Geeks of the world, rejoice on this fine Geek Pride Day! Society has come to value your smarts to the point that most people consider the label a compliment and equate geekiness with success, according to a survey conducted by Modis. But if there's any cause for concern, it's that nongeeks tend to view you as socially awkward, which could translate to a barrier in your professional life (and beyond).
The rapid proliferation of technology and social media in mainstream society over the past 15 years is the likely catalyst driving geek acceptance, Modis notes. Millennials (people between the ages of 18 and 34) are more than twice as likely as any other age group to consider themselves geeks, and 66 percent of that age group consider "geek" to be a compliment. By contrast, baby boomers (folks aged 65 and up) still consider "geek" an insult.
Anything but a jock!
Modis found that most people see a clear distinction between geeks and nerds: Whereas 41 percent of Americans said they were comfortable with being labeled a geek, only 24 percent said they OK being deemed a nerd. Among self-proclaimed geeks, 61 percent said they preferred that label to "nerd." In general, more people said they would rather be called a geek or a nerd than a jock (arch nemeses of the 1980s). The only labels deemed worse than "jock" are "preppy" and "diva."
Anatomy of a geek
Once upon a time, "geek" was a word to describe circus performers who would bite heads of chickens. Today, Americans primarily identify geeks as reliable sources of technology advice, according to 56 percent of the respondents; as extremely intelligent, per 45 percent of respondents; and as the first adopters of new technology, also per 45 percent.
Not surprisingly, geeks are typically considered to be best suited for jobs in IT or the tech trade, such as video game designers (according to 65 percent of the respondents), technology engineers (50 percent), and -- ahem -- professional bloggers (37 percent).
That's not to say that anyone who works in IT deserves or has earned the "geek" label: Half of the respondents in the survey noted their company's IT person is not a geek, whereas 36 percent said he or she is. The remainder said they didn't know or skipped the question.