Thursday, June 13, 2013

Week the Sixth: Nerdfighteria

Ahh, Wednesday. (Ok, Thursday. Whatever.) Time for yet another vintage topic for the Introvert Social Hour. Today's topic is my history with Nerdfighteria. I talked a little about this a couple weeks ago, and I've certainly written about it in other places too, but I'm sure I can expound on it some more. So off we go...
As I explained in my question week post, I was introduced to vlogbrothers by Charlie McDonnell. I don't remember what he said or where or anything (I suppose it may even have been on BlogTV), but whatever it was made me look them up. I think the first video I saw of them was probably "July 6: Ooooooops". (That's different from what I said in the previous post because further research made me realize that I was wrong. I've edited that post accordingly.) I was immediately hooked and marathoned all of their videos just a few days later. At that time it took something like 12 hours to do it and I couldn't believe I was really spending that much time watching YouTube. Oh, the innocence...
Shortly after I'd caught up on the videos, one of my students finished her class work early and I gave her permission to read for the rest of the period. I kept hearing her laugh out loud so I asked what she was reading and it turned out to be An Abundance of Katherines. I knew right away that I needed to get my hands on John's books. I started at the beginning, with Looking for Alaska, and, being rather obsessive about the order of things, I read Katherines next, followed some months later by Paper Towns when it came out. Over time, as they were published, I also read Let it Snow, thisisnottom (which I hope some day to finish! I'm looking at you, John Green!), Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Zombicorns, The Fault in Our Stars, The War for Banks Island, and The Sequel. I haven't yet read any of the short story collections in which John's stories appear but I plan on doing so at some point. Despite everything, though, my all time favorite John Green book is and forever shall be It Just Isn't Fair.  If you aren't familiar with it, definitely check it out. You won't regret it!
It's nearly impossible to separate my experience as a Nerdfighter from my overall experience online, especially on YouTube, because most of the people that I've interacted with in the past 5 years or so have come in to my life directly or indirectly because of Nerdfighteria. I'd say (and these are pure guesses) that probably 95% of my YouTube subscriptions, 98% of my Skype contacts, 75% of my Twitter follows, 99% of my Facebook friends, and 60% of the people I email are at least marginally connected to Nerdfighteria. But the crazy part is that I didn't start interacting with Nerdfighters for a very long time after I discovered them. I was too shy to comment on videos or join forums, and I wouldn't even go to BlogTV shows because I was scared someone would talk to me.

I finally gave in and started doing BlogTV when John was reading from Paper Towns and other things because I love listening to him. That was in the spring (March-ish?) of 2008 and I was right: People did talk to me. At first I was freaked out by it, but everyone was so nice that I couldn't help but warm up to them. One of the first people to talk to me was Esther Earl. Most of you know Esther's story, but if you don't, you can learn more about her here and you can read about my relationship with her here. Others were there too, drawing me out with their kindness and good humor. There was Blaze, and Valerie, Sara and Avy, others too, I'm sure. If you remember talking to me during that time and I've neglected to mention you, give me a virtual headsmack and I'll add you to the list. Everyone who reached out to me then deserves to be mentioned because they changed my life. Once I finally got comfortable talking to Nerdfighters, I never looked back.

From there I expanded my horizons, mostly by way of BlogTV chats, to meet many, many more people and make some great friends along the way. I also ended up looking backward a bit, and that had a strong impact on me too. Before I started watching vlogbrothers, I was aware of Ze Frank and had watched some of his video series called the show. But I hadn't watched it from the beginning and I had a hard time making my way through the jungle of inside jokes to figure out what was going on, so I gave up on it. However, John and Hank made me curious enough about it that in early 2009 I went back and watched the entire year of videos and... wow. I don't know that it's possible to understand fully the power of online community until you've seen what happened during that year. The way the viewers understood and used the internet changed over that time. The look and feel of the videos changed, and the community came together to do some amazing things, both silly and heartwarming. I think the experience probably even changed Ze in some important ways. I love the show very much, and I love following all the mind-blowing things that Ze continues to do on a regular basis, and I feel like I owe all of that to Nerdfighteria. I might never have seen it otherwise.

In 2010 I had the privilege of attending the very first VidCon and it was spectacularly fun. None of us will ever have an experience like that again. It was big enough that lots of cool people were there, but small enough that we could all interact fairly intimately. My four badges of honor from VidCon are: John Green (1) spontaneously hugged me and (2) called me a "hardcore Nerdfighter"; (3) I met Sarah and saw tiny Henry in his... what do Americans call prams?? carriage?... anyway, I saw him; and finally, (4) I made Hank Green cry real tears. I didn't mean to, but I did, and that touched my heart so I cried a little too.

Hardcore. (Nail art by Heather Proa)
I met an insane number of YouTubers at VidCon, some of whom had become friends and others of whom I knew only from their videos. I won't even attempt to make a list because I know it would be woefully incomplete. And yet I also saw many that I wanted to meet but was too shy to speak to them. I don't mean well-known people. They're actually easier for me to talk to because I figure they expect random crazies to bother them. But regular people that I knew as friends online but hadn't met in person? That's super hard for me and I missed out with a lot of them. I hope to remedy that some day.

In more recent years I've gotten to know a lot of Nerdfighters better and met several new ones and I feel more and more like a part of the core community. Not in the sense of being more important than others, but in the sense that I've been around a long time and I know the history and love the community both for what it is and has been and for what I believe it can be. Nerdfighteria has grown to mind-boggling proportions in the past few years, but I feel like a lot of people who call themselves Nerdfighters don't really understand what the community is about. I see people behaving in exclusive, divisive, elitist ways, belittling others who don't share their concept of nerdism, or who aren't as well informed about things, hurting feelings and harming relationships. That's not what it's about. It's about supporting each other's interests and efforts and working together to do cool, fun, and/or important things. And when a problem does, inevitably, arise, we seek the most positive possible ways to solve it. That's not so hard, right?

Still, I recognize that the main demographic of Nerdfighteria is teens and young adults, and I remember what it's like to be that age. I know that it's sometimes hard to imagine others as complexly as we might like and to seek out the way of less drama, not more. I know that things often resonate more and hurt harder and feel more permanent at that age than they do at mine, and I respect those feelings. But, as an older Nerdfighter, both in terms of time in the community and actual physical age, I do my best to set a good example and to be a mentor when it's wanted. I feel like that's my place in the community: To be a counselor, a teacher, a mentor, a guide, a mom-figure, a leader, but most of all, above everything else, a friend to those who need it. After all, I probably would still be hiding on the sidelines myself if a few people hadn't done the same for me. I'm just paying it forward.

One last thing: I made a video a few years ago about my YouTube experience but, as I noted above, it's almost identical to my Nerdfighter experience. If you're interested, you can have a look. There's also an old blog post linked in the description that tells more of this twisted tale, if you're that much of a boredom-glutton!

So that's my story. If you want to know more, or have thoughts to add, leave your questions and comments below. I'd love to hear from you! And if you're interested in such things you can also find me on Twitter.

Thanks again for reading! If you've somehow landed here from some other source and haven't seen the videos that go along with this post, they are: 

Jill, Kristina, Frieda & Amy

And that's it from me on this Wedn... ok, fine THURSday! :D Best wishes! <3

1 comment:

  1. I just found out about this because I was searching Nerdfighteria (and to be honest, it sounds insanely awesome but I seem to be a bit off the radar and still don't know what you technically do as a nerdfighter other than attend vidcon or whatever and :( ....) but you sound cool and so I shall see if there's anything else that's interesting. Also, love the greens and currently green from envy as you've met them. Grrr...