Fans of K-Pop music use Twitter to form active online communities, developing strong relationships with one another, exchanging information and often moblising for causes beyond the scope of fandom. This paper focuses on fans of the Korean Pop band BTS, known as ARMY (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth), as a case study to examine how fan communities can develop through social media and leverage those bonds to organise themselves, create relationships, share knowledge and drive action.
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Fan culture, and in particular music fandom, has been a longstanding part of cultural appreciation. Historical examples such as “Beatlemania” demonstrate how fandoms can form active and engaged communities (Crow, 2019). However, social media has made it much easier for online communities to form strong bonds that transcend musical appreciation. This is particularly true for international fan communities centered on the appreciation and consumption of Korean pop music (K-Pop) (Crow, 2019). One of the most well known fan communities online, are fans of the K-Pop group Bangtan Sonyeondan (BTS) (Yong, 2018). BTS are a seven-piece K-Pop group who are known for music, choreography and value-driven messages (Bhandari, 2020; Park et al. 2021) that resonate with their fans. One factor that makes BTS particularly unique is their global and visible fan community (Barksdale, 2020), despite the fact that the majority of their content is entirely in Korean (Kelley, 2017). Known online by the moniker ARMY (Adorable Representative MC for Youth), participants have flocked to Twitter; forming relationships with one another, with the artists themselves and even organising themselves for social causes. To many, ARMY constitutes one of “the most powerful and visible fandoms on social media” (Park et al., 2021), due to their broad reach and volume of participants. Fan culture – in particular, K-Pop fan culture – has often been acknowledged in the media to be vociferous and hysterical (Barksdale, 2020). This paper focuses on ARMY as a case study to examine how fan communities can develop through social media and leverage those bonds to organise themselves, create relationships, share knowledge and drive tangible action. Fans of BTS use Twitter to form a robust and active community, connecting deeply with their idols, sharing knowledge and friendship and organising for causes beyond the scope of their fandom.
The development of ARMY as a community online is partially the result of a manufactured phenomenon, called “Hallyu”. Hallyu, translated in English as “Korean Wave”, refers to the production of Korean cultural products with the intent of embedding itself in popular culture – originally driven by the Korean government (Yong, 2018). “Hallyu 2.0” refers to the rapid growth of social media as a way of sharing Korean products not only domestically, but also with Western fans in America and Europe (Yong, 2018). The geographical and linguistic distance between Korean and the international fans is central to the development of K-Pop communities, such as ARMY on Twitter. Global fans are “profoundly dependent on social media for consuming hallyu” (Yong, 2018). In this landscape, fans are reliant on social media and other participants in the community to help them connect to their favourite pieces of popular culture. This includes a dependence on translators, who voluntarily translate materials from Korean to English and other languages (Aisyah & Zainudin, 2019). Aisyah and Zainudin (2019) state that these translators “act as a mediator between K-Pop idols and their global fans” (p. 33), and that this service is one of the most vital elements of online community building (Kelley, 2017). Crowd-sourced translations are one example of what Aisyah and Zainudin (2019) call “social communication behaviours” (p. 33). Fans who cannot understand the materials without the assistance of translators feel a sense of bond and connection to those translators. This was further reinforced in a series of interviews conducted by Kelley (2017), in which a community member asserted that “…it brings Korean fans, as well as International fans, together and bonds us as one family” (para. 17).
