I was walking to get pizza and a chasm opened up in the earth and I fell in and now I am at the bottom of this hole, screaming for help. And along comes you. Now, maybe you just keep walking, you know, there’s a strange guy screaming from the center of the earth, it’s perhaps best to ignore him. But let’s say that you don’t; let’s say that you stop. The sensible thing to do in this situation is to call down to me and say “I am going to look for a ladder, I will be right back!” but you don’t do that, instead you sit down at the edge of this abyss and then you push yourself forward and jump. And when you land at the bottom of the hole and you dust yourself off, I’m like “What the hell are you doing, now there are two of us in this hole!” and you look at me and say “Well, yeah, but now I am highly motivated to get you out.”
This is what I love about novels - both reading them and writing them. They jump into the abyss, to be with you where you are.
And I guess from the outside, it seems like, or it probably seems anyway that I jumped into the abyss with Esther. Right, like, here’s this author and he meets this reader of his and she’s a big fan and she’s sick with cancer, and so since he’s so awesome, he jumps down to be with her and he’s like “I’m with you to help you.” No. I wish, like, I wish I were that heroic. But where I’m standing, the true story is that Esther jumped into the abyss with me, because I was the one who was angry and hopeless and saw no meaning in life as it truly exists, and Esther came to me and said “You know, I’m not psyched about having cancer, and I don’t like being in pain all the time, and this is not by any stretch of the imagination an easy life, and I don’t wanna pretend that I’m excited about this, BUT, I like being alive, I am grateful to have loved and to have been loved. I have had a good life.” And that realization, that even though Esther’s life was a short life, it was still a good and rich and full life, that realization was central to The Fault in Our Stars.
John Green, An Evening of Awesome at Carnegie Hall
1. I am very excited about Vidcon, and I hope that everyone has a ton of fun. Yay Vidcon and yay to Hank for creating it and bringing it to life.
2. Quick reminder: I have anxiety problems that make it difficult for me to handle the pressure of, like, being in a room of 6,000 people, let alone having one or several of those 6,000 people talk to me.
2a. This is not something I particularly like talking about, because A. I’m a bit embarrassed about it, and B. it’s private, and C. the phrase anxiety disorder is thrown around so much that it has lot a lot of its meaning.
3. I go to therapy and take medication to help me manage this condition, and it is not (at least these days!) paralyzing at all. Like, I am very comfortable leaving the house; I am even quite comfortable when nerdfighters recognize me at Target or something and say hi. (That’s nice! Feel free!) I can meet people without having panic attacks, etc. These things exist on a spectrum, and I’m lucky to be relatively healthy.
3. That said, I do sometimes have panic attacks which can be kind of debilitating, and that’s not something I want to happen at Vidcon, because then I wouldn’t be able to do all the stuff I have to do. To minimize the chance of that happening, one has to sort of know one’s boundaries, which is why, for instance, if you ask me for a hug, I will probably say no. (The idea of hugging a stranger is frankly pretty terrifying to me.) It’s also why I may seem awkward or distant (or just extremely anxious) if you run into me on the elevator or whatever. Meeting one nerdfighter in Costco is a very different input to my nervous system than meeting thousands of nerdfighters at Vidcon.
4. Lots of people have said in the past that meeting me at a signing or whatever is disappointing or unpleasant because I clearly struggle to connect in the way I would like to connect with you. There are a lot of reasons for this—anxiety is one but probably a bigger one is that when there are many people in a line I want to be nice to the people standing in the back of that line as well as the people standing in the front of it. This may be especially the case at Vidcon, where things are very tightly scheduled and there are 6,000+ attendees.
5. So if you don’t meet me, or you do meet me and I’m an asshat, or you only see me at a great distance and I appear to be shaking like a dove giving birth, please know that none of this is a reflection on you.
All this noted, I am really looking forward to Vidcon, and I think it will be—as it has been the past two years—an amazing weekend of YouTube existing IRL.
I’m asked every day why Hank and I haven’t tried to create a TV show.
We’ve been approached many times to do TV shows, but while we’re happy to listen and discuss ideas with people, we’ve so far turned down these opportunities, even the very tempting and lucrative ones. Here’s why:
1. When you work with a cable channel or production company, you don’t own the show you make or control the manner in which it is distributed.
2. It’s easy—and only getting easier—to watch shows like CrashCourse and SciShow on your TV.
3. We really believe that what is strong and beautiful about nerdfighteria is that we create it—every day—together. All of us. And if we were on TV, I worry we’d lose that sense of connection, which Hank and I have enjoyed so much the last five and a half years. Like, the Sherlock fandom and the Doctor Who fandom are great communities, but they are about Sherlock and Doctor Who. Nerdfighteria isn’t, and never has been, primarily about Hank or me. It’s about celebrating nerdiness and decreasing worldsuck. We really value that and don’t want it to change.
4. On YouTube, we can make exactly the stuff we want for exactly the people we want. Sometimes that means getting lower ratings (for instance, Thoughts from Places videos are consistently our least viewed videos, but we still really like making them and we know that nerdfighteria really enjoys them, too). Television is driven by viewership, and all viewers are treated equally. So you can’t say to a TV network, “I know we get fewer viewers when we make this stuff, but we get BETTER viewers.” They do not understand that idea. That idea, however, is at the very core of our relationship with our community. As Hank has told me, “I don’t care how many views we get. I care how many made-of-awesome views we get.”
If all we wanted to do was make stuff that lots of people watch, all our videos would be about animal sex. And on some level, if we had a TV show, the emphasis would be on maximizing the number of viewers, not the quality of the community, which is the exact opposite of what we want.
In one conversation with an anonymous cable network, an exec said to us, “Crash Course would be PERFECT if you were a little less nuanced and stuck to topics that interest people. Like, you know, Hitler and sex.” (Direct quote.)
I’ve read tens of thousands of Crash Course comments. No one—NO ONE—has ever asked us to be less nuanced, or to stick to Hitler and sex. That’s what I love about nerdfighteria. Our community is deeply intellectually engaged, even when that means grappling with complexity and ambiguity.
The great joy of my life is that I get to talk with you on a near-daily basis about a huge variety of things that matter to me, and listen to you discuss what matters to you. Right now, that’s not possible on TV, which is (for better and worse) still a medium where people talk toyou, not with you.