Geeks Versus Hipsters

It makes me sad—emo-kid sad. Why do so many self-proclaimed geeks hold so much disdain for so-called hipsters?

Geeks are—by most definitions—obsessive. Sure, there are garden-variety geeks who are interested in computers, videogames, and science fiction, but we've generally come to accept that people can geek out on just about anything: sewing machines; exobiology; turnip farming. To geek is to love.

Hipsters are—by most defintions—dismissive. They sort through the detritus of pop culture, appropriate what they find appealing in its quirkiness, cultivating an aesthetic that considers all but allows surprisingly little. To be hipster is to hate.

Unfortunately, neither of those stereotypes are terribly useful when it comes to judging individuals—a lesson one would think geeks would have taken to heart, especially if their obsessiveness made them outcasts when they were younger, before they'd found likeminded people in real life or online.

I think about this a lot, because depending on how you slice it, I am both a geek and a hipster.

I play a lot of games, both electronic and tabletop. I like indie pop. I brew my own beer. I also go out of my way to track down exotic beers from other countries and brag about my discoveries. I wear thick glasses. I have floofy bangs and have been known to wear vintage clothing. I think bicycles are one of the greatest inventions of mankind, second only perhaps to bicycles that have more than one gear.

And while few of my more hipstery friends couldn't give a rat's ass about my geekier hobbies (let alone occupation), I continue to amazed at how readily we've accepted the rise of a categorical brush-off that demeans and trivializes a person's choices. The term "hipster" can be dashed off without a second thought and is accepted by most as a reasonable critique, even if those same people would bristle at the use of "dumb jock" or "geeky weirdo".

Geeks should be among the most accepting of others, I'd think, because so many of us know what it was like not to be accepted. (And yes, I'm painting geekdom with a broad brush while making the same point about not doing that of others. If you were a socially-adroit geek when you were growing up, you're exactly the sort of stereotype-spanning person who evinces the fragility of stereotypes in the first place.)

I think the most damning thing about using "hipster" as an epithet is that it doesn't really mean anything. It's just bad rhetoric. At most, calling someone a hipster means that the target of your ire does something you don't prefer. More often than not it's simply picking on someone for their choice of clothing. Can it get more childish than that?

There's nothing wrong with trying to be cool or trying to dress fashionably, provided it doesn't define you. Or hell, maybe that's okay, too. It's certainly no more self-obsessive than building starships in Minecraft or spending hours making a costume of a videogame character. It may not be your poison, but it's pretty awful to presume that your particular fetishized hobby is superior to someone else's—especially if you first dove into that hobby as a reprieve from feeling like you had to live the same life as everyone else.

Notice that no one really calls themselves a hipster. It's because the people you think are hipsters don't think of themselves that way. They're simply people living a certain lifestyle, cast to and fro by trends and fashions just like everyone else, who more often than not are into things that many self-proclaimed geeks are also into. (I've always liked the joke that "the only definition of a hipster is a person who hates hipsters.")

I guess I'm just suggesting that if you're really going to be an asshole to someone you don't know, attacking their hobbies or fashion is about as high school as it gets. At least attack their arguments! The looping, abusive cycle of lowest-uncommon-denominator bullying is just turning you into the person who you claim to despise.

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