As we know, one big problem with the study of History is our lack of access to the mind of the “common man.” I don’t know how common we are around here, but for the benefit of future historians, I think we should put up some discussions of vexing cultural issues. Who knows, maybe we’ll all end up quoted in some dork’s unread dissertation in 2136…
…suitably translated into whatever grunts and clicks Ebonics has devolved into by then, of course, but that’s a rant for another day. Anyway, today’s discussion topic:
Why do so many people want to be “geeks” and “nerds” these days?
Question inspired by this comment from dog on the previous post:
Meyers-Briggs was big with computer people in the late 90s early 2000s so this is not so much a comeback as a holdover, and significantly predates “generation selfie”. Lots of old school programmers tested consistently as INTP/INTJ, and it was part of “what kind of freak are you” games (along with for example something like “geek code”, a signature system that allowed you to communicate if e.g. you were a trekkie or a star wars fan in a cryptic way). _You_ rarely see it, because the silly fashion didn’t translate to millennials proper and the old timers are not spending much time in the kind of echo chambers where you get exposed to a lot of SJWs.
Not being a computer person myself, I keep forgetting that computer people are just people, meaning they’re no less silly, cliquish, and fad-chasing than the rest of us. Meyers-Briggs seems like a very short step above astrology to me — do I really need a long questionnaire to tell me I’m an extrovert? — but I shouldn’t be surprised that computer people like it. In my experience, “psychology” is to computer people what “computers” are to psych majors — randomly blinking ooga booga boxes that do some cool things, but are mostly a terrifying mystery. Liberal Arts people (of which Psych Majors are the most liberal) love Apple products not least because they promise to bury all that blinky ooga-booga stuff under “the user experience;” thus it shouldn’t surprise me that a quick-and-easy “test” that promises to unlock the secrets of the psyche appeals to the other sort.
Given that, I have to assume that the phenomenon of SJWs calling themselves “INFJ” or whatever is yet another iteration of the larger cultural trend of everyone under 35 calling xzheyrself a “nerd” or a “geek” now.
I realize I’m a bit late to this party. I first noticed this phenomenon when that “Game of Thrones” show was popular, and it’s been off the air for a few years now, so I’m probably pulling a Simpsons here, noticing and mocking a trend that’s already well over. Again, my only excuse is that we’re doing this for future historians’ benefit. Can anyone explain it to me?
My guess is that it was the first, crude attempt at bespoke identity-building. Agnostic — the creepy, lesbian-stalking weirdo cited in the “Dark Academia” post — had some good stuff about generational status contests back before he went completely off the deep end. Boomers and at least some Gen Xers, he argued, competed with each other in the material realm — who had the best car, nicest house, and so on. That kind of competition is simply too expensive for most of Gen X, to say nothing of the later generations, so they — the later generations — transferred their competition to the lifestyle arena. They competed over stuff like “who knows the most obscure band” or “who eats the weirdest fusion cuisine.”
The problem with that, obviously, is that it’s too easily faked, especially in the social media age — who hasn’t made a lame joke about liking something you’ve probably never heard of? To really compete, you need something that’s cheap, easy, and above all performative. That was the point, as I understood it, of that “dark academia” stuff — you don’t need to have read Dostoyevsky, but you need to put in the effort to be seen reading Dostoyevsky (or baking bread from scratch, or whatever that “cottagecore” stuff is).
Thus, my theory goes, it’s pretty easy to be a “nerd” or a “geek” or even a “gamer,” since computer stuff is available to everyone and you don’t actually have to be any good at the game (know how to program; have read Tolkien or whatever) in order to call yourself one. You just need to be seen doing it… in a selfie, which is of course static.
Or not. I understand that a lot of this stuff takes place on streaming social media platforms, so I suppose some of these folks actually have to play video games at least a little bit. But that’s a feature, not a bug, since, like the SJWs calling themselves “INFJ” or whatever, this seems to be almost exclusively a chick thing and even I’ve heard of GOTIS — “Girl On The Internet Syndrome,” which was a problem rearing its ugly head even back in my day, when “the Internet” was something you accessed with an honest-to-god landline phone. A guy playing video games is a “gamer,” and will be judged on his game playing skill; a girl playing video games is a girl, and will be judged on how much T&A you can see while she’s doing it. Image-search “Zoe Quinn” if you want to see what a low goddamn bar that is — she was apparently quite the smoking hotness among the “gamer” set, but normal guys… well, you’ll see.
I’m not going to say that’s the final nail in our culture’s coffin, but I will note how much of our ongoing civilizational suicide can be traced directly back to that kind of girl — the one who, with a LOT of effort, could make herself into a NormalWorld six, but who chooses to either abandon all effort and go full SJW fugly, or cocoon herself in a subculture like “geek,” where a six-with-a-lot-of-effort effortlessly becomes a 9.