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Sat Jan 10, 2015, 05:04 AM


How the Real Teens Behind "The Fault in Our Stars" Are Bringing Empathy to the Internet

“I’m proud to be a Nerdfighter in part because I wish so much I could have been one in seventh grade.”

Nerdfighters are bringing kindness and empathy to the native environment of its teenage members—the Internet.

Those are the words of John Green, author of the number-one New York Times bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars, source of the film out this weekend. John is one of the founders of the millions-strong online movement called Nerdfighters, and the author’s success (he once held four spots on the NY Times best seller list at the same time) and anticipation for the film belie not just Green’s popularity among teens, but also the desire for an earnest, emotionally gratifying Internet experience of the kind offered by the Nerdfighters.

So, what’s a “Nerdfighter” and why does Green wish he could have been one? Nerdfighters are a group of mostly teenagers who spend a lot of time on the Internet, especially Youtube, making videos and participating in their brand of social change, which includes everything from spreading anti-bullying messages to raising money for charities. They inhabit a digital neighborhood they refer to as “Nerdfighteria,” and communicate in a language that may leave the uninitiated scratching their heads.

According to the Nerdfighters, there exists a certain amount of “world suck” that can be combated with "awesome." To this end, Nerdfighters created the Foundation to Decrease World Suck, which every year holds The Project 4 Awesome, a fundraising competition to raise money for organizations decreasing suck around the world.

This is the language of the Nerdfighters, and it is used wholly without irony. Nerdfighters are “made of awesome” and work together to “fight against world suck.” The motto is DFTBA: Don’t Forget To Be Awesome. Part of being in Nerdfighteria means understanding the language, the hand-signals, and the countless inside-references.

But the Nerdfighters are doing more than fundraising, sharing Youtube videos, and passing along in-jokes. They are bringing kindness and empathy to the native environment of its teenage members—the Internet—a place that too often lacks both...


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