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Nerdfighteria: My Fandom Family

“A Nerdfighter is a person who instead of being made out of bones and skin and tissue is made entirely of awesome.” — John Green, How to Be Nerdfighter

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Welcome to Nerdfighteria

Megan Zarling

We crowded outside the theatre hours before the showing began. I had taken a $45 Lyft cab to get there and asked a coworker to cover my shift just so I could go. My friend Megan and a handful of other people from our Facebook group were there in line and they waved at me as my driver pulled into a parking spot. After paying and tipping him, I walked excitedly up to Megan, who was wearing the customary Pizza John shirt, and hugged her.

“We’re seeing it,” I told her. “It’s like, a real thing now.” I jumped up and down excitedly. She grinned and hugged me again before we both took our seat on the sidewalk. What we were waiting for was a free, pre-release showing of “The Fault in Our Stars”, the film adaptation of our favorite novel written by one of our favorite brothers on the internet. We were doing it with the people it felt most right to do so with: The Nerdfighters.

What is a Nerdfighter?

View this video on YouTube / Via

In 2006, brothers John (award-winning novelist of The Fault in Our Stars) and Hank Green (Prominent Wizard Wrock artist and entrepreneur) realized that they hadn’t been keeping in touch with each other quite as much as they wanted to. They lived in different states and rarely conversed face to face. They’d send an email here, a text there, but that was about it. Deciding this was not an adequate amount of correspondence, they started a YouTube channel with which they would make videos back and forth to each. Their username was "vlogbrothers." They named the project Brotherhood 2.0 and came up with several rules regarding the channel. They were not allowed any textual communication. Later on they also decided that videos were not allowed to be more than four minutes long (unless it was educational). If they failed to make a video on their respective days or broke a rule, they’d have to do some sort of embarrassing punishment of the other’s choosing. On January 1, 2007, Hank posted their first video and in the ten years since, a worldwide fanbase has grown around them. These fans call themselves Nerdfighters.

Nerdfighter Dictionary

“DFTBA”, “French the Llama!”, “Pizza John” and “Worldsuck” These are just a few of the inside jokes that come with the Nerdfighter membership. With hundreds of hours of YouTube footage and millions of fans all over the world, our own jargon started to develop and is still growing to this day. It can be a little daunting when faced with it for the first time. It took me a lot of time on YouTube, Tumblr, the Nerdfighter Ning website, and Facebook to really understand all of them. Here are a few:


Charlotte Renken

DFTBA is an initialism that means “Don’t Forget to Be Awesome” which is the sort of part mantra part slogan of Nerdfighteria. As Nerdfighters, our main goal is to make the world as awesome as possible. DFTBA serves as a good reminder to constantly better ourselves and the world around us. I have it tattooed on my wrist.

The Nerdfighter Gang Sign

Charlotte Renken

The Nerdfighter Gang Sign is hand signal in which one makes the Vulcan salute from Star Trek with both hands with the back of their hands facing away from them and then crosses them. It is not so much a gang sign as it is a funny hand gesture that Nerdfighters make to each other.


Worldsuck is basically the amount of “suck” in the world. Examples of worldsuck include poverty, illness, starvation, homophobia, and other things that make the world a worse place to live in. Above all things, Nerdfighteria wants to decrease worldsuck and we do so through charity projects such as the annual Project for Awesome, Esther Day, Equality FTW, and working with existing charities such as The Harry Potter Alliance, This Star Won’t Go Out,, Kiva, and the Bill Gates Foundation. We also strive to spread a message of positivity by getting together with other Nerdfighters for fun activities and community service projects.

Nerdfighter Gathering

Charlotte Renken

A Nerdfighter Gathering is when Nerdfighters get together outside of the internet. Sometimes there’s a specific activity or event involved, other times it’s just a bunch of friendly people spending time together. Gatherings are usually put together by location based Nerdfighter groups on Facebook, tumblr, The Ning, or the website Meet Up. My Nerdfighter group “The Colorado Nerdfighters” are like family to me. For me, Nerdfighter Gatherings are a sort of family reunion.

Pizza John / Via

Pizza John is the image of John Green’s face, usually in stark red and white, wearing a mustache with the word “PIZZA” under it. This is an iconic image of Nerdfighteria. A lot of Nerdfighters have a t-shirts with this image on it known as the "Pizza John Shirt." Basically, John really likes pizza. We made him a weird thing to celebrate that.

