They tell me I’m already a Nerdfighter. Who’s “they,” you ask? Well…all of you. Most of you. Well, no, technically all of you are Nerdfighters as well, but I mean more as if…hmmm. A lot of you, both in person and online, have told me that I was a Nerdfighter. I was told that I significantly decreased the amount of worldsuck in…well, the world, I suppose. And then they would speak to me in what amounted for a foreign language and I’d scratch my head and think, “Am I seriously getting too old for the Internet? Have I lost the finger on the pulse of the youth of the web????”
I didn’t actually think that second part because…no one says the “web” anymore except for my racist aunt. Hmmm. I should make her a Nerdfighter, too. That’s a different post, though! This post is my attempt to finally sit down in front of my computer and attempt to discover just exactly what a Nerdfighter is, what the initialism of DFTBA stands for, and why it is that so many of you folks are in love with making this world…well, less suck and more awesome.
(A note about this process: My wonderful friend Jessica (evocativecomma in the comments, tzikeh in most places on the web) is responsible for the massive, holy, and epic guide that I used to find all these videos and maintain some sort of structure in the process. This could not have happened without her.)
The first thing I decided to do was go right to the beginning: Hank Green’s very first video to his brother. The Brotherhood 2.0 project is something that…jesus, it’s so brilliant that I don’t understand how it hadn’t been done by January 1, 2007. But the idea is clear: two brothers will communicate through YouTube video blogs and the rest of us will watch. I apologize right now for writing that sentence and making it sound so very, very dirty. That’s not what I meant to do, but it sounds so perfect that I’m going to leave it up.
By the time I watched John’s first reply, I was excited to see the silliness develop. From John’s goof about Hank’s real age (don’t worry, John, I do this with my own mother all the time SORRY MOM), to Hank’s obsession with EYECEPTION (he is a PROPHET), to the explanation of the Yeti complete with the shaking bush demonstration, it’s clear that these two brothers were close, but wanted to become closer than before. And that’s something I’m fascinated by, as a professional community manager and as someone who’s currently creating through the medium of the Internet. I can remember not even conceiving of the concept of meeting another person through the Internet, let alone getting closer to them in the process. I remember the episode of The X-Files called “2Shy” scarring me for many years, as I believed that the people on the opposite end of all online dating services were poetic monsters obsessed with sucking the life out of me.
Now it’s 2011, and both boyfriends I’ve ever had I met online. I have been part of the same forum for nine years (and it’ll be a decade in six months). My core group of friends are all from that forum. The Internet has enabled me to travel, to make friends, and now, I’m pursuing my dream of being a published writer because of it. The significant ways in which our culture has changed because of the Internet are evident right here in Brotherhood 2.0. There’s a certain voyeuristic fascination with watching these two brothers communicate with one another, and it stops feeling that way when it becomes apparent that there are lots and lots of people joining in.
I should back up at this point, because while Brotherhood 2.0 is how this all started, it’s not quite a good explanation for what a Nerdfighter is, why on earth that I should become one. Or…rather…I suppose I am one, but I just need to embrace it. So, what the hell is a Nerdfighter?
OH THEY MADE AN FAQ VIDEO FOR IT? Oh, I love FAQs. I have written so many of them over the years. And it was this video that, first of all and most importantly, helped me learn what the HELL all these terms meant. So that’s what worldsuck is! So I like to yell about WORLDSUCK often! IT’S WHAT I DO. And that’s why Maureen Johnson says IN YOUR PANTS so much on Twitter. Oh god the world is starting to make so much more sense. It’s sort of like how I’m finally getting to things in Homestuck that help me comprehend the million references to that comic online. Sort of, I say, because I still don’t understand most of it. Well, now I understand Cosbytop, and I sort of feel like that’s all I need to truly get Homestuck.
