Over the last two decades, kids in the U.S. have grown up never not having had the internet. Plumbing the culture they’re maturing in and exploring the places they hone their ideas and social skills can lead to some interesting clues about the future. This is the second in a series of reports on contemporary American pranksters from Emerson Dameron, a writer, storyteller, and humorist searching for signs of life in a world plastered with ads.
4Chan v. Tumblr: Young Idealists at War
by Emerson Dameron
September 6, 2014
This summer, some of the most extreme personae on the internet celebrated their constitutional freedom of association by going to war.
Various self-contained hives of the internet give its users thousands of targeted factions to join. Over time, these sub-communities foster their own in-jokes, jargon, and culture that defies penetration by outsiders. They can be maddeningly complex. Asking their denizens the most basic of questions pegs one as impossibly square, an easy mark for mockery that strengthens the group.
These subcultures sometimes compete with each other. It can look silly from the outside, but the stakes can be quite high for those involved.
In the last few years, the blogging platform Tumblr, with its emphasis on sharing and community rather than high-effort original content, has become a hub for young outsiders looking for very specific places to belong. It may be eroding Facebook’s dominance among teenagers and college students, quite a few of whom seem to be in the early stages of embracing feminist theory, questioning their sexuality, and performing fraught public experiments with personal identity, gender, and politics. Because they feel so ostracized in “real life,” these Tumblr users can be intensely protective of each other and hostile toward anyone who may be antagonizing them in their safe spaces. (more…)