Around the world, at this very moment, billions of people are either double-tapping a picture of the New York City skyline on Instagram, watching mukbang on Youtube, liking and sharing the latest news on Facebook, or retweeting the latest savagery from Wendy’s Twitter account. But if you think that’s all that’s going on the internet, you are grossly mistaken.
No matter what your opinion is on the supposed pros and cons of the internet and social media, one thing is clear: just about everyone is using it in one form or another. The internet has reshaped our lives in a way that it has become inescapable. Most of the work that we do is now online and most of the social interactions we have, ironically, are now online as well.
But did you know that there is more to the internet than just making our lives more intertwined and interconnected? Through our newfound interconnectedness, whether subconsciously or consciously, we have become part of online subcultures that otherwise wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the internet. From the now-normal hipster culture to the otherwise bizarre otherkins, let’s take a quick look at some of the internet’s subcultures that form part of the current state of our digital landscape.
Is it possible that we have already had memes before knowing they were memes? Very likely. The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976. In his book, The Selfish Gene, he used the word meme to explain how ideas replicate, mutate, and evolve (memetics). Dawkins has also used the word meme to explain the spread of cultural phenomena. However, the term meme has evolved and spread into pop culture with a different meaning than what Dawkins intended it to be.
Meme culture, which started in internet forums and then popularized by social media platforms, is often an image captioned with a concept, a catchphrase, or a quote. Memes are often harmless and funny and spread rapidly with the intention of gaining likes, visibility, or virality. Memes often delve into various internet subcultures to come up with inside jokes from within a particular community. In its early days, memes may come off as mindless chuckles and passing humor. Nowadays, memes have developed into cultural pieces that reflect politics and current events with the sole purpose of being timely and relevant.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, fandom is defined as “the state of being a fan of someone or something, especially enthusiastic ones.” Similar to the memers, the fandom subculture is composed of people brought together by a shared interest. Some of the most popular fandoms are the Harry Potter fandom, Doctor Who fandom, and the Supernatural fandom.
Fandoms aren’t exactly unusual. The activities that go on in these fandoms are what makes them out of the ordinary… like fan fiction or fanfic. Fanfic is a genre of amateur fiction writing based on stories made by fans of a TV show, a movie, a novel, or other types of media. For the most part, fanfic is harmless. However, narratives can be taken to the extreme that it makes canon (official storyline in a fictional universe), for lack of a better word, unimaginative. Don’t believe us? Out there somewhere, there’s fanfiction written about the unequivocal love Harry Potter has for Draco Malfoy — yes, you read that right. People actually ship Harry and Draco. If that’s not weird enough for you, there’s also fanfiction written about the game Tetris. YEP, the game where random blocks fall. Here’s an excerpt from an r/AskReddit thread from user u/Pycnolite:
“So I read one [Tetris fanfic] that was about a society of people who periodically have to go through a ritualistic self-suicide ceremony in worship of their god, and throw themselves into an unknowable chasm to reach the afterlife. Except the people were blocks, and their god was the human playing on the Tetris machine. It was surprisingly really good and heartfelt, and I almost cried at the end when the main character had to throw himself off the edge…”
Pro tip: Before you go on exploring the very unpredictable world of fanfic, please know that some of these stories can be geared for more mature audiences. Click at your own risk!
We’re not referring to the 1940s hipster lifestyle that revolved around jazz, drugs, and a laid-back persona. Wait… maybe we are? Let’s just say that the current hipster culture is a resurgence of the 1940s version with a few modern tweaks. Simply put, modern hipster culture rejects everything mainstream and values independent thinking, progressive ideals, and anything counter-culture.
The 21st-century version of hipster culture emphasizes uniqueness and authenticity above all else. The culture also reflects on the way hipsters dress. Stereotypically, their fashion elements include thrift store hauls, vintage clothes, and other non-mainstream pieces like huge horn-rimmed glasses and, at times, a fedora. Yep, a fedora.
Otherkin is a subculture that originated in the 90s where people socially and spiritually identify as any kind of being other than human. According to a Gawker article, otherkins are beings born in the wrong body and identify as another kind of species. They can identify as wolves, elves, celestials, or any other type of mythical creature. Otherkin largely deal with the supernatural, spiritual, and the (possible) existence of parallel universes.
Again, wild! Largely, however, otherkin is considered as an internet phenomenon. You can find the majority of the otherkin population lurking on internet forum sites like Quora and Reddit as well as microblog sites like Tumblr. Otherkin is also just a collective name for various kintypes that exist out there. For instance, someone that identifies as wolves may call themselves wolfkin while someone that identifies as a dragon may call themselves dragonkin.
Do you have anything to share? We know there are a lot of weird online subcultures and communities out there. Leave the weirdest one you’ve stumbled upon in the comments section below!