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We're all geeks now: survey

If an obsession with technology is a sign of geekdom, then most of us are geeks, whether we admit it or not.

In honor of "Geek Pride Day" this Friday, May 25 (the anniversary of the original "Star Wars" premiere), IT recruiter firm Modis published the results of a new survey on geeky attitudes in the U.S. (It conducted a similar survey last year.)

Of the 1,008 Americans 18 and older who took the telephone survey in late April, just 17 percent identified themselves as "geeks," defined by items such as being a technology addict or a go-to person for tech advice. (Social awkwardness and working in the tech industry or in IT were down at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively.) [Make Your House Into the Star Trek Enterprise]

But if tech addiction is a criteria, most of us qualify. In the survey, 70 percent of all participants said they would have a hard time going for a whole day without one of eight devices, such as a smartphone, computer or MP3 player.

And many forms of addiction are common 66 percent of all people admit to using technology in "inappropriate" places or at inappropriate times. That includes at the dinner table or behind the wheel (32 percent each) or at a funeral (though only 5 percent did that).

Spending more time online than off was another definer of geeks, but they are not alone. A January survey on the "Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media" by advertising firm JWT found that 41 percent of Americans are guilty of gluttony. Thirty-five percent of the 562 people surveyed, for example, said that they at least sometimes sit home all day spending time online. Half agreed completely or partly with the statement "I would definitely go through some kind of 'withdrawal' if the Internet suddenly went away."

Given this, why do so few people cop to being geeks? "When you hear the term geek, the [reaction] immediately is defensive," said Jack Cullen, the president of Modis. "But as people look into the definition and think more on it…they take a sense of pride in it."

It may also be that use of technology is no longer the province of true techies. About half of all Americans own smartphones, for example, and the numbers are rapidly growing.

However they label themselves, the millennial generation (ages 18 to 34) is by far the techiest, according to the survey. Millennials are twice as likely as Americans as a whole (34 versus 17 percent) to be "judgmental" about people's technology choices (such as the type of cellphone or email provider they have). They are also more in love with mobile devices: 40 percent said they would have a hard time going without their smartphone for a day. Among Gen Xers, it's 25 percent.

But self-identified geeks also love old-fashioned media.  Seventy-one percent said that a pen and paper are the items that would be hardest to go without for a day (versus 60 percent for nongeeks). Their computer is the second-most valued daily item for geeks (58 percent versus a mere 29 percent). But the next two were their car and their morning coffee or tea.

And on a list of most stressful events, both geeks and nongeeks picked "losing your wallet" as the worst.

Many stereotypes still remain, however. For geeks, the next most stressful event would be losing files on their hard drive, while for others, it was going through a relationship breakup. And twice as many geeks (38 versus 20 percent) would be stressed out if they lost their smartphone. They are also a lot more likely to fiddle with gadgets while driving: 45 versus 30 percent.

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