So for this introductory post to me, Lieutenant Basil Alpacattack Esq. (Basil for short), sometimes-coherent writer and mostly-incoherent ranter, I put a lot of serious thought into what I should spend my precious once-in-a-lifetime-intro post waxing on about. And by that I mean I panicked and dithered about for a good few hours trying to scrounge up a topic before finally settling on writing about:
I mean, that’s what you do when you meet new people, right? Shuffle awkwardly from foot to foot as you try to think of something interesting to talk about before finally uttering some inane comment about the clouds. I feel as though this is a fairly good representation of me anyway. If you want to know about me, just think of me as the kind of girl who likes to talk about the weather.
But wait! Before you doze off in boredom and hit the back-button with your forehead, I’d like to mention that here the weather stuff is mostly just a way for me to try and talk about why conflict sometimes pops up among geeks, even when they’re geeking out over the same thing.
As Dame Uta nicely pointed out in her article on Geeky Stereotypes, despite what pop culture would have you think, we geeks are not all one homogenous group. When you start breaking us down, you realize there are quite a lot of subgroups. Gamer-geeks, lit-geeks, movie-geeks, comic-geeks…I’m just trying to hit some of the big categories that come to mind, but there are of course a lot more than just those. Even categories you don’t often think of like biker-geeks and gardening-geeks. And of course, within those categories are sub-categories. With all these different types of geeks floating around, it’s not surprising that conflict among subgroups sometimes rears up.
Before I begin yapping about the weather, though, quick fun fact about me: I camp. Like a lot. You’re probably wondering why I brought this up, but this is important. At least to me. I’ve been going every year of my life since birth. I know some people have a vision of camping as you being out in the middle of the woods somewhere, isolated from the world and going slightly feral as you fight brown bears with sticks for the last of the berries. Well, I’ve been camping in everything from a tent on an island reachable only by boat to roadtripping statewide in a gaudy rented RV, so I can tell you it’s not quite as simple as that (and I’ve only had to fight off bears once).
I’d like to make a rather obvious and maybe slightly overly-metaphorical point here that camping subculture is somewhat like the geek subculture. People not already in the “in” tend to think campers are all alike, but when you start getting into the scene, you realize there’s really a lot of variance. You get people who are seasonal RVers, you get diehard wintertime backpackers, you get groupsite family reunions, and so on. All these different groups have different ways of going about camping, and each group has its own opinion about what camping really means. Kind of the way geeks all have different ideas about what it means to be a geek. Since geeks all have different ideas about what it means to be geeks, sometimes this breaks into conflict when two groups who are geeking out over the same thing have different ideas about how one should geek out over that specific thing. But more on that in a bit.
Transitioning awkwardly here to the weather metaphor, I’d like to point out that when you’re camping, weather is hard to escape. When I’m home and it rains, I can stay inside and watch TV. When I’m out camping and it rains, even if I stay inside, I can’t escape the rain. The damp creeps its way into the camper or tent. My clothing clings to me. Dirt gets on everything. If it’s raining and it also happens to be cold out, I can’t hide inside with the heat cranked up. Instead, I need to settle for piling on sweatshirts and coats and swearing profusely when my hair freezes to my scalp after a shower. If you haven’t experienced really long, really wet hair slowly air drying in the cold, then let me tell you: it sucks.
Okay, so I know thus far my bubbling on about camping sounds an awful lot like whining. You’re thinking, maybe even rolling your eyes and huffing, “Well, if it sucks so much camping, why bother doing it? Just stay home. If you need the outdoors so much, just go play frisbee in the park or something.”
Well, yeah, I see your point but no. I feel like that would be the equivalent of someone listening to you complain about a TV show you love and her or him finally asking, “If it bothers you so much, why not just stop watching it? It’s not as though anyone’s forcing you to watch it. It’s just a TV show, after all.” Not cool, right?
See at this point, camping is a part of me. I need that time go outside and roll around in the dirt and be at the miserable whimsy of the elements, or else I don’t feel like myself. I’m going to go ahead and just call myself a camping geek at this point. Much as waking up the sound of rain puttering overhead makes me want to set fire to woodland creatures, I’d still never trade in those nights when I fall asleep to loons calling in the distance; for those nights when I walk out on quiet piers at late hours to see a yellow moon and port town lights reflected on rippling water; for those early mornings collecting wild blueberries and making wild blueberry pancakes; for those evenings when the firelight rides high and the smell of woodsmoke clings to your skin. I’d never trade any of that in, ’cause it’s all awesome.
The same goes for when there’s a more traditionally “geeky” thing I obsess over, like a video game or TV show. When I find something I really, really love, I adore it. But no matter how much I love something, there’s likely going to be something about it that makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Sometimes I find geeking out over something becomes something of a game of scales. I have to make a decision: does what I love about this video game/TV show/book/etc. outweigh what I hate about it? More often than not, the answer is yes. Sometimes, though, the answer is no.