I’m off topic again. That happens. Did you know I’d never seen “Accio Deathly Hallows”? Not even once? I had caught up on a lot of Harry Potter stuff I’d missed from fandom since I came into the party way late, but this video slipped by my radar. As I understand it (thanks Jessica!), this video was one of the big moments in the Vlogbrothers world, when the Harry Potter community discovered the brothers and things sort of exploded. WHICH I CAN RELATE TO VERY, VERY, VERY MUCH. It’s like that fandom has the singular ability to just take a person and make them a Very Big Thing in a matter of days.
But what I’m discovering about Nerdfighteria leads me to discovering things I can compare to myself. I know now that this all happened over time, that there was no singular point when this was suddenly all just made into Nerdfighteria. (Well, to be fair, there is a Very First Video that has John using the term “Nerdfighters” to describe the viewers.) This has all been gradual, organic, and a long evolution of a community that’s grown since those first days in 2007. But it’s easy for me to look at what I’ve done here on this fine Internet and see the similarities: I do something wonderfully pedantic and repetitive every weekday, sharing my thoughts to a bunch of strangers that initially just made up my friends; things grew very slowly until the Harry Potter fandom found me; everything exploded in excitement and I suddenly had terms and phrases associated with me and then my face was on stuff, and now I’m writing eBooks and running my own websites and WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED. I mean seriously, how did this happen? Perhaps one day I’ll have to sit down and write out my own timeline and my own FAQ for this community….hmmm. Now I am full of ideas.
I also came to learn that, like my own community, I have a lot to go through. Well, more than my own, I suppose. There are four years worth of videos in the Nerdfighteria world. How am I supposed to get a grasp on all of the things they’ve discussed? What are generally accepted to be the best videos of the bunch? Can I make a Nerdfighter video? SHOULD I MAKE A NERDFIGHTER VIDEO? Of course I should, and now thoughts are flowing through my brain. But I took the advice of the VlogBrothers themselves and starting going through the 20 recommended videos on their YouTube playlist. Like anything this detailed and large, it’s hard to still know everything without sitting down and spending days watching this all. I think half the fun of this post is going to be seeing what all of you recommend, what you think is important to understanding the Vlogbrothers and Nerdfighter culture. I actually know that a lot of you have actually attended and/or organized Nerdfighter gatherings! PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT THESE!
Yet out of everything here, the silly videos, Song Wednesdays, Questions Tuesdays, the hilarious Blend/Wax/Failed Cat Lick punishment, and the unbelievable number of explanations for DFTBA, what impresses me most about Nerdfighteria is the ability of this group of people to try and decrease the amount of worldsuck that exists. Now that I know that Nerdfighters never take the day off, I also know that the Green brothers and, by that extension, the massive community that’s sprung up around them, have helped other people and organizations doing some pretty spectacular things. First of all, the Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck is a pretty ambitious, but it’s that sort of ridiculous hope for the world that makes me feel all fuzzy inside. I love that these two brothers have utilized their “powers” to raise money. In fact, I just watched this video, in which it appears that Nerdfighters voted with donations on whether Hank should keep his facial hair or not. (I’m glad he kept it, it looks great on him.) I mean…I know from doing my own fundraising for charities and doing non-profit work how incredibly hard it is to mobilize any monetary funds, especially in the last few years of the recession.
But they do it. I know I have a lot more to learn about Nerdfighters and about John and Hank Green, and I definitely need to make some sort of Nerdfighter video soon. I should shoot for becoming a secret sibling, no? In the meantime, I know that the next three to four weeks will help that because, starting tomorrow, Mark Reads Looking For Alaska is going to take place right here on this blog. I have never read a word of John Green’s, and I’m excited to see why so many people love this book and are a fan of this author. As a important note: Nerdfighters, please be extra careful not to spoil this book for me or anyone else, which includes linking to any videos from the Vlogbrothers, especially the I AM NOT A PORNOGRAPHER one, which I am told has a huge spoiler in it. We use rot13.com to discuss spoilers here on the site, so if you must discuss any point in Looking For Alaska, use rot13.com to cypher your comment.
So I guess I’m a Nerdfighter now, aren’t I? Huh. That’s pretty cool.