They're here. They're geeks. Get used to it

NEW YORK Fri May 25, 2012 1:30pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Turns out, geeks are inheriting the earth.

Thanks to ubiquitous consumer electronics and the prominence of technology executives like Facebook Inc's Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs of Apple Inc, it's no longer an insult to be called a geek.

The geek -- broadly speaking, the tech-obsessed, socially-awkward type who spends more time online than offline -- is more respected than ever, according to a survey by Modis, the technology staffing arm of Adecco SA, the world's biggest staffing company.

Most Americans -- 51 percent -- now consider geeks professionally successful, up from 31 percent a year ago, Modis' annual "Geek Pride" survey found. More people also consider geeks to be extremely intelligent: 54 percent say so, up from 45 percent last year.

The survey is Modis' way of marking Geek Pride Day, held each year on May 25th, the anniversary of the release of the first "Star Wars" movie in 1977.

"When you talk about a geek, you used to think of the guy in the back of the room, pocket protector with a bunch of pens in it, the white shirt, the high pants, very socially inept," said Modis President Jack Cullen.

"Today, when I think of geeks, I think of Steve Jobs. One guy has redefined the geek concept. You could put Zuckerberg in the same category."

Pop culture has had a big hand in the mainstreaming of geek. Popular U.S. television shows like "The Big Bang Theory" and "Glee" make geeks cool, while stories based on comic books, such as "The Avengers," dominate the movies.

Much of the shift is generational.

"Millennials, every year, have more and more visibility and these are people who were born with technology," Cullen said. "For the millennials it's all about openness. 'Find me. I'm eating a taco right now.' It's such a different view of the world."

Millennials are people in their 20s and 30s who became adults around the turn of the millennium.

Once pejorative, the word "geek" is now synonymous with "aficionado."

"Dork," however, is still a negative, Cullen said.

(Reporting By Nick Zieminski in New York)

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