Since I’m so late, this post will serve to replace my final proposal and be a reflection on it as well. When I first came up with an idea for my Final I wanted to use social media to delve into subcultures. We see subcultures all over the internet. I find all the different subcultural identities fascinating. Some stem from music, others are more centered on fashion and even fandoms on the internet have their own jargon and “subcultural practices”. Being an outsider, these groups do seem to have their own culture. The internet is very powerful in its ability to connect people and allow voices to be heard and I think that’s why we see these subcultures emerging online.
One of the most interesting things is that while the internet gives these groups the space to be themselves it also makes their subcultures accessible to outsiders like me. I wondered what it would be like if I created a Twitter, Tumblr or instagram account and pretended to be a goth or a “directioner”. Even if I didn’t exactly fit the part, the internet still gives me a way in to these lifestyles to look and observe at the very least. And who knows, with sites like deviantart, fanfiction, and YouTube giving me all the tools I need to inform myself about a subculture, how long would it take for me to be “inducted”? These are all sites where people part of a subculture create novel media using music, film, animation or whatever relates to their subculture.
For example, anime fans make AMVs (Anime Music Videos), and plenty of goths on YouTube make videos discussing goth culture, what it means to be goth to them, and the history of goths. A popular tag among this community is “ungoth confessions” in which goths list qualities they have which may not fit the goth stereotype. While it is easy to feel like an outsider from these small groups the internet is not only bringing them closer together but educating us outsiders. As you can see, what I called insider-outsider phenomenon, was one of my biggest preoccupations. I changed my idea into a paper in which I researched through reading what others, usually sociologists it seems, had to say about subcultures on the internet.
Besides learning that a lot of what gives the internet this sense of community and connection finds its roots in capitalism/consumerism (of course!) luckily my main focus was uncovered during the research process. And, the answer had more depth to it than I may have been expecting. The fact that subcultures have their own logic, language, and even shared behaviors that the “in-group” participated in made it appear to me that keeping the lines clear about who was an outsider and who was an insider was meant to create that feeling of exclusivity that makes being part of the “inner circle” feel so special. However, without this insider-outsider logic these groups might not even have become subcultures at all.
“Othering” is a big part of what shapes a subculture. It is how subculturalists establish their subcultural identity – by constantly reaffirming what is and is not part of their subculture. It’s the same way we make notions of “race” and “gender” apart of our experience of reality. A subculture doesn’t have a set form, but appears to always be shifting and changing and othering is part of that process. In the “spirit” of the Internet it makes sense why subcultures seem to be at every corner when we go online. People within some of these subcultures, of course, first saw themselves as divergent from mainstream culture. The internet is a place where people can go when they are the “other” IRL.