The Fault in Our Stars topped the New York Times bestseller list, is a major hit in theaters, and most likely, left all of us who read or saw the gut-wrenching tale reeling in emotional turmoil.
The man behind all of this success, though, has done much more for the teenagers and the world than just filling them with dreams of Augustus Waters and uncontrollable crying.
John Green is the author of the popular young adult novel, but he is also a member of Nerdfighters — a millions strong online movement making a difference in the world.
Nerdfighters reside in an online realm called “Nerdfighteria” complete with their own language. Their mission, though simple, is powerful: they intend to fight the “world suck” with “awesome.” Armed with technology, Nerdfighters create videos and post them mainly on YouTube — covering issues such as anti-bullying as well as raising money for charities.
Through their Foundation to Decrease World Suck, the Nerdfighters arrange annual fundraisers through their Project 4 Awesome. What’s that? It’s a competition where money is raised and donated to organizations around the world that promote awesome in the world. Their motto — “DFTBA: Don’t Forget to be Awesome” — is a positive message, and one that they definitely have not forgotten.
The 2013 Project 4 Awesome took place in December over YouTube, raising an astonishing $850,000 in just two short days for multiple charities, including Doctors Without Borders, Books for Africa, Water.org and Women for Women, among others.
Nerdfighteria is not just a place to raise money; it is also a safe Internet environment for teenagers. Cyberbullying cases consistently dominate news headlines, but this group is working to combat this trend. Members are given the chance to join a nondiscriminatory group that values membership and individuality.
It all began in 2007, when John and his brother, Hank Green, started their own YouTube series called Vlogbrothers where the two brothersdiscussed all sorts of topics — although most were nerdy and geeky in some fashion. They quickly garnered a following, but only after John mistakenly called the arcade game Aero Fighters, Nerdfighters, did the name and movement take off.
How then, did the man behind Nerdfighters come to write The Fault in Our Stars? It all began with one of the initial Nerdfighters, a girl named Esther Earl. Earl was an avid YouTube video blogger, posting videos about funny topics and also her experience with thyroid cancer. She was brave and did not let cancer define her, much like Hazel Grace Lancaster in John’s book. Earl lost her battle in 2010 at the age of 16, becoming the book’s inspiration.
Green’s relationship with Earl and his other Nerdfighters show the positive change that can come through empathy and community. Everyone needs to belong, and it is time for the Internet, a tool that is supposed to connect us, to finally fulfill its purpose.
With all of Green’s positive work, we can almost forgive him for the depressing ending of his book.