Meeting Them Where They Are: Nerdfighteria

I have a confession to make: I am a Nerdfighter. If you know what I mean, skip the next two paragraphs.

What’s a Nerdfighter? Well, it all started with a video blog called Brotherhood 2.0, in which YA author, John Green, and his brother, Hank, decided that they would communicate via video blog, no text, for the entire year of 2007. They alternated days of making videos to each other and posted them on YouTube, so the world could watch their conversation. They talked about growing up as nerds, they talked about books and music, they wrote songs, answered questions and made up challenges. They talked about current events and how to make the world a better place. It turns out that both brothers are good storytellers who can monologue on topics serious and amusing with great heart and humor. We watched, we laughed, and we were inspired. Over the course of the year and in the time since, the brothers Green have collected a following, and we call ourselves Nerdfighters.

We don’t fight nerds, we are nerds who fight. We fight in the name of all that is awesome, using our nerdy powers to improve the world, or “decrease world suck”. The nerdiness in question can be any number of things. I, for example, fall into several Nerdfighter categories: Harry Potter Nerdfighter, Librarian Nerdfighter, English Lit Nerdfighter, I could go on and on. Anything that you are a nerd about can be used to qualify what sort of Nerdfighter you are. Perhaps there are some YALSA Nerdfighters out there.

The space where we Nerdfighters dwell, in our imaginations and as a community, is known as Nerdfighteria. So what does all of this have to do with teens? A lot of Nerdfighters are teens.

This isn’t a reach by any means: 1. Because one half of the Brotherhood 2.0 duo is a YA author, and 2. by the very nature of originating as a YouTube channel following, Nerdfighters must be Internet savvy or at least Internet interested. Nerdfighters are, to varying degrees, social networkers, content creators, and activists. These, as we know from the developmental assets are good things for teens to be.

So, with that background in place, let me tell you a story:

The other night it was bedtime, but I just couldn’t seem to go to bed, so I found myself on the Internet a bit later than I usually would be there. (Ok, it was 10:30). On my Twitter feed I saw a tweet from @realjohngreen saying he was on Blog Tv. So I clicked the link, and watched John talk about current trends and problems with the publishing industry, this summer’s VidCon (A whole conference of video bloggers, I so want to go), and his next book (Will Grayson, Will Grayson, written with David Levithan, coming out this spring).

While this was occurring, there were chats going on on Twitter as well as on Blog Tv. So I signed up for a Blog Tv account and said, “Hi”. I could tell from the conversation in the chat that a lot of the participants were either teens or college students- seems like everybody has exams coming up, plus they were talking about what grades they were in. One chatter asked if there were any future librarians out there and I responded that I am a current librarian.

John was about to turn in for the night, but he decided to read us a bedtime story from something he is currently working on (a book about teens surviving on an island and refuting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs- you don’t need to have all of the comforts of home to self actualize. Sounds like John).

Anyway, our heroes were discussing how to survive the imminent sinking of their boat, when I got an instant message on the Blog Tv chat. “Are you the current librarian?” it said. “Yes,” I replied. And a young person who was considering librarianship asked me a few questions about what I do all day and if I like it (support literacy in all its forms, often by making things up, and yes, I do). We chatted for a bit and I went to bed feeling like I helped someone.

Sometimes there are opportunities to connect with young adults in activities we participate in, or places where we are already. Are any of your teens Nerdfighters? What other networks do they belong to or interests do they share with you or with other caring adults? It gives me hope that if we keep following our own interests and reach out when we see these opportunities, there is a lot of room to connect.

If you would like to learn more about the brothers Green and Nerdfighters:

  • Visit the Nerdfighter Ning.
  • Watch a video by John from when his book Looking for Alaska was challenged in New York State.
  • Watch Hank’s cult Wizard Rock hit, Accio Deathly Hallows.
  • Or, if you have a chunk of time on your hands, watch the original Brotherhood 2.0 from the beginning.

Today, Thursday the 17th of December is a special day in Nerdfighteria: The annual Project for Awesome. It was concisely described as I was signing up to support it by twibbon, thusly: “The YouTube Project for Awesome is a yearly project to promote charities on YouTube videos and then promote those YouTube videos with an army of geeks and nerds fighting for good.” If you want to see some Nerdfighting in action, and also learn about some great charities to support this holiday season, or anytime really, check out the Project for Awesome. You can start here with Hank’s video. To any Nerdfighters out there, though I didn’t make a video, I hope you will accept this blog post as my Project for Awesome support.

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