Hank Green: From High School Nerd to YouTube’s ‘Friendly Uncle’

/ Sep 6, 2014


In high school, Hank Green was a self-described nerd. He still considers himself one, only now he has something that eludes nerds in their teenage years — popularity. During Hank’s interview on “Ear Biscuits with Rhett & Link,” he outlined a journey from exclusion to knowing just about everyone (okay, that’s obviously an exaggeration) on YouTube.

Having built a large YouTube community through his shared Vlogbrothers channel with his brother, John Green, the two ended up conceiving of VidCon, a major conference for YouTube video creators that follows in the tradition of other such events, like Comic-Con. This has put Hank in contact with hoards of the country’s (world’s?) most popular YouTube creators, and due to his nerdy past, he has a slightly tough time coming to terms with it.

“I have a hard time accepting that I get to hang out with the cool kids,” he explained, noting the likes of Tyler Oakley and Grace Helbig, as well as Rhett & Link themselves.

In spite of Hank’s hesitation to deem himself popular, Link calls him “the friendly uncle of every YouTuber,” saying that he is there to encourages internet action when someone, say, trashes Jenna Marbles on the morning news. Of such a role, Hank said, “I would love to be the friendly uncle,” going on to explain his long held love for and belief in online video. He wants to foster the creativity and originality encouraged therein. “I thought from day two that YouTube was a culturally important idea,” he explained. “I’ve always been obsessed with it, and I’ve always thought that it mattered.”

For someone who joined YouTube in 2007 and started VidCon in 2010, Hank still feels like he was somewhat late to the internet video game. Or, in his words, when he started VidCon, he “thought it was late for a conference.” He believes online video remains on the vanguard in terms of subject matter, creating genres “as fast as television shows used to be created.”

This is due to the individuality of creators. As he said, when Youtube started to try “dumping money” on creators, their work got diluted because it meant they could hire ten staff members. Hank holds that many YouTube creators work in pairs because it lets creators do lots of interesting things, but at a rate that allows it to evolve “naturally.”

Ultimately, you can sum up Hank’s beliefs (and humble attitude) in his statement: “I believe, completely irrationally, in the deep importance of online video culturally.” Is that really irrational? Think on it while listening to Hank’s interview on “Ear Biscuits with Rhett & Link.”

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