By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics



The Nerdfighters are an online community of young people that coalesced around the YouTube channel of the “VlogBrothers,” John and Hank Green. John Green is a best-selling young adult author and Hank Green is a musician and entrepreneur, and both engage in a wide variety of online educational projects. Since 2007, the two brothers (inspired by video artist Ze Frank) have uploaded two to three videos a week to their YouTube vlog (video-blog) channel. Their topics range widely, from “How to make friends,” to “Revolution in Egypt: a 4-minute introduction.”

The name Nerdfighters refers to the predominantly young followers of the VlogBrothers. As the brothers’ YouTube vlog became increasingly popular, the brothers’ followers adopted the term to describe themselves, and the VlogBrothers since address many of their vlogs to Nerdfighters or “Nerdfighteria.” Over time, Nerdfighters came to exist as a community, coalescing mostly online, on YouTube, Tumblr or on Facebook group pages, but also face-to-face, in meet-ups of informal local groups. The Nerdfighter community has reached significant proportions—the average Vlogbrother video is viewed over 400,000 times. In the yearly “Nerdfighteria census” of 2014, conducted by the Vlogbrothers, over 100,000 Nerdfighters participated. The “barriers of entry” to Nerdfighteria are kept low. As the VlogBrothers quip: “Am I too young / old / fat / skinny / weird / cool / nerdy / handsome /tall / dead to be a Nerdfighter? No!! If you want to be a Nerdfighter, you are a Nerdfighter.”

Nerdfighters pursue a shared social agenda, which they loosely define as “decreasing world suck.” As the VlogBrothers enigmatically define, “World Suck is kind of exactly what World Suck sounds like. It’s hard to quantify exactly, but, you know, it’s like, the amount of suck in the world.” This broad definition leaves much space for individual Nerdfighters to interpret what “World Suck” (and decreasing it) means to them, from being a good person or cheering up a friend, to collective acts that fit within existing definitions of civic engagement, such as donating money to charity or volunteering. For example, Nerdfighters are very active on, a non-profit organization enabling individuals to make small loans to people without access to traditional banking systems. The Nerdfighters also support Project for Awesome (P4A), an annual event in which members are encouraged to create videos about their favorite charity and non-profit organization and simultaneously post those on YouTube. In the 2013 P4A, Nerdfighters uploaded hundreds of videos and donated impressive amounts of money to the “Foundation to Decrease World Suck” (a non-profit created by the VlogBrothers). Nerdfighters could then vote on which charities should receive the donation (see this list of total grants they gave out in past years). 

See Neta Kligler-Vilenchik's By Any Media Necessary Chapter, Decreasing World Suck, to learn more about the Nerdfighters and other groups who employ fan activism. 

Those interested in learning more about Nerdfighters and how to get involved may contact Valerie Barr at 

Contributed by Neta Kligler-Vilenchik on 9/29/14

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