On the Five Geek Social Fallacies, Part I

Michael Suileabhain-Wilson wrote an article over 10 years ago listing the five geek social fallacies, and while I’m not sure how widespread this article is, it made it onto TVTropes. Whatever that’s worth. That said, I thought it brought up some interesting points on geeks, geek culture, and how geeks interact with the rest of the world, so let’s go through the GSFs and see if they hold sway in 2014. I will say now that I use the term “nerd” and “geek” interchangeably here, even though I think there are differences between the two.

Geek Social Fallacy 1: Ostracizers Are Evil

The idea here is that those who exclude others are evil. Given that many geeks and nerds were the unpopular kids in grade school, this mentality is understandable: those who excluded us, hurt us, and so exclusion is evil. This isn’t entirely bad; taking an inclusive approach to people and groups can be helpful to everyone. The danger comes from when you are so inclusive that you are unwilling to exclude those who hurt the group. There’s always that jerk or creeper friend that you have who you like to hang out with on occasion but don’t want them around all the time. GSF1 prevents you from actively preventing them from being around, so you start planning events in secret, hoping they won’t notice, or your events just get awkward real fast. Or you just stop doing things altogether.

Geek Social Fallacy 2: Friends Accept Me As I Am

GSF2 also starts in a place that is good: having a safe haven where you are welcome is something that everyone needs. Geeks often have difficulty finding groups that share similar interests and fit with their personalities. Problems arise when acceptance into a group means those friends cannot criticize your flaws. None of us are perfect, and there are times when we need someone to help us not be jerks or creepers. Those with GSF2 take criticism personally and as an attack, something that friends don’t do (so they think). This makes groups conflict-averse, leading to friends being passive-aggressive toward each other and taking what could be minor conflicts and turning them into an explosion of hatred later.

Geek Social Fallacy 3: Friendship Before All

This one can be particularly dangerous. The ultimate conclusion is that friendship is binary–all friends will do things for all other friends without hesitation or self-regard. Loyalty is something that we want to have, but loyalty at the expense of our well-being will ruin the friendship that supposedly comes before everything else. It’s especially difficult when one friend is clearly more invested in the friendship than the other, and the former has GSF3. The former thinks that the latter should be doing more for the friendship, but the latter doesn’t get the same out for what they put in. This also makes favor-swapping difficult, as the social capital is uneven between the two friends. The GSF3 friend may ask for more favors on the assumption that, because we are friends, we will do it. If you ask someone with GSF3 for a favor, they will drop everything to do it, regardless of how onerous the task is for them compared to how unimportant it is to you.

Geek Social Fallacy 4: Friendship Is Transitive

This one makes sense on a basic level–if two friends have found something in me that the like enough to make us friends, then surely they will find something in each other to become friends too. After all, many of the friends that I’ve made were people who were friends of friends. Where this falls apart is we realize that our friends often become our friends for different reasons. My friends from band and my friends from law school have very different reasons to be around me, and trying to mesh them together is like trying to weld aluminum and steel. Or any time one of your friends breaks up with their partner and you are forced to choose which friend you want to keep. This one is a little less dangerous since most of the geeks I know figure out how to separate their social circles easily, and the worst that happens is a few awkward parties.

Geek Social Fallacy 5: Friends Do Everything Together

This is subtly different from GSF1; in GSF1, the act of exclusion is what drives the fallacy, and the excluder is solely to blame;  here the idea is that everyone has to do everything, so those who don’t want to participate are seen as odd, and the lack of invitation is seen as an attack itself. This breeds tension usually in conjunction with GSF4 and GSF1, where combining disparate groups of friends doesn’t make sense but trying to separate them seems to offend someone. Even in a single group of friends, there are times when a smaller group may want to do something on their own, or we have to talk about the jerk in the group and how we’re going to deal with them, or some people want to do something the rest of the group doesn’t normally like. Also imagine if you have a somewhat large group of friends and how onerous collaborating with all of them can be.

This is approaching 1000 words, and I’ve got a lot more to say on the GSF, so I’m going to have to split this post into two parts. As a preview of what’s to come, I think there are some underlying personality traits that spawn the 5 GSF, and I think that some of these are not distinct enough to be their own GSF. I’ll also talk a bit more paradigmatically, trying to exemplify what can actually happen and how to deal with it.

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