DFTBA. The five-letter acronym is also a call-to-arms. Simply put: Don’t Forget to Be Awesome.
The saying is a core component of nerdfighting, a cult movement increasingly gaining traction on campuses nationwide. Nerdfighters are a loose collection of geeky do-gooders who attempt to enact positive change in the real world and online. “[A] nerdfighter just tries to fight against world suck,” Butler Collegian arts & entertainment editor Caitlin O’Rourke explained earlier this semester. “Worldsuck: In essence, all the bad and/or stupid things in the world.”
For example, at California’s Chapman University, a campus nerdfighting club carries out “positive pranking.” As The Panther, Chapman’s student newspaper confirms, “Instead of playing ding-dong-ditch, they would leave a hostess cupcake with an inspiring note on a doorstep, and instead of toilet-papering a house, they would hang Tootsie Pops on trees.”
In a recent column published in The Observer at the University of Notre Dame, Elisa DeCastro suggests taking up similarly positive, productive activities. “Increase awesome,” she implores readers. “Write a book, discover a new species, build a time machine– or just put stuff on your head and do a funny dance. (What? It’s fun!) Big or small, find some way to share your nerdy passions with the world.”
In the Q&A below, devoted nerdfighter and ND student DeCastro explains the basics and background of the movement– and what compelled her to join.
Q: For students who hear the name and think it’s just a chess club or a really dorky public affairs group, what the heck is this nerdfighting thing all about?
A: The official definition of a nerdfighter is someone who, instead of being made of bone and tissue, is made entirely of awesome. It also refers to the members of the community that sprang up around the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel, which is run by John and Hank Green.
Nerdfighting is about nerds, which is a label we wear with pride. After all, how can valuing intelligence and being “enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness,” as John puts it, be a bad thing? It is about nerds coming together to have fun and make the world a better place. Nerdfighters can come from anywhere in the world, and they can be any age, race or religion– it is a pretty diverse group. There are plenty of people in the world who are nerdfighters and just don’t know it yet.
Q: What’s the 30-second history of how this all came about?
A: On January 1, 2007, John and Hank Green embarked on a yearlong project called Brotherhood 2.0 in which they ceased all text-based communication and instead posted a video every weekday. By the end of the project they had garnered a committed following, so they decided to continue making videos under the name Vlogbrothers, which has continued ever since. Videos go up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Another 30 seconds for the men behind the project: John Green is an award-winning, best-selling author of several young adult novels. His work includes the Printz Award-winner “Looking for Alaska,” “An Abundance of Katherines,” “Paper Towns,” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” which will be coming out in January. Hank Green runs the environmental technologies website EcoGeek. Since starting Vlogbrothers, his job has expanded to include singer/songwriter and head of DFTBA Records, which signs talented musicians from YouTube.
Q: In what ways has the movement appealed to you?
A: John and Hank are both extremely funny, talented, and intelligent people, and those qualities shine through in their videos. They never underestimate the intelligence of their audience, and their videos offer so much more substance than the mindless entertainment you expect to find on the Internet. At the same time, they never fall into the trap of taking themselves too seriously. All in all, they’re the sort of adult I aspire to be. Not only are the brothers great, but the community is extremely welcoming. There are always discussions going on in the forums, and the dialogue is respectful and engaging, whether it’s about Harry Potter or the political situation in Nepal.
The best part, though, is how powerful the community is, and how committed it is to making a difference. As a group, nerdfighters have been able to accomplish things that as individuals we never could have– like raising $150,000 for charity during the annual Project for Awesome and filling four airplanes with water and medical supplies to send to Haiti after the earthquake. I feel privileged to be a part of a community that does so much.
Q: What is something you are involved in related to being a nerdfighter?
A: Something that a lot of nerdfighters and I are excited about is Kiva.org. Kiva is a microfinancing organization that sponsors entrepreneurs in developing countries. It’s really an ingenious system. I loan money to someone so that they can start a business, and then they pay me back. I can then reinvest that money in another entrepreneur, and the cycle continues. It’s a great way to make a little money on my part go a long way. And rather than create people who are dependent on charity, it helps them break out of the cycle of poverty and strengthens local economies. The nerdfighter team on Kiva has loaned more than $100,000 to entrepreneurs around the world.
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