The YouTube Community (Nerdfighters)

When you think of YouTube, you probably think of funny videos of cats, bad clips of TV shows, videos of people doing dumb things, and people trying to be rockstars. So, YouTube probably isn’t the first thing to come to your mind when you think of social networking. I would have said the same thing, too, until about two years ago. I was up late one night with nothing to do and someone linked me to a video of a girl playing a cover of a Weezer song to enter into a ukulele contest. I thought it was pretty entertaining, so I watched a lot of her other videos covering songs.

Me with John & Hank Green (the Vlogbrothers)

Then, I started watching video responses people had made to her videos, which lead to many hours of delving into this YouTube world I had no clue existed. Through this process, I eventually learned about video blogging or “vlogging.” The concept is simple enough: Create a video of yourself talking about whatever topic you want. People watch and respond, discussions begin, and online communities are formed.

Early on, I stumbled upon the Vlogbrothers: two brothers who had decided in 2007 to communicate without text (email, text messages, etc) for an entire year. Instead, they would trade off making video blogs every weekday and get to know one another better in the process. To their surprise, other people found this entertaining, and soon enough a community of people was formed around their videos and those people started talking amongst one another, collaborating on videos and projects of their own, and forming bonds and friendships over the Internet and through YouTube.

The Vlogbrothers (John & Hank) are self-confessed nerds. They love reading, writing (John is a NYT Best Selling Author), science, politics, Harry Potter, and the environment. The community that grew around them was composed of fellow nerds who found a group of people with whom they could be nerdy and accepted for it, instead of belittled as so many ‘nerds’ are by the ‘cool’ kids. Through a series of events, this group of Harry Potter and YouTube loving people became known as the Nerdfighters (“we don’t fight nerds, we are clearly pro nerd!”).

This group, created through and empowered by the Internet, has been able to accomplish some amazing things, including rallying together “With Esther” (a 16 year old Nerdfighter who valiantly battled cancer) to help a charity, The Harry Potter Alliance, win $250,000 by popular vote in a contest.

This is a clear illustration that social media gives us the ability not only to connect with those we know (like Facebook does), but those who we may not know who can serve to enlighten and inspire us in our daily lives. Also, that there is the potential for these tools to bring us together with folks near and far to rally behind and support those who need it.

Sadly, Esther passed away yesterday, just weeks after her 16th birthday. Her community, myself included, mourns her loss. Esther served as an inspiration, and I know thousands of people worldwide are better off for it. And she leaves her legacy in the videos, tweets, and blog posts she left behind, and, most importantly, the good done with her by the folks in her YouTube community.

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~ by Anthea on August 26, 2010.

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