An integral part of Hallyu 2.0, and in turn ARMY, is the relationship that social media facilitates between community members and the members of BTS. Through frequent posts and the capacity to respond directly, Twitter provides a sense of mediated intimacy that has the capacity to establish a deeper bond between the fans and their favourite artist (Barksdale, 2020). Chang and Park (2019) assert that, by participating in Twitter regularly, the members of BTS create a “reciprocal, creative and social intimacy” (p. 270) between themselves and their fan community. The nature of Twitter and ability for fans to respond directly means that these Tweets, despite being publicly available, have a feeling of privacy and intimacy about them. This strengthens the community as a whole, as they feel connected to and aligned with the band members (Chang & Park, 2019). Unlike many Western artists, communities in K-Pop are designated names and, as such, identities by their idol groups (Crow, 2019). Communities are often assigned a group name and colour, shortly after the idol group debuts (Crow, 2019), indicating a sense of implicit leadership from the idols themselves. Crow (2019) states that, in K-Pop, identity and a sense of community are central to fandom. In mediating the relationship between the millions of community members and the band, BTS are a particularly unique case, in that they excel at developing this form of intimate exchange (Bandwagon, 2021). Barksdale (2020) suggests that this sense of emotional connection with their fans is what gives rise to such a strong fandom community. Not only do these exchanges enable fans to feel connected to the band but, in the exchanges below social media posts, fans are able to find one another and connect to the broader community (Barksdale, 2020). Park et al. (2021) characterise the relationship between BTS and ARMY as a “horizontal relationship as friends and allies” (p. 10), indicating that despite their pseudo-leadership as the central force under which community members gather, the band members do not seek to lead or organise their fandom, allowing ARMY to function as a freestanding, self-organising community.
Separate to the community designated by BTS as artists, ARMY has used Twitter to form a freestanding, self-organising community founded on their shared interests that both exchanges knowledge and facilitates personal bonds. Propelled by a mediated intimacy, the participants have developed a unique, non-hierarchical structure that allows members to contribute and share information, but also develop strong interpersonal relationships and communal identities. According to Barksdale (2020), the friendship and intimacy gained from participating in fandom is a central element to K-Pop fandoms. In fact, many scholars consider much of the success of K-Pop broadly to be a result of the communities that have formed to support it (Kang et al., 2019). As Chang & Park (2019) indicate, “The phenomenon of ARMY is a process of organising without a structured and rationalised organisation” (p. 275). To this end, ARMY have organised themselves in order to share and create content about BTS. While much research focuses on how fan creations (e.g. fan fiction) create a community, Crow (2019) counters that fandom is about the creation of an “ideological space” (p. 7) that brings about a shared identity, rather than the fan creations. Malik & Haidar (2020) compare ARMY to a community of practice, wherein every member develops a unique contribution. As it applies to ARMY on Twitter, many individuals have taken on many different roles. There are accounts dedicated to many facets of BTS fandom, whether it be translating content, sharing news updates, creating original fan works and organising events and activities (Malik & Haidar, 2020). As Malik & Haidar (2020) state, “The fandom activities of stan Twitter are done with the collaboration and participation of all the community members through interaction and discussion” (p. 9). Jung (2012) concurs, maintaining that K-Pop fandom activities “engender meaningful and deliberative conversation across different societal groups” (para. 5.1). Examples of this exchange of knowledge and support within the confines of ARMY include donating time and expertise in translating materials, volunteering to tutor and practice Korean and providing career-specific advice to other community members (Park et al., 2021). In fact, Bhandari (2020) delineates ARMY’s greater community to a series of varying, interconnected ecosystems including: translation, activism, collection of data and news, original content such as book clubs, and academic tutoring. ARMY is founded on reciprocity; relying on participants to distribute, circulate and share fandom specific information (Crow, 2019).
Beyond knowledge sharing, one of the most important ways ARMY builds a community on Twitter is by developing interpersonal relationships. In an ethnographic study of ARMY members on Twitter, the responses indicated that the inherent cohesiveness of the community was motivated and driven primarily by friendship networks (Chang & Park, 2019). To this end, Chang and Park (2019) discussed ARMY through the lens of Maffesoli’s (1995, as cited in Chang & Park, 2019) work on modern tribalism. Chang and Park (2019) describe ARMY’s community as “a neo-tribal formation in which the basic need for human connection is facilitated, mediated and even transformed through digital technology” (p. 264). In another survey of ARMY Twitter users conducted by Malik and Haidar (2020), the primary reason users indicated joining Twitter was to find others who share similar interests, where they struggled to find people who shared those interests in real life. Twitter mediates this process, reinforcing belonging despite physical distance between members (Chang & Park, 2019). The survey conducted by Malik and Haidar (2020) further indicated that users joined the ARMY community as a way of filling a void caused in their real lives due to negative connotations about fandom. It was this void that brought members closer together and strengthened their bonds (Malik & Haidar, 2020). The combination of users’ engagement with one another and their participation in fandom-related exchange is what Yong (2018) considers to be the driving factor of ARMY’s success in developing a community. Per Chang and Park (2019), the “digital intimacies of cyberspace” (p. 268) provide a natural progression from the development of personal bonds through to the self-sustaining organisation and mobilisation.
