Living Dolls, Furries, Otherkin, Oh My: 8 Online Subcultures

PHOTO: Two furries pose at the Furry Weekend Holland convention.

The internet has given us many beautiful things -- it's replete with cute animal photos, myriad videos of people falling, and .gif-studded television recaps, and it's also a place to seek and discover information, a place to consider and refute dissenting opinions, and a link between us and other individuals. This is especially true when it comes to discovering people who share our interests, hobbies, and fetishes. The internet provides just enough (apparent) anonymity and a platform for sharing that people feel comfortable unfolding aspects of themselves usually kept stored away.

And the sense of community and exclusivity offered by the internet has also helped create and cement veritable subcultures. Such as...

PHOTO: Male and female bronies show off their costumes at Otakon.

Bronies are bros (and, sometimes, ladybros) who are big fans of the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The web plays a huge role in this fandom, with fan sites, Tumblr, and Reddit acting as places to post commentary, fan art, or simply socialize. The group even owes its name to the internet. According to the website Know Your Meme, the term "Brony" was coined on 4chan.

PHOTO: Columbine High School
Getty/Thomas Cooper

Tumblr in partocular has proven a hub for people who support or are simply fascinated by mass shooters (and, sometimes, the line gets hella blurry). In particular, fan communities have sprung up surrounding the likes of Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes and Columbine High School shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. These fans, who share fan art, thoughts, and letters to their favorite mass shooter, call themselves "Holmies" and "Columbiners," respectively.

PHOTO: Artist Azealia Banks used seapunk-inspired imagery in her video for "Atlantis."
YouTube/Azealia Banks

Seapunk is both a music genre and an aesthetic that is influenced by lots of 90s-era online imagery / beach scenes. Think of it as, like, Ecco the Dolphin in a denim vest, as a screensaver. Seapunk received a blip of mainstream attention when Rihanna performed against a seapunk-inspired background on "Saturday Night Live" right around the same time rapper/singer Azealia Banks debuted her own seapunk-influenced music video. Both ladies' appropriation of the genre drew some ire from the seapunk community.

PHOTO: Anastasiya Shpagina is one of the more famous "living dolls."
Living dolls

Living dolls are young women (time will tell if the subculture will eventually include men) who have modified their faces and bodies through cosmetic surgery, diet, and/or makeup in order to take on a doll-like appearance with any or all of the following: large eyes, tiny mouths and noses, large breasts, small waists, and poreless, airbrushed-looking complexions. They will often post online photos showcasing their look, as well as offer video tutorials on how to achieve a doll-like appearance. UK paper The Sun conducted an interview with one "living doll," Venus Parlermo, on how she's been able to monetize her unique look, and The Guardian took a look at how the "strange new trend" took hold in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, the Daily Mail published a piece about the "Internet craze."

PHOTO: A cover of 50 Shades of Grey -- perhaps the world's most famous example of fan fiction.
Fanfic / Slashfic

The internet has afforded fans the opportunity to interact with their favorite book, TV, movie, and comic book characters -- as well as their favorite real-life celebrities -- in a new way. While fan fiction is by no means new, (even the Brontë sisters got in on the action) the communal nature of the internet has allowed these stories to have an audience all their own, usually in online forums. Slash fiction is any work of fan fiction that focuses on the attraction and/or sexual relationships among characters, often of the same sex or gender. Perhaps the most famous (and profitable) example of the genre is 50 Shades of Grey, which began as Twilightfan fiction chronicling the sex lives of protagonists Bella and Edward.

PHOTO: Furries hanging out at Anthrocon.

"Furries" is the name given both to highly anthropomorphic animals (in comic books, movies, fan art, etc.) and the people who are their fans, some of whom dress as their favorites for role-playing purposes and/or at conventions. There is, however, community dissention over what exactly constitutes a furry, with defining the term as, in part, "a person with an important emotional/spiritual connection with an animal or animals, real, fictional or symbolic." There is a portion of the fandom for whom the attraction to anthropomorphized animals is sexual in nature, and include "yiffing" a term that has changed in meaning over time to now connote a sexual act or sexual material, either online or in person.

PHOTO: A young man dressed in survivalist gear, "bug-out bag" and all.
Flickr/ pics

Like fan fiction, survivalism isn't new, but it has taken on a new level of influence online. The basic definition of survivalists are those who prepare themselves for an emergency, be it political upheaval or nuclear winter or Judgment Day. Sometimes, these can be the result of religious beliefs. The internet provides many forums for advice and discussion on "prepping" for such catastrophic events and has given rise a distinct vocabulary.

PHOTO: Otherkin chatting online via avatars.
Flickr/Azdel Slade

Otherkin, simply put, are people who believe they are something "other" than human, be it a vampire, elf, fairy, dragon, or the like. Here's an incredibly comprehensive timeline of otherkin, which dates the start of otherkin to "about 1972" and today have various online resources available to them, including a number of sites and forums, as well as in niche groups within popular sites, such as Tumblr.

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