“Perhaps the most universal claim made about the internet is its ability to transmit cultural congruence” (Amarca). Unlike the premillennial limitations that resulted in the obscurity of many subcultures, one can now hear of a term and immediately search it up on the internet, finding information that previously could have taken days to even years of research. Although some aspects of many subcultures cannot thrive in the modern technological era, the internet has proved to be the best source for subculture groups to connect.
“Over the past decade or so, attention from the outside world has caused internet subcultures once considered niche — like the furry fandom and the Neopets and DIY communities — to transition from underground to mainstream”. Tools such as apps, websites, hashtags, and others have often resulted in subcultures becoming extremely popular, or at least well known. One may be living in an extremely conservative town where dressing or acting differently than what is considered normal is unheard of.
Yet with the internet, they might find a group of “outsider” people that actually do exist, educating that audience and creating more members of that group. “In the ten years since the DIY subreddit was created it’s amassed nearly 14 million subscribers, growing at an especially accelerated pace over the past four years”.
Most information can be found so quickly that a new subculture such as this had been made possible to become a thing, rather than dying out without the support of the internet’s many resources. However, there are those who disagree that the internet has helped subcultures thrive.
“When everyone has easy access to their favorite diversions and every diversion comes with a rabbit hole’s worth of extra features and deleted scenes and hidden hacks to tumble down and never emerge from, then we’re all just adding to an ever-swelling, soon-to-erupt volcano of trivia, re-contextualized and forever rebooted” (Oswalt). According to some, the ability of the internet actually hinders the importance in subcultures. It is believed that people cannot find as much passion in their geeky hobbies because it is often an idea that has been reused over and over by media creators.
“But then reflect on the advantages. Waiting for the next issue, movie, or album gave you time to reread, rewatch, reabsorb whatever you loved, so you brought your own idiosyncratic love of that thing to your thought-palace. People who were obsessed with Star Trek or the Ender’s Game books were all obsessed with the same object, but its light shone differently on each person” (Oswalt). Although this may be the opinion of some, the internet has been an important factor in the survival of many subcultures. Many people find passion in their interests either way, so the internet certainly is not destroying the love for one’s hobbies, lifestyle, or opinions anytime soon. Another example of a subculture thriving on the internet is the spread of the diy punk subculture. “Using technological advances, this punk ethic has translated incredibly well into the online world where a record can be kept of their tips, instructions and blueprints for do-it-yourself items and services and can be spread worldwide in a matter of minutes” (Wilton).
Since the original creation of punk in the 70’s, punk had been dying out as a political anti-capitalism subculture with the commercialization of it by the media. However, once punks accepted a new generation and moved partially to the internet, providing help with diy ideas and the spread of punk bands, it revived. “Through DIY, budding anarchists can create their own alternatives, promote independence, take charge of their life and realise their own creative possibilities (Schafraad, 2001). While, the punk ethic was created out of necessity, it is once again gaining popularity on a large-scale online and offline level due to the break-away from big companies, thanks to the recent crippling recession and lapse in product quality” (Wilton). Punk was created to challenge limited norms and the crushing society, and it will continue doing that by thriving through the internet.
The internet itself has started several subcultures that may have been simply ideas before it. “Often driven by a vanguard community of individuals keen to fetishize specific elements of art, music, fashion and popular culture – notoriously through social media platforms like Tumblr and Facebook – these fledgling collectives frequently find themselves snowballing into a full-blown force majeure by a trend-obsessed society ever-hungry to be fed the ‘hottest new thing” (Armaca). A few examples of internet-created and thriving subcultures are: Witch House, Vaporwave, and soft grunge. Witch House is a cryptic subculture created by artist Travis Egedy (commonly known by stage name Pictureplane) in 2009 when he used that specific term as a joke describing his musical style. However, to his surprise, that simple joke “spiraled into a Tumblr-fueled internet frenzy, where cryptic band names, hazy chopped-and-screwed remixes and esoteric collage art surfaced en masse to form a unified whole” (Armaca).
This “niche” aesthetic eventually ended up a popular pop culture movement widely used by music writers, hipster trend followers, and bedroom producers. Next, “coined from the word “vaporware” – a term used by tech companies to describe publicly announced soft- or hardware that never actually materializes,” – this extremely viral subculture trend heavily relies on the aesthetic of “clichéd sonic ephemera of the ’80s and ’90s (think elevator music, late-night infomercials, “call waiting” soundtracks, etc.), incorporating elements of yuppie culture and New Age music as a means to parody hyper-capitalism while simultaneously fetishizing many of its artifacts” (Armaca). Common elements of Vaporwave include glitch art, 90’s web design, bright cold colors, and such. Vaporwave is a symbol of the cold techno corporate reality that controls modern society. Finally, an satirical appropriation of the original music-based grunge subculture, soft grunge is a subculture with opposite ideologies to its predecessor; “what’s perhaps most ironic about soft grunge is its almost diametric opposition to the ideologies of its Gen X predecessor, trading the anti-image and angst for vanity and disinterest” (Armaca). All of these internet subcultures were created on the internet and spread with viral interest.
An amazing example of a subculture started by the internet is meme subculture. “Within a culture, memes can take a variety of forms, such as an idea, a skill, a behaviour, a phrase, or a particular fashion. The replication and transmission of a meme occurs when one person copies a unit of cultural information comprising a meme from another person. The process of transmission is carried out primarily by means of verbal, visual, or electronic communication, ranging from books and conversation to television, e-mail, or the Internet. Those memes that are most successful in being copied and transmitted become the most prevalent within a culture” Memes are the spread of culture through simple images that a specific group is often connected to. “Memes, as all visual imagery, must be studied in the context of representativeness.
Research on representativeness and cultural transmission in textbook pictures, television, and other media has demonstrated that visual imagery can directly impact the self-perception of its viewers and/or reflect the culture which produced it”. Visual imagery is incredibly important throughout human history. Since caveman times, visual images have been a way to communicate information and preserve history. Some of the most important historical parts of human history would not have been known if not for visual imagery. Memes are the modern version of this imagery, whether or not it makes sense to those who were not there when the context happened. Overall, the internet is a wonderful tool for keeping subcultures thriving and abundant in members. Although some older aspects of being in a group such as punks, goths, or furries cannot work in the current modern era, it is simply incomparable to the revolutionary help the internet is.