From cliques to computers

When we’re in high school, the differences between cliques and social classes are evident. Striking, even, in that, once they are set, there is nothing short of a miracle that could release you from one to another.

After all, barring relocation or other life-altering change, we’re in the same group as everyone our age – in fact, we’ve probably been with some of them since grade school, moving from situation to situation together, a tightly packed puzzle, all pieces ultimately fitting together for society’s sake despite their defined borders.

And then, graduation. Everyone scatters.

Some stick around. Others go to college. Even more wander. And suddenly, because the constraints of grade and social circle and cliques have been broken, we’re forced to reinvent our identity. No longer tied to each other, we search for a new group. The unlikable join with the prom queens, the nerds team up with jocks.

The petty differences of public school are erased in the name of industry. And, just like that, the industry itself becomes independent of the groups that defined them in public school.

Example: in high school, you knew who the “spends too much time on the Internet” people were. But in college, EVERYONE is part of the “spends too much time on the Internet” group. It’s at this time everyone realizes that the world of the Web isn’t based on geekery and nerdiness, but on the same standards the rest of the world embraces.

Because for the Web to be as encompassing as it is, it needs people from every discipline, every social circle, every clique. It needs artists and geeks and gregarious marketers. It needs hyper-competitive sports nuts and moody goth filmmakers and word nerds. It needs everyone.

It’s this inclusion – and the surprisingly accepting nature of those in the computer industry, whether it be in technical support or design creation – that blurs the line between who was cool and who wasn’t.

Because the Internet is cool, now. Working for the Internet is even cooler.

And it took a little bit of everyone to make it that way.

[Prompt: Is the perception of IT workers/programmers changing in America? Or are we still the nerds in the dark? Why or why not? – Chris Uthe, who likes cars a lot and has a blog under the same name.]

This was lovingly handwritten on November 12th, 2009