The existence of the Internet makes it possible for special niches to exist. Each community creates an environment that allows for its members, or really any individual who associates themselves with this community, to share pictures, videos, and news that is relevant to their particular interest. Many of these online communities also work as online support systems, connecting people from different parts of the world in one common place. In order to have a full understanding of these online communities and how they work, it would be best to focus on two distinct communities that currently exist online—living dolls and Twihards. Both of these groups created a name for themselves online through their vast followings and the practices they follow, which are completely outside of the social norms that exist in the “real world”. Online communities present individuals, not only with the opportunity to completely reinvent themselves, but with the opportunity to reveal certain traits of their personality in a place where someone is bound to relate to them.
Living Dolls: Virtual Barbies
Living dolls are one of the least known subcultures that exist online. This particular online community has its largest following on both Tumblr and YouTube. Tumblr is perhaps the best social media outlet for this particular group because of the important role pictures play in keeping the hype of the entire phenomena alive. A living doll pays special attention to his or her looks and modifies her style of dress to resemble an actual doll. Those that associate with the living doll subculture also rank themselves within a more specific category in the subculture itself. Different categories are determined by style, for example pale skin dolls and dark skin dolls. The main blog for these dolls include a plethora of information, including links for each of the famous dolls different blogs and other forms of social media. Tumblr seems to be the main place for dolls to share their stories and pictures by YouTube has a number of channels sponsored by different dolls. In terms of presentation, the dolls seem to be open and willing to accept anyone who can relate to their movement. The variety of YouTube videos that exist featuring different tutorials show that the dolls are even willing to help guide those who may need help completing their “dolly” look.
Although the dolls are part of an extremely accepting community, there has been a significant amount of controversy regarding the dolls and the lengths they choose to go to in order to improve their everyday appearance. An interview with V magazine shows the curiosity that exists when it comes to the world of the dolls. The interview mentions that sources like the Huffington Post and ABC have questioned whether or not this specific doll, Valeria Lukyanova, really exists. V magazine was able to confirm her existence through an “anonymous” source. In this interview, one of the most striking points Lukyanova makes is that being a living doll is not completely about the looks. This was rather shocking to learn simply because of the way living dolls choose to present themselves. The dolls emphasize their looks and seem to make that the focus of their entire community. For one of the better-known dolls to believe the dolls foundation goes much deeper than aesthetics brings into question why the dolls are actually united. After shuffling through a few blogs, I stumbled upon a blog that was dedicated completely to confessions about dolls and how they look. I learned that this community in particular is against the use of Photoshop because, ironically, they are in favor of a more natural beauty. Although it is okay to use make in order to enhance your looks, Photoshop is looked down upon because it is not something a doll was able to create herself. Through the various blogs, I also learned that living dolls seems to be a community that is mainly focused on women. I have not seen one man that is classified as a “known doll” or that even takes the time to associate himself with the fad. This confessions blog exposes a side of dolls that is not so public on YouTube channels or other Tumblr blogs that they run. Overall, it seems that the living doll blogs serve as more of a therapy group than anything else. There are no clear qualities that are necessary to be a part of this community besides looking like a doll. The community is generally accepting and only shuns those who decide to use something other than make up to enhance their looks.
Another online subculture that is popular on several social media networks is the community of Twihards. Twihards are those who are interested in the Twilight saga. The Twihard community is much different from that of most online communities because it originates from an outside source, namely, a book. The fan base is in fact so large, they have their own website.
This online community, also used as a sort of support group, has died out since the end of the movie’s production. Its remnants do, however, work as an interesting case study of how the community once worked. Unlike the community structure that exists within the living dolls subculture, Twihards actually have a few requirements that let someone know whether or not they can feel free to identify themselves with this particular community, aside from actually having read the saga. Other sources, such as quizzes and blogs, also exist in order to help an individual determine if they are a part of this community. After having researched the importance of this online community, it is clear that a Twihard is much more infatuated with the series than your average Twilight reader. But again, it seemed to have served as a virtual support group for those who needed an outlet to share their feelings on the movies and books. This online community, now a virtual ghost town, has been overshadowed by new sagas like the Hunger Games, but its mark on sites such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook give us an idea of the thriving community of people Twihards once made up.
When it comes to online communities, it is clear that each one has its own norms and guidelines. Regardless of what community an individual may associate themselves with, it is clear that the most important part of the equation is acceptance. People use these online communities in order to find comfort and relate to those who may have the same interests as them. The Internet provides a much better opportunity for people to relate to each other than the real world. Why is that? On the Internet people are able to expose certain parts of themselves with virtually no consequence for having done so. Subcultures in particular choose the way they want to present themselves. In the case of the living dolls, the dolls put a special emphasis on looks, which subsequently determines what outsiders will focus on when being presented with this online community. Online subcultures also help people assess how much of their circle is digital. How many living dolls have you spotted lately? By bringing their interests on to the online world, individuals no longer limit themselves to those they have around them, but have a whole world of information and possible friends at their reach. Lastly, online communities open up a hidden part of our world, a part not many people are willing to deal with or are even aware of unless they are directly a part of it. It seems that we are all part of a subculture in one or another, regardless of whether or not we realize it. It appears as though the uses and the importance one assigns to each online community is what determines how relevant it is to our lives and to the world we create for ourselves online.