Anway, there's this great video about Nerdfighters, sent to me via Twitter by faithful follower Anna. It's on the long side again (20 minutes) but it's worth the watch and immensely entertaining, with sketches in between discussion and interviews. A bit like the video on fandom identity, it discusses what it's like to consider oneself a Nerdfighter and some controversy surrounding the fandom. So take a look, if you've got time:
This video is focused in on a case study of Nerdfighters in order to discuss the idea of YouTube fandoms, something I'm really new to. It's mind-blowing to me how much this website has caught on in the last few years (and by few, I mean eight. I have a hard time recognizing that it's been four years since I graduated from high school). YouTube, to me, used to be a place where I might go to watch a music video or look up some educational vid for class or replay the "Numa Numa" video again. I didn't really have an interest in YouTube then. But now, all of these arenas have expanded into something more and, along with the rise of vlogging and immense variety of channels, YouTube has, in some ways, become like a sort of alternative television, creating and producing material that can be watched as long as you've got wifi and can be embedded into webpages and other sites. And out of this, a new sort of celebrity status has been created, one that can be found through views and likes and shares. A causal vlogger or video maker could become a viral hit overnight if their video becomes popular. It's incredible.
The focus on the sort of popularity of identifying "socially awkward" was really interesting too. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well, say it's one or the other would be simplifying it far too much. It's beneficial for people to be more accepting that social situations are not always natural for everyone and that talking with people is sometimes really, really hard. Is there a risk in fetishizing it? Possibly. Being a nerd has certainly been fetishized, but that hasn't really stopped people from celebrating being a nerd. However, I think it's really important, for both critics of this identification and people who have this identification. to keep in mind the difference between social awkwardness and social anxiety. They have similarities, but social anxiety is certainly something that deserves serious discussion, not light-hearted identification with. I think most of the people who have social anxiety would tell you that it is nothing to aspire to and is something that one wouldn't want to celebrate. People who have anxiety should have support and a space to talk about it, but they should not be turned into objects of fixation or have their anxiety become a label of identification with. And so, social awkwardness treads a... well, an awkward line with this connection. I think we should embrace and accept that being social creatures is very complicated and that not all humans communicate in the same way, but wearing and/or treating "social awkwardness" as a badge or like a logo may trivialize what it could represent.
I could write a whole reaction to the idea of hating arrogant nerds, but that's a post all on its own (oh, the tension between hipsters and nerds and the fact that they need each other like the sharks need the pilot fish). And the idea that "hate is beautiful... hating things is what makes us human" - also needs a post of its own. But very interesting remarks nonetheless.
What this video once again reveals is that fandoms, like people, are very, very complicated. They are full of individuals who all have their own interests and their unique opinions and quirks, and yet somehow come together and find similarities and bond over these similarities. Does this require giving up a little something of their individuality in return? Maybe a little bit, but I don't think that means you have to utterly lose that part of yourself. Sometimes it's a struggle not to (I'm thinking back on my unwillingness to admit that I liked certain musical artists for fear of being called a hipster or embracing my love of Shakespeare because I was afraid I wasn't smart enough to like his writing) but I think it can be done. Are fandoms more of a collective full of individual minds or more like, as a speaker described in the video "an army of people willing to do whatever you want them to do?"
If you want to read more about Nerdfighters, check out this article in the New Yorker from Michelle Dean, which has a great description of what Nerdfightia can provide for teens. Otherwise, that's all for now. But one last thing: don't forget to be awesome. :D