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Why being quirky may get you further in life

Marketplace Staff May 25, 2011

Why being quirky may get you further in life

Marketplace Staff May 25, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: Today is International Geek Pride Day. Which of course, recognizes the inner-geekdom in everyone. Especially those who revel in introversion, knowledge of all things smarty-pants, and the fact that high school wasn’t all about the parties.

Alexandra Robbins writes about how geeks may have been tormented as youngsters, but when they grow up, they tend to have the last laugh. Robbins wrote the book “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth” and she’s with us now. Good morning.

Alexandra Robbins: Good morning to you.

Chiotakis: How does one’s social skills as a student have anything to do with their abilities later on in life as an adult?

Robbins: My research shows that just because you’re popular, it doesn’t guarantee any sort of success or satisfaction in adulthood — in fact, in means just the opposite. I call it the “quirk theory,” and what it means is that many of the differences that cause students to be excluded in school are the same traits or skills that others will admire, value or respect about that person in adulthood and outside of the school setting.

Chiotakis: Do we have any examples, Alexandra, of who embodies this quirk theory?

Robbins: One is J.K. Rowling, who has said that she was bullied in school because she was a daydreamer who had her nose in books. Well, she has gone on to create a world of outsiders.

Chiotakis: Harry Potter, of course.

Robbins: Yes. Another one is Lady Gaga. When she was in school, students called her a freak and made fun of her eccentricity. Well now she’s one of the most powerful celebrities in the world for precisely that reason.

Chiotakis: Is the dynamic of popularity changing, do you think, in today’s social medium mecca? We have Facebook and Twitter and all these different ways of kids getting in touch with one another, right?

Robbins: Yes, definitely. High school today is not the high school of a generation ago. Facebook basically means that students feel like their own publicist — updating their statuses and changing their photos and monitoring everybody’s public image. It’s really exhausting; it’s as if the cafeteria follows you around 24/7, which is why I called Facebook “the online cafeteria.”

Chiotakis: Were you popular in high school? What was your social status?

Robbins: I was not in the popular crowd. I was a floater, I wasn’t a member of any one group. And I was also a dork, and still am.

Chiotakis: You and I have a lot in common, Alexandra. Alexandra Robbins, the author of The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth. Alexandra, thanks.

Robbins: Thanks.

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