I’ve been thinking that we should come up with a name that would collectively describe non-geeks. The mainstream culture already has a label which they can use to refer to us and the things we like. They can say “geeks” or “geek culture” and everyone knows (or pretends to know) what they are referring too. I noticed that we don’t have a word like that to describe them – the people outside out circle of interests.
You know who I’m talking about, right? The simple folks who are easily confounded by technology and keep insisting that you fix them computer. People who think that software engineer, web developer and systems administrator are just fancy names for a “PC Technician”. People who actually enjoy watching all these horrid Reality TV shows. People who won’t watch a show or a movie if it is labeled as Science Fiction, but love shit like LOST (which is pure time traveling SF lately). People who have never actually even seen a RPG rulebook but who think it is stupid because they once saw a D&D game unfavorably depicted on some sitcom.
We could collectively refer to them as “the mainstream society” but that’s a bit unwieldy. It would be best to have a short word we could apply to them – just like geek applies to us. Of course it does not have to have a negative connotation either – cause we don’t want to be elitist or anything.
I mentioned this to a few people and we came up with a list of words that could apply here. Someone brought up the term Muggle as a primary candidate. My initial instinct is to reject it though, because it was popularized by J. K. Rowling. The term Muggle refers to a non-wizard in the Harry Potter universe. It is really a very close match to what we are looking for and some people have started to use this word to describe non-geeks. Sadly, I feel the term is a bit inappropriate. There is nothing more mainstream than Harry Potter books and movies. I mean that is all these people read. Well, that and Twilight.
J. K. Rowling books are so popular because they appeal to the lowest common denominator. I’d describe them as mediocre at best. I do see the irony of using a term found in such a book to the mainstream society as a whole. But I don’t like the fact that the word is so tightly associated with Harry Potter fandom.
Another suggestion was to call them Norms, normies or Normans. I don’t like it because it suggests that it is not normal to be a geek. That’s not the type of message I can really get behind.
A slightly better word in the same vein is Mundanes. Unlike “Norm” it actually casts a positive light at us geeks. It suggests that we are extraordinary and exceptional. Mainstream people are simply average, uninteresting and not special the way we are. It underlines the main difference between a geek and non-geek. A geek embraces technology, thrives on new ideas and dares to dream. A non-geek tends to be satisfied by the status quo and stays away from things that he/she does not understand.
Still, I’m not 100% happy with it. The slight negative connotation will probably prevent it from being widely adopted.
Here is my idea – and I’m just throwing it out there knowing full well that it won’t actually catch on – Streamers. Just think about it, it works on multiple levels:
- It’s actually a shortened version of “mainstreamer” (which is not actually a word, but who cares)
- Indicates a person who follows of flows with a stream (or direction) of thought
- Rhymes with “dreamers” which sort of suggests the nature of their condition – the mainstream people are captivated by their own fabricated dream filled by Hollywood gossip and biased, non-journalistic, ratings driven media reporting.
The White Wolf Mage games used to label the non-mages as “sleepers”. In that world everyone was capable of magic, but only certain people would “awaken” and discover their magical potential. The same may be said about being a geek – anyone has a potential for it, but only certain people actually embrace that side of their personality.
- It sort of has a cool ring to it – so people might not even get offended by it
It also could allow us to create brand new phraseology to go with it. Let me give you some examples:
in-stream – a geek thing that became accepted or embraced by the mainstream culture. A good examples of stuff like that are Twitter or Rick Rolling. Both originated as geek-only past times, but crossed over to popular culture and are often discussed in mainstream media.
out-stream – any in-joke or technology so far removed from mainstream that it won’t be understood by an average “streamer” without an in-depth explanation. Examples would be obscure internet memes or stuff like emacs vs vi arguments.
What do you think? Do you like any of the terms above? Do you think we actually need a word to describe non-geeks? If you have an idea on how to name them, I’d love to hear it in the comments!