Reason Not to Lose Faith in Humanity #2: Nerdfighteria

Illustration by Vondell Swain

It was a dreary day in January, probably raining and most likely miserable, typical of Nanaimo between the months of September to April. I was shut up inside, home alone, with a cup of tea and my laptop for company. My Facebook and Tumblr feeds had run dry, so I turned hopefully to what seemed a shining beacon of entertainment for the next two to eight hours: YouTube. The nonstop stream of funny cat videos exhausted and Charlie McDonnell’s video feed bereft of new content, I was left to wander the millions of videos contained in the leviathan that is the video-hosting site. After clicking through a series of videos that didn’t particularly interest me, I found a video entitled “Thoughts on SOPA from New Orleans”. The whole SOPA debacle had recently exploded into being, so I clicked. I was faced by a man with sandy hair and glasses, who began to speak about the issues surrounding SOPA and PIPA, but there was something different about what he was saying about them: he wasn’t yelling, he wasn’t incensed, he wasn’t calling for the heads of all involved. He spoke about the ethics of the internet and the value of small, independent business, how the “amorphous anarchy” of the internet had banded together to stop the passing of the laws, and I was impressed. What he was saying made sense to me: he was intelligent and fluent and made several important points about the subject he was discussing. Once I had finished watching, I clicked on his channel link. Now I saw videos like “How Big is the Universe?” and “Life is Weird. Also Beautiful” and “Top 5 Zombie Apocalypses OF ALL TIME”. Feeling like these were probably the topics that most spoke to me most (though not necessarily in that order), I clicked subscribe, and I was, quite frankly, hooked. I discovered this guy’s name was Hank and his brother’s John, and this was my initiation to Nerdfighteria.

In late 2006, two brothers named Hank and John Green embarked on a project that would change the face of vlogging, and indeed, the internet, forever. They decided to cease all text-based communication for one year, and communicate instead by vlog (or, for the internet neophyte, video blog). On their YouTube channel, vlogbrothers, and under the tagline “Brotherhood 2.0”, Hank and John launched the project to the public. They talked about their lives, and somewhat like other quality entertainment of the past, “nothing at all”. The project was successful, and though it ended on December 31, 2007, their popularity sustained the channel. They now vlog alternately every Tuesday and Friday, and open their videos with their signature “Good morning Hank, it’s Friday!” (and vice-versa). They consider themselves to be nerds, and the worldview in their videos extends, I think, a hand to all those who enjoy learning for their own benefit and for the world’s, all those who understand that the world is a wonderful place and all those who want to make it better. These people, the community that has grown up around the vlogbrothers, is Nerdfighteria, a group of people made of awesome who fight to decrease worldsuck (the suckiness of the world, as one might assume). Despite making videos regularly for their own channel and a series of other YouTube channels and projects, the Green brothers have managed to make this message a reality. Through the Project for Awesome, a two-day charity event during which YouTubers create and shoot innovative videos for the charity of their choice, Nerdfighters raised over $71,000 in 2011 alone and a great deal more since the vlogbrothers founded the project in 2007. Nerdfighters have raised $10,000 and counting for “This Star Won’t Go Out”, a campaign to help families struggling to care for children with cancer. On Kiva, a website that allows people to lend money to entrepreneurs in developing countries, the Nerdfighteria group has lent over a million dollars to businesses that might not otherwise have had a chance at a beginning. These projects and thousands more dollars raised besides, the brothers also operate Crash Course, a YouTube channel intended for education at one’s leisure, taught by both Hank and John.

Nerdfighters are recognizable to one another by the initialism DFTBA, which stands for “don’t forget to be awesome”. It reminds us that we are part of a larger community, and that the world is changeable not only for the better, but for the awesome. So to Hank and John, Nerdfighters old and new and as of yet uninitiated, you are a reason why I haven’t yet lost hope in humanity. DFTBA.

– Reasons Not to Lose Your Faith in Humanity showcases the great things still worth celebrating in a cynical world, as told by Erin