Content creator Hank Green shared insight on pros and cons of the Internet

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Student moderators host a talk with content creator Hank Green. Photo courtesy of Donald LeCompte, ’21.

Julian Ramirez

Hank Green, author and content creator, spoke with Washington and Lee via Zoom on March 13 at 4 pm. 

The conversation was moderated by Donald Lecompte ‘21, Estrella Burks-Parra ‘23, Jack Eason ‘22, and Avery Younis ‘21.

While partially indebted to the Internet for his success, Green said he is wary of the role it plays in discourse today.

“If the purpose of the Internet is to win at the discourse game, then there’s no space to believe that we could be wrong about something,” Green said. “And if there’s no space [to be wrong]…there’s no space in changing a mind.” 

Green said the internet has become an arena where “people are going to come at you for not having a solid opinion.”

He said this is partially why disagreements become public feuds because neither side is allowed to concede.

Those [disagreements] have to happen offline, one on one…Anything we can do to have those harder conversations in a way that is open…we should do that as much as we can.”

Green said the increase of platforms in the last few years has ushered in a democratization of content creation. This, he said, has made media more inclusive because creators without connections in high places are able to connect with a wide audience.

Green said that entertainment is now in the hands of the people.

“It used to be there was a group of people who controlled how media got out to the world. That is not [really] the case anymore.”

Although “the people” are often at the helm of the creation itself, the founders of platforms such as Youtube tend to take home the bulk of the money. Green predicts that the future of platforms will see an increased ease of monetization for creators, as already evident on platforms such as Twitch.

Green attributed his success, and the success of others in the industry, to two factors: empathy and storytelling.

“The need for empathy and storytelling hasn’t changed, and likely won’t ever. It’s been around since [humans] started communicating.”

Green said successful creators on platforms like TikTok and Youtube build communities by understanding who their audience is, what their audience desires, and how to meet those wants. 

“[The artist has] this deeper, personal connection. They make what they want to make, but also what their audience is going to vibe with.”

The YouTuber founded VidCon for those very same people, a conference aimed at creators who focus on building community through content, such as himself. 

Green said that those interested in monetizing a passion should, “have weird passions.”

He said his lifelong interest in “things that nobody cares about” was one reason for his success.

“If you can be obsessed with something that other people don’t care about, that’s the best space to be in…I don’t like crowded spaces. Look for clear spaces.”

Virginia Weston, ‘22, said she thought her peers would be comforted by the talk. She said his words were “great for people who feel like they don’t know what to do, especially during a pandemic.”

“[Hank Green’s] talk was inspiring. His message to be comfortable with your passions was something that a lot of college students need to hear.”

The 45-minute talk, sponsored by the Contact Committee and W&L’s Science, Society, and the Arts (SSA) covered topics from Green’s relationship with his father-in-law to “viruses having sex.”

He recognized that hope can be difficult to find in a world with “high magnitude problems,” but that these problems are only solved when hard-working, passionate individuals take the time to find hope and take time to relax. 

“We have to find joy…nothing gets done without joy,” Green said. “Or else we’re just sad scrolling. And that accomplishes nothing.” 

Green said he finds joy bonding with his 4-year-old son, connecting with creators and viewers across different platforms, and watching every episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

“There is no progress that doesn’t include some down time, some appreciation for the parts of life that will always be good. Things are hard, but we [will always] find joy.”