place to start would be with the redneck stereotypes. If I had a dime for every time someone assumed that I was less than intelligent based solely on my camouflage, I would not need to work a day in my life. There is also the thought that a redneck is either a football player, or not athletic at all. Again, this is inaccurate for myself. I participated in every sport at some point in my life from Scholar Bowl to Football. This then brings me to the next category I would consider myself a part of. An athlete. A stereotype that probably is actually true for most athletes is that they know a lot about professional sports. This is yet another miss on describing me. The only sport that I even half follow is NASCAR racing, which some do not even consider a sport. According to society, an athlete spends all of his time either in the weight room, or watching sports center. They are the popular kids in school that everyone wants to hangout with. Sure this may be true for some, but I was more of the kind of guy that would go home after practice and spend hours upon hours playing video games. I have a small friend group that are also big video game players and just geeks in general. This leads me to number three on the list of things that makes me who I am. I am a geek through and through. I honestly do not know what makes a geek a geek, but I do know that just being a geek contradicts what society says about being both an athlete and a redneck. I’m just one big contradiction to most of the stereotypes, and that is why archetypes are better.
When working with anyone, especially people that are less social, we need to be careful to not make stereotypes. Stereotypes are an inaccurate way to look at people. Until you really get to know them, you have no idea what they could be like. It is fine to have some thoughts about what certain types of people are, but be sure to recognize that every individual is different and may not hold true to everything that you originally thought about them.