The Social Fallacies of Subcultures

The Social Fallacies of Subcultures October 9, 2016

This is a much-beloved concept in some of the circles I travel in, and it helps unpack social baggage that folks might not know they’re carrying.

Yes, I'm a long-time geek. Here's a pic of me performing with my dance buddies at GenCon in 2014. Photo by Walking Contradiction Photography.
Yes, I’m a long-time geek. Here’s a pic of me performing with my dance buddies (the ladies of Different Drummer Belly Dancers) at GenCon in 2014. Photo by Walking Contradiction Photography.

The Five Geek Social Fallacies is a concept that I first learned of a few years ago, and boy did it resonate. I’ve hung out with geek/nerd circles for much of my life, and thus had the occasion to observe some of these dynamics first hand.

They’re called “fallacies” because these beliefs and behaviors become entrenched enough to be difficult to identify, let alone argue against. They thus operate on the level of unconscious stereotypes, influencing behavior while being tough to call out and dislodge. My sense is that certain folk groups are more susceptible to this kind of thing, but that’s only a hypothesis.

The original post linked above explicates the five fallacies, so go read it. My list is somewhat paraphrased to generalize beyond the narrow confines of geek culture and extend to subcultures of different flavors. Hopefully my commentary on each one stands alone. Here goes:

  1. Excluding people is bad. This one obviously has roots in the marginalizing experiences of folks who were bullied or excluded as youngsters, but it can become pathological in that sometimes there are good reasons to exclude people from gatherings or events.
  2. Friends accept me as I am. Again, this has a positive side (we should accept our friends as they are, and not try to change people) and a negative side (we never have to do any self-work or address coercive/manipulative tendencies in ourselves).
  3. Friendship takes priority over everything else. When you’ve got a subculture where people feel like they must band together to survive the assault of the world, you get an all-or-nothing mentality that can be damaging. Loyalty is good, but loyalty at the expense of one’s other priorities and relationships can be harmful.
  4. Friendship is transitive. If I get along with Friend A and I also get along with Friend B, that means they’ll both get along with each other, right? Wrong. In its worst form, this can be an identity-erasing, steamrolling, objectifying kind of rhetoric that treats people like interchangeable parts.
  5. Friends do everything together. Again, this is potentially objectifying and drama-tastic.

Of course, we don’t have any culture-wide consensus on what healthy relationships look like, nor do we teach this material as part of comprehensive sex education despite evidence that it’s really helpful to do so.

Are there any other social fallacies operating in the communities you participate in? If so, how do you identify and combat them?

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