Vlogbrothers, a love letter

I think I am the kind of person who gets obsessed with/ fixated on/ addicted to things quite easily. The newest additions to my list of things that I can and have (literally) spent hours concentrating on are

Follow Me on Pinterest ….. 

I probably don’t need to go too much into pinterest; I’m pretty late to the game, and there are plenty of resources to look to for what pinterest as a visual phenomenon means as a social exchange of interests and ideas (see NPR’s All Tech Considered article from leap day this year here, and stats on the site here). All in all, I try to use it in a responsible way, and largely as an extension of myself in my physical form in real life – focusing on DIY for my home, educational projects and ideas for work, and cute aminal pictures from the web (doh face). But like I said, I don’t need to go into it too much here, chances are anyone reading this has already discovered pinterest and made his or her mind up about it anyway.

What’s more important to me is Vlogbrothers and Nerdfighters.com. I’m pretty irritated with the failures of the Internet and my social circles that I only found out about these guys and their cadre of worldly nerds four years after they got started. These are totally my people! My internal dialogue sounds exactly like John Green in one of his more ecstatic expositions about whatever. In brief summary, the Vlogbrothers started in 2007 with a challenge between two brothers, John and Hank Green, to only communicate via video blogs addressed to each other for a year. The success of their challenge generated around them enough of a following to continue their semiweekly-ish vlog updates in formats that are informational and really entertaining. In Seinfeld-esque style, the videos are really about nothing in general, but more like daily entries about whatever is happening to either brother, or whatever he may be interested in currently. The videos typically begin with one brother addressing the other and then going into a quick but intelligent run down of whatever topic he wants to talk about. Its so much more interesting and fun than I’m making it seem here, so you may just have to go check it out at their YouTube channel.

In fact, do that anyway: go to their channel and watch all their videos (4 or 5 years’ worth). I don’t often get this way about things I really like, but I had one of those sensations of rage and utter bewilderment watching Vlogbrother videos and noticing the view counts, then comparing them to videos that are much less entertaining or informative. For example, a recent video on their channel, featuring John debunking some common misconceptions, has a current total of 321,445 views, whereas The Cinnamon Challenge by GloZell and her big behind earrings has 8,751,215 (both videos came out at about the same time earlier this year). Now, I linked both videos here because, honestly, both videos certainly have their merits and are worth watching. But while I can only stand to watch GloZell choke down a ladle full of cinnamon once, I watched John’s video three times… mainly because he was talking so fast I was trying to not miss anything, but also because I found it fascinating. At least, John’s video is more fascinating to me than GloZell’s is grotesque.

The Vlogbrothers videos are informative and engaging on a philosophical level that provokes introspection and discussion. Both John and Hank devote their videos to distributing interesting information to their viewers, and they do it in ways that are fun. This is a big deal to me personally, and I think it’s a big deal to other people; it’s something I’ve started noticing in my normal everyday pursuit of knowledge. I have more fun sitting on my couch watching hours of Vlogbrothers videos about random things in the same way I have more fun listening to the same RadioLab episodes over and over again, than I do sitting and watching a typical Nova documentary (sorry Nova, although I do love you oh so very much!). Something in the presentation and the style of communication makes all the difference. While Vlogbrothers are much more informal in their presentation, and certainly much more subdued compared to the audio monumentalism that is a full-length RadioLab episode, both sources include a charisma that is lost in the coolness of a Nova documentary. All of it is informative on interesting things: science, art, technology, philosophy; but the personalization (definitely not a new concept) makes the information so much more accessible. Also, it really helps that John has occasionally featured his adorable baby in some videos.


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