You’re in bed after a long day of writing assignments and work, probably checking Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Twitter or all of the above on a laptop or mobile device; your thumb is doing a dance of famous moves, including scrolling, tapping, swiping and clicking. The modern commonality of our generation: checking, reading, refreshing, updating to stay in the know.
Your eyes glimmer at the sight of a new YouTube post by vlogbrothers, titled “Taking a Year Off.” Within seconds, you think that the biggest YouTube channel that has been running for 11 years is cutting its internet time to a close. While watching the video, however, you come to find relief and sadness all at once. The channel is not stopping, but one beloved half of vlogbrothers and New York Times’ best-selling author John Green is.
After the vlogbrothers channel took off in 2007, Green has been widely considered one of the YouTube fathers. Through the years, both Hank and John Green have passionately built their Brotherhood and channel by piggybacking off of each other. Now, with so many other sub projects, such as YouTube channels CrashCourse, SciShow and The Art Assignment, as well as podcasts like “Dear Hank and John” and “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” Hank and John have definitely made their mark on YouTube history.
By openly discussing his own mental health, the world-renowned young adult author has also become a helpful source for anyone looking for mental illness tips and advice. John is always pushing to help others who are in need, but sometimes he has forgotten about his own health. He has been struggling much of his life with OCD, which can take its toll swiftly. Especially as an author, he has expressed his mental health interfering with his writing, which is why his most recent book, “Turtles All the Way Down,” specifically highlights mental health.
The book, which was published on Oct. 10 of last year, follows the story a teenage girl, Aza Holmes, who is living with anxiety and OCD. Holmes, however, is in fact a mirror of Green and his own struggles with OCD. In a vlogbrothers video posted a few months before the release of “Turtles All the Way Down,” Green explained his OCD by saying his thoughts are constantly in a negative loop and out of control, which then distracts him from other basic life tasks, like reading a book or watching TV.
So, if Green is such an advocate of mental health awareness and a prominent figure both online and in the literary world, why is he deciding to leave the internet? To focus on his own health.
We all know the social media algorithm — if you’re watching a makeup video on Instagram, your suggested videos will be makeup videos. If you look something up on Google one day, then your ads will relate to your recent searches. The internet knows what people look for, and that goes for everyone. For John, this algorithm can be too much, oftentimes sucking him back into the loop of checking, reading, refreshing and updating to stay in the know, going through the same social media apps.
His knack of being on social media leaves him anxiously wanting to be updated on anything the apps spit out. Because he spends so much time scrolling and scrolling, much like his OCD, Green’s algorithm sucks him back into the social spiral again and again to the point where he does not feel productive because his time is just wasted online.
This, however, is not the first time that Green has taken a break from social media. In 2015, Green announced that he would be taking time off because the popularity of “The Fault in Our Stars” made it difficult for him, at the time, to enjoy writing. In a video discussing his writing after “TFIOS” was published, he says his writing experience became an “intense pressure, like people were watching over [his] shoulder” as a result of his mental health.
This time, Green has decided to leave Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and Twitter for one year in hopes of being able to focus on more important life things, like vlogbrothers videos, attending more VidCon events and creating more educational CrashCourse videos. He will still be around YouTube as normal, maintaining the vlogbrothers post schedule and in the comment sections, but rather than focusing his attention on places that distract him, he will work toward aiming his attention on things that matter most to him.
I commend both Hank and John Green for doing such good in the world and for being able to establish an amazing fan base like the Nerdfighters. John, I will deeply miss seeing your Twitter posts from time to time, but I am beyond glad that you have decided to tackle such a difficult task, especially because it is for your own health. Not many people can do what you are attempting, and I wish you the best on your year of minimal online interactions. I’ll see you on Twitter next year.