There’s this author named John Green. He’s written a couple young adult novels, and they rock. John has a brother named Hank Green. A couple years back, 2007 to be precise, Hank and John decided that they were going to get to know each other as adults, and to do this they were going to communicate only via video blog for a whole year. Each weekday one would make a video, and the next day the other would respond. They were not allowed to communicate with any text – no emails, or instant messages, or text messages. Those videos were put up on Youtube. They called the project Brotherhood 2.0. They called themselves the Vlogbrothers.
A few days into January 2007 I started watching. Honestly I started watching because I was sad, and needed something funny. I was working at a sucky job, I had no friends, school was boring me out of my mind. This was during the time I lived in Virginia. The months passed, and each weeknight I wouldn’t go to sleep until the video was up, because I needed that something funny at the end of my day. I was never a super active commenter, but I watched every single video.
Those videos became linked in my mind with various things – my birthday, the day I got my acceptance letter for the college I’d applied to transfer to, Harry Potter and the end of that whole era, and then moving. A community of the people who watched their videos grew, and became known as the Nerdfighters. There are a million inside jokes – fishing boat proceeds, who is Hank?, blenderized stuff, Strawberry Hill, Zombies vs. Unicorns, video montages… it’s all SO silly, but it means a lot.
I moved from Virginia to Maine, and because it is the internet the Vlogbrothers and the whole Nerdfighter community came with me. I was so lonely those first couple of days at my new college that I sought out a computer that had internet not with the intention of talking to friends, or emailing people and letting them know I was alive. I just wanted that little bit of normalcy on Youtube.
And that December I sobbed, literally sobbed on the guest bed at a friend’s house where I was over winter break, during the final Vlogbrother’s video. It had been a year of a lot of movement and growth, and I almost felt like the Vlogbrothers had been there with me the whole time. They had in an obscure, social media kind of way. They officially ended the Brotherhood 2.0 project on December 31st, and videos became less frequent, but they do still make them.
I have introduced numerous friends to the Vlogbrothers, and two summers ago when I was working at summercamp one friend would send me handwritten letters describing the recent videos. It was quite literally the only positive part of that summer. In November 2009 I ended up working with John’s high school ex-girlfriend on a campaign, which was hilarious. I’ve attended a Nerdfighter gathering in Boston and we walked around singing Accio Deathly Hallows. I’ve sang more than a few of Hank’s songs at open mics, and my friend and I have reprised John’s 50 last words video more than once on stage.
And now it’s year five.
And it’s commonplace for me to check for an updated Vlogbrothers video, to feel that little bit of familiarity when I see John or Hank and know I will get to see Hank’s exuberance over something or John’s congenial but in depth look at the world’s problems. It’s still that little nugget of familiarity whenever I watch one of the videos. Whether I am in Virginia or Maine or Boston, or at a conference in New York or Los Angeles. Last summer I had been waiting outside the Maricopa County Jail until nearly 3am for those arrested for civil disobedience to be released and when I finally made it back to my homestay I was exhausted beyond all comprehension, but I still watched that day’s Vlogbrother video before going to sleep. Traditions are, after all, very important.
I am not looking forward to the day when John and Hank stop making their videos. Part of me wants to think that I’ll still have them to look forward to when I am in gradschool, when I am starting whatever job I end up at. It’s absolutely ridiculous that a couple of guys with a couple of video cameras would mean so much, but they do.
Thanks, Hank. Thanks, John. You both matter.