The Concept of Subculture Is No Longer as Popular as It Used to Be

With the rise in usage of the internet over the 21st century, subcultures have been affected in multiple ways. Whether through message boards, email, websites, or chatrooms, the internet has made its impact on subcultures and the world around us. Although these changes can be seen throughout different subcultures, some of the best examples of these effects are seen through the punk and geek subcultures. Both the popularity and decay of the punk and geek subcultures have affected mainstream culture today.

The rise in popularity and decay of other subcultures will also have an impact on us in the future. The internet causes a subculture’s decay by making the subculture more popular, by incorporating aspects of the subculture into mainstream society, and by causing the subculture to be commercialized because of its popularity.

The first way that the internet causes a subculture to decay is by making the subculture more popular. At first glance, a subculture gaining popularity seems like it would do the exact opposite of decreasing the number of members in the subculture; however, this is exactly what happened in the geek community.

The geek subculture started during the 70’s based on niche interests such as Dungeons and Dragons, various comic book series, and video games. During that time, the only way to learn about geek culture, and become a part of the geek subculture, was to spend many hours playing video games and reading comics, – and waiting for games and comics to be released – and also spending time with other geeks.

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For subcultures, this time that is devoted is very important. It establishes connections with people which helps keep the subculture alive.

A reason why subcultures could be decaying over time would be because teenagers don’t spend as much time with each other in person. According to Twenge, “the number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015” (Twenge) With the rise of the internet in the early 21st century, all the time and money spent on being a geek was no longer necessary in order to learn what the subculture was all about. The internet brought about new features; such as, “the Onion’s ° A.V. Club (which) has a weekly feature called Gateways to Geekery, in which an entire artistic subculture — say, anime, H. P. Lovecraft, or the Marx Brothers ° — is mapped out so you can become otaku on it but avoid its more tedious aspects.” (Oswalt) Since these barriers of entry were removed, people could join the subculture way more easily.

This led to more and more people identifying as geeks. This is an issue because when everyone becomes a part of a subculture, we lose distinction between the people who are in a subculture and the people who aren’t in a subculture. Another reason this became an issue is because many of the new people in the geek subculture didn’t actually know that much about geek culture as a whole and didn’t have the background that a lot of the old members do. This caused a division in the subculture between insiders and outsiders. I believe this is why the subculture started to decline; because of the division which caused the people who had been members of the subculture the longest were now leaving because of the newcomers. Because of the popularity the internet brought to subcultures, it also brought aspects of different subcultures into mainstream society.

Because of the popularity the internet brings, different aspects of subcultures can be incorporated into parts of mainstream society. This can be seen through the decay of the punk subculture. Much like the geek subculture, the internet affected the punk subculture as well. However, when the punk subculture was brought into the public’s eyes, some people opposed its ideas, but “marketers long ago awakened to the fact that subcultures are expedient vehicles for selling music, cars, clothing, cosmetics, and everything else under the sun” (Clark) and used it to their advantage. Because the internet made the punk subculture visible, “punk’s values such as solidarity, revolt, and individuality” were now values that many people sought to have. (Clark) Since so many people, especially young people, were adopting either values from – or the entire culture of – certain subcultures, the ideas were soon so popular that they made it into mainstream society.

The punk subculture in particular values revolution and individuality, which is highly hypocritical given its popularity today. The popularity of the ideas that the punk subculture valued is part of what caused the punk subculture to decline.

According to The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theology, “a subculture is best understood as a social group that is in some way non-normative or nonconformist.” (Gelder) The definition of a subculture is a group that is non-normative and nonconformist and since the ideas associated with the punk subculture started becoming popular, the popularity of those ideas did not make it a subculture anymore. Internet access also made it easier for people to be exposed to punk fashion, not just punk ideology and values. Websites and apps like Instagram and Twitter made it easy for people to share fashion associated with any subculture with a particular style, such as the punk, goth, or emo subcultures. This effected how people dress today and inspired people who might not be in the punk subculture to adopt parts of punk fashion into their style.

The next way that the internet effects subcultures is through how a subculture’s popularity made it an easy way for companies to make money. After many aspects of subcultures were spread via the internet, companies started to attempt to make money off of people who might be interested in a specific subculture. In the geek subculture, companies rebooted various series of video games or TV shows in hopes of making a profit. In the punk subculture, corporations like Hot Topic made profits off of clothing in the punk or emo style. And this strategy worked. According to Clark it was allegedly “common for a young person to choose a prefab subculture off the rack, wear it for a few years, then rejoin with the “mainstream” culture that they never really left at all.” (Clark) Since many subcultures temporarily gained new members during the time when the internet became a good way to share information about subcultures, this also connects back to how a subcultures popularity ended up actually hurting the subculture.

In conclusion, because of the internet’s impact on subcultures, they began to suffer as a result. Since the internet made subcultures like the punk and geek subculture popular, parts of the culture such as the fashion or ideology made it into the mainstream. Because the subculture was mainstream now, companies such as Hot Topic started to make profits off it it. Subcultures by nature are nonconforming, so some subcultures that used to be around before the internet might not even be considered subcultures at all anymore. All of these things caused subcultures to suffer in the long run. While there is nothing that we can do to stop these changes from happening, mainstream culture will continue to change and become more diverse in the future, so maybe the decay of subcultures isn’t something to fear.

Works Cited

  1. Clark, Dylan. “The Death and Life of Punk, The Last Subculture.” American Subcultures: a Bedford Spotlight Reader, by Eric Rawson, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018.
  2. Gelder, Ken. “Subculture.” The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory, edited by Michael Ryan, Wiley, 1st edition, 2011. Credo Reference.
  3. Oswalt, Patton. “Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die.” American Subcultures: a Bedford Spotlight Reader, by Eric Rawson, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018.
  4. Twenge, Jean M. IGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood: and What That Means for the Rest of Us. Atria Paperback, 2018.

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The Concept of Subculture Is No Longer as Popular as It Used to Be. (2022, Jun 22). Retrieved from

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