Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why the Internet is Awesome

SO. Guess who has midterms!!!* Yep, that's right. Me. D: Boo midterms.

I don't have a teaser for you today, but I do have something I wrote for my Personal Essay class. When I got it back (with a nice A on the front :) ) my professor commented "have you put this on your blog yet?" Well, since I haven't, here it is. I apologize if it is terribly long.

When Nerds Unite

I spend a lot of my time on the Internet.

I think that statement is true for most people who are around my age, and would probably still be true for a large number of people if it said that I spend most of my time online. Growing up in the Internet age means growing up using Google as a verb, checking Facebook profiles, and surfing YouTube for funny videos of cats. It has become an integral part of our culture, and I think the truly wonderful part of the internet is that it is an integral part of many cultures. It is something we share.

The first thing I did on Wednesday, August 25th, the first day of classes, (after wanting to throw my alarm clock against the wall when I felt that 9 am was still too early after a night of insomnia) was to make myself a cup of tea and turn on my computer. The first thing I do almost every morning is get onto the Internet and check two of my four email accounts. And then Facebook. And then Absolute Write (a forum for aspiring writers and people at all stages of the publishing industry). And then YouTube (alas, no new videos from John Green, YA author and vlogger extraordinaire).

Even though I do this every morning, I wouldn’t consider myself a computer nerd. I hardly even know what a zipped file is – my best friend is considerably more computer savvy than me, and she had to explain it, even though I still can’t quite grasp the concept. I read books and write instead of playing video or computer games in my free time.

And yet I think the Internet is an integral part of who I am. I have accounts with Blogger and YouTube. I consider many of the people I’ve met at Absolute Write to be my friends. I quote John and Hank Green with alarming frequency.

This tendency to live on the Internet has been coming on gradually. Ever since I figured out that it’s far easier to write books in Word documents on a computer rather than hand-write them in meticulously guarded three ring binders, I have always hogged the computer at my house. When I got my own laptop in preparation for college, my computer usage naturally went up – I feel guilty about it, because my family often jokes that they only see me at meals and that the rest of the time I’m cloistered in my bedroom furiously typing away or staring at a video screen. Which is mostly true, as even without the lure of the Internet I’m a shy and private person.

In January, at the advice of a friend of mine, I joined Absolute Write to learn more about the publishing industry and hopefully figure out how to get my book on the shelves. Then I started blogging. Previously I had figured that no one would want to hear what I have to say, but it turned out that that wasn’t the case. I found that people were actually interested in my little contributions – and that they had little contributions of their own to make.

And then, this summer, I discovered the Vlogbrothers.

I had heard of John Green before – he is the author of Looking for Alaska, among other things, which I had wanted to find and read for a while. But another friend of mine told me to look him up on YouTube, which I did. He runs his channel, Vlogbrothers, with his brother Hank. It began as a year-long challenge to communicate with each other without using textual means such as email. Sometimes John will read from his books or discuss the political situation in Nepal while eating five sheets of toilet paper. Sometimes Hank will play a song he wrote about Harry Potter or explain how to be green without being a jerk. The serious is always paired with the silly, but their messages are clear.

I watched a few of their videos and was instantly hooked. I have now watched them all. All seven hundred and twenty three of them.

I suppose in some ways this could be seen as an essay in my extreme nerdiness. Which is true – I am most certainly a nerd, and I am not ashamed of it. But I am also a Nerdfighter.

The definition of Nerdfighter, as provided by John and Hank, is “a person who, instead of being made out of bones and organs and stuff, is made out of pure awesome.” Nerdfighteria is the online community that has sprung up around their YouTube videos, and, judging by their subscribers list, is a community large enough to be its own country.

It seems odd – nearly 400,000 people watching two brothers talk to each other on YouTube. But it wasn’t long before those videos ceased being a one-to-one discourse and started addressing larger issues. This online community of nerds has done amazing things for their physical communities and for the world. We have raised money for at least half a dozen charities, most recently sending five planes of supplies to Haiti and helping the Harry Potter Alliance win $250,000 to aid in worldwide literacy.

That is what I love about the Internet. Yeah, videos of cute cats on YouTube are always amusing. The fact that information is available almost instantly by searching things on Google or Wikipedia is brilliantly convenient. But what I truly love is how connected it makes all of us.

On Absolute Write, I talk to people from Ohio and Pennsylvania and Georgia and Utah and England and the Philippines and Australia and other places I have forgotten or don’t know about. On YouTube and on my blog I talk about what it is like to be me, and other people talk about what it is like to be them. A community almost as large as the population of Luxembourg banded together as a whole to help those in need. People from opposite sides of the globe interact with people and cultures and ideas they never would have experienced otherwise. They share music and stories, humorous and otherwise. It has turned the Internet into a massive creative collaboration, a place where I can put out an idea and discuss it with people from California or India, something that was nearly impossible only five years ago.

I love that about the Internet. Yes, I am still wary of the downside of such openness, but I find so far that the pros hugely outweigh the cons. I’ve made friends. I’m able to reach out online in a way that I find frightening in person. Through my communities of writers and nerds, I have found that I am not so alone in what I do, what I think, and what I love. I have found a way to contribute to the world, to help make things better – to decrease WorldSuck, as Hank and John would say. I can talk to people whose worldview is different from mine. I can share my opinion with them and hear their opinion in return.

This worldwide collaborative, shared culture is important to me, and I think it will be very important to a lot of people in the future. I’m not one of those people that believes that technology is the be-all and end-all – one small example is that I hate the Kindle with a passion, since Kindles don’t feel or look or smell like a real book – but I do believe that online communities such as Nerdfighteria will have a large part to play soon. Because the Vlogbrothers make their followers think – they pose questions, talk about serious scenarios, ask for real contributions to making the world a better place. I am proud to be a Nerdfighter, proud to have my tiny thoughts ripple across the Internet and create more ripples in other places, proud that my seemingly insignificant contributions actually mean something, due to this wonderful interconnectedness.

I am a nerd. I spend what is probably considered to be far too much time every day on the Internet. And it is probably horrendously dorky and terribly clich├ęd of me to say, but the Internet has provided me, and hundreds of thousands of people like me, a way to reach out. A way to connect with people across the globe. A way to make this world better. Which is, quite simply, wonderful.

*Also, guess who spent the weekend at her roommate's house and had a really awesome time but got no writing (or, naturally, homework) done? Hehe. Yep.

1 comment:

  1. I love this, so much! I've been a nerd all my life - my best friends now are people I met over the internet years and years ago. And I still love it, the sense of community (most particularly the YA community) and discovering just how small this world really is :)