One example of how ARMY functions as a community is in the way they have used Twitter to organise and mobilise for causes, arguably beyond the scope of fandom. Mobilisation and activism in the context of fandom is not a new phenomenon. Jenkins (1992, as cited in Madden, 2020), sees fandom communities as convergence of popular culture and participatory culture that enables and, in fact, encourages civic skills to be cultivated. Through Jenkins’ view, fan activism has traditionally involved lobbying for causes related to fandom, including protesting the cancellation of a show or reacting to a musician’s behaviour (Madden, 2020). Social media has additionally enabled celebrities to use their platforms to mobilise their fans to take part in philanthropic causes (Park et al., 2021). What makes ARMY stand out from this, is that their capacity for organisation is not only about the artists themselves, but about the shared values that go beyond the bounds of the reasons for which they are gathered together. Madden (2020) argues that fanaticism and activism go hand-in-hand, and explain ARMY’s commitment to external causes as a result of social issues being filtered through popular culture (Madden, 2020). The ARMY excel at leveraging their power, using hashtags to drive conversation in order to promote both social change and their idols, in an instance of what Jung (2012) calls “bottom-up fan activism” (p. 3). This behaviour is enabled without a central leadership; through an informal structure in which community members – in particular, accounts with a large following (Malik & Haidar, 2020) – use their platform to spread the message, propose action and encourage others to “show up for the cause” (Park et al., 2021). Despite sharing little-to-no relation to their fandom, the ARMY flooded hashtags related to the “Million MAGA March” during the 2020 American Presidential Elections with short videos of their idols, rendering the hashtag unusable by those responsible for its creation and ineffective in its original purpose (Boren, 2020). Jung (2012) believes that the Web 2.0 environment has given rise to this kind of behaviour in fan culture. Fans believe that, speaking as a group using hashtags or certain en masse behaviour, amplifies their voice and visibility of their values. In this way, they are using the force of a global fandom for community engagement and civic responsibility, without leadership from the band themselves. As Jung (2012) reinforces, “The ethic of mutual aid is strong in ARMY” (p. 276) and highlights that, while this ethic is founded in the creative message of BTS, it is reinforced and highlighted by ARMY (Jung, 2012).
The #MatchAMillion initiative is another pertinent case study that examines how ARMY use fan culture and community cohesiveness to respond to social issues. Linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MatchAMillion campaign is demonstrative of how a community can organise without leadership. In June 2020, media reported that BTS had donated US$1 million to the cause (Park et al., 2021) and, without leadership or direction, ARMY used Twitter to match and exceed that donation within 48 hours (Madden, 2020). This cumulative donation was gathered by sharing the hashtag #MatchAMillion, encouraging the community to match the band’s donation. 48 hours later, the hashtag had been used hundreds of thousands of times (Park et al., 2021), underscoring the size and scale of the engaged ARMY community online. Park et al. (2021) speculate that the campaign was made possible because of the shared value system inherent to ARMY combined with the wide-spanning network of accounts that drive the conversation (Bhandari, 2020). This capacity for philanthropy is what Madden (2020) considers inherent to fandom, particularly in the wake of more participatory media forms. By being able to connect with their artist and with one another, fans are empowered beyond the role of “passively hysterical” as many depictions of fan culture show; instead, having the power to drive conversation at a large scale. As Madden (2020) expands, “The values inherent in fandoms have become basis for political action.” (para. 5). In a survey conducted by Park et al. (2021) following this campaign, the majority of respondents saw their efforts as being “somewhat unique” to ARMY as a community (p. 6). Park et al. (2021) saw this success as a result of the team composition of ARMY, with their previous examples of social collaborative success driving conversation leading to a strong sense of team.
