I really tried not to highlight John and Hank Green as my choice of extraordinary talent in the field of social media, but I can’t. I saw them as just such the obvious answer and wanted to be able to investigate anyone/thing else, to no avail. After much examination, I cannot declare a better blog, Tumblr, or YouTube channel to be more influential to teens (and all humans in general) than these two, also known as the vlog brothers.
The vlog brothers began a video chat with each other, about anything that they felt like discussing that week. It quickly took off. Working in a library and being a general book nerd, I knew of John Green but not necessarily as an internet celebrity and certainly not as a teen guru (of sorts). Along with his brother, they challenged each other, pledging a year to do, but just kept it going after.
The followers became known individually as nerdfighters, collectively as the “Nerdfighteria” and they tuned in twice a week to hear what their mentors had to say. Sometimes they were silly, but more often it was about issues that were impacting society. The fandom were challenged to help end “world suck”. Their “Project for Awesome” which occurs yearly brings needed attention and lots of dollars to a range of worthy nonprofits. They have created (or helped to create) a wide array of educational channels on YouTube as well (some are listed at the end of this post).
I personally got interested and invested after seeing him at Book Expo America in 2012.
BEA 2012 – John Green – Children’s Book & Author Breakfast
I do still watch their vlogs when I can and I’m rarely disappointed.
Their main channel is vlogbrothers. The description reads: raising nerdy to the power of awesome. The videos feature the camera focused on John or Hank Green, alternatively, they use quick speech and filmography that is slightly choppy, broken. They agree, debate, discuss with each other on alternative days, Tuesdays and Fridays. If you’re the viewer, it seems like they are talking AT you. But they have big things to say. They have discussed some really serious things: religion, God, gay marriage, healthcare, climate change, chronic diseases, relationships, among many. Sometimes they answer questions from their thread, sometimes they are silly, talking about their hair, bathrooms, food or toothbrushes.
At one point, John explains to young boys (in an answer to a question), that it’s helpful to guys to “see girls as people, instead of just pathways to kissing and/or salvation, they are much more likely to like you.” I found it extremely impressive and hoped this message, and other important messages that are spoken about, would hit home. Young people who look up to them need to hear straight talk about real things.
I like that they use their media platform for good. I like that they show real data about subjects. I like that they get the fandom thinking, reading and analyzing their own thoughts and the thoughts of others. In early videos, John instructs teens not to believe that they have NO power, giving them info in the side bar how to write their school system, stand up for things they want to read, and how to send letters to their representatives about what’s important to them. Their influence is in so many things, it would be impossible to put it all here.
I would suggest all educators to utilize them as a resource for teens. “Oh, and DFTBA.”
Some of the channels that have hatched over time and continue to evolve: Crash Course, SciShow, The Art Assignment, Sexplanations, and Healthcare Triage …and so many more. And of course, you can find John on Tumblr, twitter and Facebook.
Finally, because I am such an advocate for intellectual freedom, I had to add this vlog from last year where John discusses “the American Library Association’s recent announcement that his book Looking for Alaska was the most challenged book in the U.S. in 2015, responding to those who try to get the book removed from schools and libraries, and discusses the role of teachers and librarians in American life.” On the Banning of Looking for Alaska