Project for Awesome / Via

The Project for Awesome is an annual charity fundraiser during which Nerdfighters use YouTube and IndieGoGo to raise money for charity. YouTubers will make videos about their favorite charities and post them online. After this, participants can vote for their favorite charities by liking the videos, commenting on them, and voting for them on the event’s website. The charities with the highest numbers of votes receive money for the Fund to Decrease Worldsuck which participants also donate to through an Indiegogo campaign. Last year, P4A raised $2,149,523 for various different causes.

The above is only a small example of how many inside jokes, ideologies, and jargon the Nerdfighter community has. Sometimes it feels as though we have our own language. If I tell the average human being “I’m having a notsome day” they’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. If I tell this to a Nerdfighter, however, the sentiment is easily understood that I’m having a crappy day.

Is it a Cult?

Charlotte Renken

I realize at this point that Nerdfighteria sounds very much like a cult. There is some speculation on this matter. If we look at the definition of a cult as “a system veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object” then perhaps Nerdfighteria could fall under that category. However, it seems unfair to deem Nerdfighteria as something with such a negative connotation. Nerdfighteria is anything but insidious. Eccentric and passionate, yes, but we’ve never done anything that people usually associate with cults. Nerdfigheria has never killed anyone. We’ve never done any property damage. No one gets hurt if they decide to leave the community. If Nerdfighteria is a cult, then it’s a very nerdy, friendly, and do-gooder one.

Esther Earl / Via

The Fault in Our Stars, affectionately named TFIOS is the story of cancer patients Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters as they deal with the nuisances of life, love, and death. For many Nerdfighters, it is their favorite book, but for one Nerdfighter, it’s a book she never got to read. Turn to the sixth page in TFIOS and you will find the words “To Esther Earl”. Esther Earl was a Nerdfighter who died in 2010 of thyroid cancer. She was sixteen.

View this video on YouTube / Via

It is hard for me to talk about Esther without crying, as it is for many Nerdfighters whether they knew her or not. Esther, known as cookie4monster4 on YouTube, was an integral part of the Nerdfighter community for a long time, even as her illness progressed. John Green described her as “a really amazing kid. She was astonishingly empathetic. She was really thoughtful. She was very funny. But she wasn’t an angel or a model of perfection… She was a person. She was a teenager.” / Via

Postmortem, Esther was able to fulfill her dream of becoming an author. Her journals were published by her family with the help of John Green under the title “This Star Won’t Go Out,” which is the same name as the charity founded in her honor. Esther means “Star” and after her death, her Nerdfighter friends made rubber bracelets that read “This Star Won’t Go Out” which are now sold online to help the families of children with cancer pay for medical bills and other expenses.

In Nerdfighteria, we care for the dying and honor the dead. Every year on Esther’s birthday, we celebrate Esther Day. Before Esther died, John and Hank asked her how she wanted them to celebrate her birthday. She simply told them to tell the people they love that they loved them. Every year on August 3rd, we say "I love you" to the people it is hardest to tell.

My Family

Charlotte Renken

I’ve been a Nerdfighter seven years now. When I first came in contact with my Nerdfighter family, I was in a difficult spot. I had taken a gap year from school it was one of the worst times of my life. I wasn’t in class. I didn’t have a job. All of my friends had gone to colleges out of state. I essentially woke up every afternoon and watched Netflix. As much as I love binging, that was all I had and I was miserable.

I have a history of depression. Being alone everyday, with nothing to really motivate me made me wallow in my mental illness. I wouldn’t get out of bed most days. I couldn't find a reason to do anything. Suddenly, Nerdfighteria swooped in and reminded me how notsome my life was and that I had to change it.

When December rolled around, I noticed on the Colorado Nerdfighters Facebook group that someone was having a Christmas gathering on the 22nd. I figured I wasn’t doing anything that day and looked up the address. It was down the street from where my mother and I had just moved to. Perking up, I read the rest of the description. There would be a White Elephant gift exchange, card games, and food all with a bunch of incredibly nerdy people. I decided to take the opportunity to get my ass out of bed and walked the ten blocks to the house. That night changed my life.

The thing about Nerdfighters, is that because everyone already has a lot in common, it becomes incredibly easy to make friends. Almost instantly, I felt myself absorbed into the group. The hosts, Megan and Kristofer, would become the big siblings I never had. A girl named Lara became my best friend. A woman named Stephanie would help me with my mental health issues. I finally felt at home with a group of people. As the year unfolded, we would spend countless hours together and for an only child who previously never felt close to anyone, having a huge family means the world to me. Since becoming a Nerdfighter, I'm happier, healthier, and more active and motivated than I've ever been. I no longer have the sorts of depressive episodes I once did and I'm incredibly grateful. This support system means the world to me. Were it not for Nerdfighteria, I’d probably still be in that bed, wasting my life away. I would have forgotten to be awesome.

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