When I have to answer no, I get one of three things: sad, angry, or exhausted. Sad when it’s a stupid issue, like an author unintentionally putting across messages that make me angry (Hallowed–defying fate and making your own decisions is a stupid idea and will ruin the lives of your loved ones). Angry, when the issue is one I see cropping up in this instance but I’ve seen multiple times elsewhere (Wither–only virgins are special, if you’ve had sex you’re a whore and you can just go die). Exhausted, when I see the issue so much that it’s more of a challenge to find something that doesn’t contain the same issue (I’m just gonna put down “representation of ladies in video games” here as a whole category). Of course, when I find something that I wanted to like but find that I can’t for reasons, or even something that I really like but still has elements I can’t like, I don’t just want to let the issue die. I want to see if other people agree with me. I want to see if I’m overreacting, or if these are issues other people have taken grievance with. In order to do this, I can do two things: whine to my RL friends, or take to the internet.
However, when you take to the internet, you open the dialogue up to a large range of people. Of course, you do this also when you whine to RL friends, but at least with RL friends, you know them already. You at least have some idea of how they’ll react. With the internet, you don’t have that safety net. As earlier stated, we geeks are not a homogenous group. Subsequently, just because you think something is an issue, that doesn’t mean everyone else will. This is where that intersection of different groups of geeks geeking out over the same thing, though they have the object of geekery in common, may still start finding enough differences between themselves to start fighting.
How nasty the arguments can get really depend on what the issue is and who the people are arguing, and how dear to them the issue is. For this I like to think of another weather metaphor, this one about lightning storms. For this particular metaphor, the lightning storm will represent the issue at hand, the one causing conflict among the groups.
For some people, they can watch that lightning storm from the safety of their home. They can see the lightning, they can “ooo” and “ahh” over it, but ultimately, they’re safe in their house and they can choose the lightning if they so wish. I like to think of this group as the group of people for whom the issue at hand really isn’t that much of an issue, or it’s one they can turn their back on and ignore if it feels like it becomes too much drama to keep worrying about it.
For other people, the lightning is something they can’t escape. In this scenario, I’m thinking of all the times I’ve gone camping and being caught in a lightning storm means that, at the best, you’re just going to wake up with your picnic table soaked. At worst, the lightning will strike a thirty foot tree and drop the trunk on your tent/camper. In either case, I can’t escape the effects of the storm. It’s something I have to deal with, and I can’t just turn my back on it. Similarly, there are groups of people for whom the issue in an object of geekery is too much to ignore. The issue is either too close to home or something they care about too much to just let go.
When these two groups intersect is when the really big fights blow up, because the two groups are coming at the issue from two different directions. For one group, the group safe at home, the issue doesn’t really seem that big of a deal. They don’t understand why someone would make such a fuss, and they get pissed that people are making noise. On the other end of the spectrum, the group out in the storm, this issue is big a thing to them that they can’t understand how someone wouldn’t see how this is a big deal. They get pissed when someone tells them to let the issue rest, and they don’t understand how people can be so narrow minded. Either way, when these two groups intersect, there’s sparks.
What the whole thing really boils down to the fact that while geeks may collect under the general heading “geek,” geeks at the heart of things are still human. Being human, we come from different backgrounds and we approach things with different perspectives. However, part of being a geek, though, is loving something to the point of devotion. When you’re devoted to something, you get really passionate about it. So when you get groups of people passionate about a subject arguing about it, that’s when things can really get heated. Especially on the internet, where there’s usually no real-world consequences for getting as nasty as you can under pseudonyms. (Not everyone uses a pseudonym, but a lot do.)
At this point, I’m not going to end this with a value-judgment on what’s the right approach to being a geek, or who’s in the right during these sorts of blowups, ’cause that’s not really my place and ’cause that’s not really what I wanted to do. I basically just wanted to point out that when you dive down into the geek realm, you find lots of different groups, with different opinions, different ways of expressing those opinions, and with lots of potential for explosive reactions. Part of being a geek is passionately loving something, and it doesn’t take a lot to go from passionately loving something to passionately hating something. Two sides of the same coin and all that. Or, to get back to weather, a sunny day versus a rainy day. Gotta take them both together. The only way to escape it would just be to stay indoors all day, which, yeah, no thanks. Or alternatively, going back to geekdom, adopt a position of apathy. In which case, you basically stop being a geek, because the whole point of geeking out is being explosively emotional over something for good or bad.*
*This does not, however, condone in any way bad behavior. If you are being rude, you are being rude. No excuses. I don’t care how much you love something, you be civil when you talk about it or you revoke your decent human being card.