It was a summer afternoon in 2007. I had just logged onto YouTube to escape the Alabama heat and ingest my daily dose of home video entertainment. Watching YouTube videos had recently become a routine for me. I had transferred high schools the previous semester and managed to make absolutely no friends before summer break, which meant I had a lot of time to myself. So I filled that extra alone time with the people of YouTube—vloggers ranting about their lives, practical jokers testifying to their latest pranks, DIY-ers giving step-by-step tutorials on how to revamp clothing. This particular day was the same as the others. I scrolled down the site’s front page where the trending videos are posted in search of anything that might strike my fancy. A few scrolls down, and a video labeled “Accio Deathly Hallows” appeared. Since I was, and remain to this day, a serious Harry Potter fan, I was instantly intrigued. The final installation of the Harry Potter series was due to hit stores in just a couple of weeks, and suspense of its release was starting to build.
I clicked the video and listened as watched as the words “Two brothers, one video blog, 365 days of textless communication—Brotherhood 2.0” came on the screen. A nerdy-looking twenty-something then appeared and immediately said into the camera “Good morning, John, it’s Wednesday July 18th. I’m gonna have to wait until Friday to do the green hair thing, because today’s Wednesday—it’s my Wednesday—so I must do a song.” He then proceeded to sing a rather clever song about the Harry Potter community’s eagerness to read The Deathly Hallows. I was interested to find out more about Brotherhood 2.0, so I clicked on the link at the top of the page that said, “vlogbrothers.” It took me to their channel where I found seven months’ worth of videos. That marked the beginning of my fascination with the vlogbrothers.
Brotherhood 2.0 was a video project created by Hank and John Green in which the brothers were prohibited from textually communicating with each other for a full calendar year (excluding holidays and weekends). Over the year-long endeavor, the Green brothers developed a large following that they endearingly refer to as “Nerdfighters.” According to the Green brothers, anyone who watches their videos and wants to be a part of the vlogbrothers community is a Nerdfighter. The Nerdfighter community (referred to as Nerdfighteria) has developed into its own virtual subculture, complete with its own vocabulary, art, and organizations.
One particularly important Nerdfighter organization came into being through the Brotherhood 2.0 project. In March of 2007, John Green created the predecessor for the present day Foundation to Decrease World Suck. The rules of the Brotherhood 2.0 project required that (1) each video had to be under four minutes, and (2) there could be no written communication via text in or outside the context of their videos. If they broke either of these rules, they were punished. Punishments were issued by the opposite brother, and, as evident from the title, they were often unenjoyable for the accused. For example, John Green was once issued the punishment of eating five sheets of toilet paper while discussing the political situation in Nepal. But it was Hank’s punishment for textually communicating at the end of one of his videos that earned him the punishment of purchasing one hundred peeps and eating as many as he could within a six minute period. We was then challenged to give the remaining peeps to the people of Missoula (Hank’s town). For each peep he did not eat, he had to donate a dollar which would be placed in a bank account created by John Green called the Brotherhood 2.0 Fund for Decreasing Suck Levels Worldwide.
By the end of the Brotherhood 2.0 project, the Nerdfighter community surrounding the vlogbrothers’ channel was so vibrant the brothers decided to continue making videos. The phenomenon of their success is mind-boggling. Hank and John Green are two nerdy guys making Youtube videos people seem to love. What is the secret to the success of the Green brothers and Nerdfighteria?