“Nerdfighteria” isn’t so much of a place on a map as a thoroughly invested in and developed community – a state of mind even. And you might be a part of it. I don’t want to alarm you but there is a very high possibility that you could be a Nerdfighter, one of the clever inhabitants of Nerdfighteria. It’s alright. It happens to a lot of people that way. One can live their whole life not knowing, but then the realization comes. One day you wake up and instead of being made out of bones and flesh and blood like any other human, you’re made entirely out of awesome. Because that is essentially what a Nerdfighter is – pure, undiluted awesome.
In January of 2007, two brothers decided to embark on a project. They would go 365 days with absolutely no textual communication, conversing solely through the means of video via the website youtube.com. They would update daily every weekday switching off each day. The username Vlogbrothers was decided on and shortly after the revolution that was Brotherhood 2.0 began. The brothers in question were John and Hank Green. John was at that point an acclaimed novelist for his work on Printz Award winning novel Looking for Alaska and the book An Abundance of Katherines. Meanwhile, Hank was known for his environmental work with founding the website ecogeek.org. Later, he became known for that in addition to his humorous and quite wonderful musical prowess. Through Vlogbrothers John and Hank challenged each other to perform certain tasks such as discussing the political situation in Nepal while eating five sheets of toilet paper, handing out boxes of Peeps to strangers on the streets, eating a blenderized happy meal and spending 15 hours in a Target. Much of those tasks came from “punishments” suggested predominantly by their subscribers for breaking the no textual communication rule or for going over the four minute time restraint on the videos. The brothers began the project as an effort to reconnect with each other. What they did not anticipate was how many people would watch the exchange and furthermore, how many would take an active role by commenting, rating and providing general input on various conversations, thoughts and ideas suggested by both brothers. Very quickly the conversation became much larger than just two brothers.
Instead of shrinking back from this kind of attention, the brothers embraced it and through that developed quite a following. A community evolved – ever expanding and growing in a way no one expected. The brothers fondly deemed these community members “Nerdfighters.” These were not bullies that beat on nerds- though the name did originate from an arcade game with that exact theme. No, Nerdfighters fight for nerds (much like freedom fighter fight for freedom) and against the constantly growing amount of suck in the world (worldsuck). The Vlogbrothers set up a website at brotherhood2.com and then, as the community grew, transferred the domain to nerdfighters.ning.com. The website became the forum outside of the YouTube comments allowing members to discuss the latest videos, interact with one another and suggest various thoughts, ideas and machinations. Today the Vlogbrothers have over 400,000 subscribers providing a powerful and nerdy force to be reckoned with.
After 2007, the Vlogbrothers took off in acclaim as entertainers as well as generally awesome people. This Nerdfighter community was something that was bigger than just the madness of the internet. They really hit the map when Hank’s song Accio Deathly Hallows was featured on the front page of YouTube. A slew of views and subscribers followed – mostly amazing, but some not so nice (Flamers that means you). The influx of negativity was dealt with in the most mature way possible – through intelligent reasoning and a surplus of Shakespeare inspired insults. The Vlogbrothers constantly reinforced their acronym of DFTBA (Don’t Forget To Be Awesome).
The “How Nerdfighters Drop Insults” video was the first Vlogbrothers video I had ever seen. My best friend Kara messaged the video to me because in it John gets really excited about his home library (something which I one day aspire to have). That video was only the beginning of something much larger. John and Hank Green affect a lot of people daily and I’m happy to say that I am one of them. The Vlogbrothers are just regular guys that happen to be hilarious, thoughtful and remarkably intelligent. They are the kind of people you want to listen to. They make me think about a field of topics from the meaning of freedom to subatomic particles to the nature of human existence. Meanwhile, in between all these heavy topics there is the light hearted humor of “in your pants” jokes (add “in your pants” to the end of any book title – I’m telling you, just do it) and their “guilt-free three” lists (on which is Helen Hunt and Judy Blume respectively). I got involved with Vlogbrothers pretty late in the game. By the time I started watching it was 2009 and they had been at it for three years which meant I had a lot of catching up to do.
But I did catch up. I watched all their videos, all nearly 600 of them at the time, not because someone asked me to but because I wanted to, because I was genuinely interested. Even more so I was intrigued by this community and the idea of a community. Through my many hours of observing past videos I learned a great deal about what a community as large as the Nerdfighters can accomplish. John talked about how to be microfinanciers through kiva.org and encouraged everyone to get involved in the effort. The great part was John was doing it too. The Vlogbrothers aren’t all talk and no action. They get just as involved as they people they adress, if not more so and hence are a great vehicle for spreading the word. With the help of the Nerdfighters, they aided the Harry Potter Alliance in raising money to send planes of supplies to Haiti. John is a big advocate of the Uncultured Project, through the work of Nerdfighter Shawn in Bangladesh, a student who dropped everything to go amongst these people and help them as a person, not as a statistic. John suggested punishments for himself through the act of eating peeps for every $10 raised for Shawn’s cause which generated a lot of donations and hence a lot of aid for these people in Bangladesh. Finally, there is the mother of all Nerdfighter projects – the Project for Awesome, which is essentially a giant overhaul of YouTube in order to get the word out about various donation-worthy charities.
While some of these community building activities are more serious and charity related, there are many that simply are not. There are a lot of simple, down to it fun activities. In December of 2009, Nerdfighteria took part in a challenge by Darpa to track down and locate ten red weather balloons tethered to the ground across the United States. They came incredibly close to winning, but were inevitably beaten by MIT. Then there was the elaborate and intense Nerdfighter Scavenger hunt which was devised by the Vlogbrothers and scattered across the country, even across the world for Nerdfighteria to work together and find. The Nerdfighters even managed to find a copy of one of John’s favorite childhood books that had gone out of print.
Basically what I’m trying to say is the Nerdfighters together can accomplish many things, from the gravely serious to the slightly ridiculous, which is one of the reasons it makes me so proud to be a member of this community. Because it is a community. This is a tight knit group of people that can trust each other because at the end of the day we all have some serious common threads. We like the same phenomena from Harry Potter to Dr. Who and we all have the same connection of John and Hank and the desire to make the world better. Because of the Vlogbrothers I have started my own Vlog and have met some truly incredible people. I have been motivated to work become a founding member of the Boston Nerdfighters, which involves meeting up with once strangers (now good friends) in the middle of the Boston common for picnics and cupcakes. I’m proud to be a nerd and a Nerdfighter because at the end of the day, they are some of the best people on earth and quite frankly, it’s awesome.
Jordan wrote this article for an online magazine that she's part of. Go show her some love, 'kay? :)
Also, go take a look at the website of The Common Voice (link above), there's some interesting stuff on there...