Five Geek Social Fallacies

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Title: Five Geek Social Fallacies
Creator: Michael Suileabhain-Wilson
Date(s): December 2, 2003
Medium: blog
Fandom:
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External Links: Five Geek Social Fallacies; WebCite
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Five Geek Social Fallacies is a 2000 essay by Michael Suileabhain-Wilson.

The Five Fallacies

  • Geek Social Fallacy #1: Ostracizers Are Evil
  • Geek Social Fallacy #2: Friends Accept Me As I Am
  • Geek Social Fallacy #3: Friendship Before All
  • Geek Social Fallacy #4: Friendship Is Transitive
  • Geek Social Fallacy #5: Friends Do Everything Together

Relevancy to Fandom

While the "Five Geek Social Fallacies" can be applied to many communities (political, social, professional, and other), the theory as it applies to fandom can be seen in some fans' tolerance of unethical, immoral, unjust, and criminal behaviors such as tolerating, defending, and denying inexcusable behavior in situations such as Walter Breen and Ed Kramer's behaviors at science fiction cons.

Some discussion of this topic is at Debarkle Chapter 4: An Inadequate History of Fandom & Worldcon 1939 – 2000 (Feb 14, 2021).

Excerpts

Within the constellation of allied hobbies and subcultures collectively known as geekdom, one finds many social groups bent under a crushing burden of dysfunction, social drama, and general interpersonal wack-ness. It is my opinion that many of these never-ending crises are sparked off by an assortment of pernicious social fallacies — ideas about human interaction which spur their holders to do terrible and stupid things to themselves and to each other.

Social fallacies are particularly insidious because they tend to be exaggerated versions of notions that are themselves entirely reasonable and unobjectionable. It’s difficult to debunk the pathological fallacy without seeming to argue against its reasonable form; therefore, once it establishes itself, a social fallacy is extremely difficult to dislodge. It’s my hope that drawing attention to some of them may be a step in the right direction.

I want to note that I’m not trying to say that every geek subscribes to every one of the fallacies I outline here; every individual subscribes to a different set of ideas, and adheres to any given idea with a different amount of zeal.

In any event, here are five geek social fallacies I’ve identified. There are likely more.

Geek Social Fallacy #1: [Ostracizers Are Evil: GSF1 is one of the most common fallacies, and one of the most deeply held. Many geeks have had horrible, humiliating, and formative experiences with ostracism, and the notion of being on the other side of the transaction is repugnant to them.
Geek Social Fallacy #2: Friends Accept Me As I Am: The origins of GSF2 are closely allied to the origins of GSF1. After being victimized by social exclusion, many geeks experience their “tribe” as a non-judgmental haven where they can take refuge from the cruel world outside.

Geek Social Fallacy #3: Friendship Before All: Valuing friendships is a fine and worthy thing. When taken to an unhealthy extreme, however, GSF3 can manifest itself.

Like GSF2, GSF3 is a “friendship test” fallacy: in this case, the carrier believes that any failure by a friend to put the interests of the friendship above all else means that they aren’t really a friend at all.

Dealing with the effects of social fallacies is an essential part of managing one's social life among geeks, and this is much easier when one is aware of them and can identify which of your friends carry which fallacies. In the absence of this kind of awareness, three situations tend to arise when people come into contact with fallacies they don't hold themselves.

Most common is simple conflict and hurt feelings. It's hard for people to talk through these conflicts because they usually stem from fairly primal value clashes; a GSF3 carrier may not even be able to articulate why it was such a big deal that their non-carrier friend blew off their movie night.

Alternately, people often take on fallacies that are dominant in their social circle. If you join a group of GSF5 carriers, doing everything together is going to become a habit; if you spend enough time around GSF1 carriers, putting up with trolls is going to seem normal.

Less commonly, people form a sort of counter-fallacy which I call "Your Feelings, Your Problem". YFYP carriers deal with other people's fallacies by ignoring them entirely, in the process acquiring a reputation for being charmingly tactless. Carriers tend to receive a sort of exemption from the usual standards: "that's just Dana", and so on. YFYP has its own problems, but if you would rather be an asshole than angstful, it may be the way to go. It's also remarkably easy to pull off in a GSF1-rich environment.

References