Through the development of participatory social media communities, K-Pop groups such as BTS have been able to expand on their success and develop a stronger fan base. In turn, by communicating directly with the artists, fans are able to find one another and deepen their connections. This shared interest has developed into a community of shared values; one that stands alone separate to the relationship with the band. ARMY’s knowledge-sharing systems and their strength in driving conversation is an example of how online fan culture can become more than the passive hysteria conceptualised by the media (Madden, 2020, para. 5). Studying ARMY, it can be understood how fan culture can become an “ideological space” (Crow, 2019, p. 7) that encourages a culture of sharing, knowledge exchange, intimate relationships and civic responsibility without the requirement of a formal, organisational structure or a source of leadership (Madden, 2020). In the future, there is space for deeper studies into how fan communities are formed. Going beyond the scope of influence of “Hallyu”, further research into how ARMY make decisions would provide deeper insight into how they choose the social values with which they align themselves. On Twitter, ARMY demonstrates that fandom communities can behave as a cohesive community despite their geographic, linguistic and cultural differences.
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17 thoughts on “Joining the ARMY: Community, Friendship and Intimacy on K-Pop Twitter”
Great paper, I really like how you touch on various aspect of the K-Pop industry and community. BTS is a great case study when researching into how social media platforms (particularly Twitter) has been utilised to interact with fans; increasing awareness for their group and social issue. Just by looking at the numbers of followings BTS has generated over the years is a clear indication of the influence and power SNS hold.
Although other company had also made their online presence, no other group came close to the number of engagement BTS made on a weekly basis. This may be due to company sticking with traditional media which has been used as a promotional method for a very long time, or as most the popular groups back then were from well-known companies where the public were already aware of old/new groups. With BTS debuting with a smaller company resulting to the use of new media like Twitter for promotional reasons.
Thought I would jump on over to your paper after our awesome discussion on mine.
First of all, great paper.
I have always been on the peripheral of K-Pop fan communities, often bumping into them during my own discourse in other fandoms, but I’ve never really taken the time to take a step back and look at them as a whole.
After spending a lot of time looking at individual fans and their content creations it was refreshing to look at this through the lens of fandom as an “ideological space” (Crow, 2019).
I would love to get your opinion on something you touched on briefly within this paper.
Often fan communities, especially music group fans, are labelled as ‘hysterical’ or ‘crazy’ due to the strong connections they form and the intense emotional outbursts can have when faced with their idols – as you said it’s been going on since Beatlemania.
Do you think this is based on a foundation of sexism and misogyny?
Men who attend football games and scream and cry just as loudly are labelled as passionate..
Thanks again for a great paper, it was a really interesting read.
Ah, thank you for reading my paper! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I actually agree 100% – while I do think in any fandom there is a small percentage of participants who toe the lines of what behaviour is appropriate, the general labelling of fans as hysterical tends to be rooted in misogyny. There seems, to me, to be an assumption of things that are liked by women, or made for women, can’t be taken as seriously as other fan cultures. This goes as far back as Beatlemania, and you see it again looking at 90s boybands right through to Justin Bieber’s and One Direction. It seeks to undermine the success of anything women appreciate, reducing any artistic value to craziness. I came across a really interesting article in my research, that I actually referenced a few comments down that touches on this (https://feminisminindia.com/2018/05/28/bts-rising-fame-racism-misogyny/). It’s especially interesting when you consider a substantive portion of BTS’s success is related to charting achievements and fan voting that would have been difficult without their female fans’ participation.
You’re completely right about football, and even to some extent I find gaming communities to receive the same treatment. Fans of certain franchises might be ‘intense’ or maybe even ‘weird’, but you never see the community described as being hysterical. A paper I did for a previous unit had me coming across research that delved into a riot that occured in Canada after a hockey game. At no point was language like hysterical or crazy used, indicating to me just how insidious misogyny can be.
What I do think is interesting is to consider is why women seem to be drawn to fandom in the first place. There’s a really great article published by NYU that explores how sports fandoms and pop culture fandoms are perceived and portrayed differently just by virtue of the demographics they tend to attract – if you haven’t come across it already, I think you’d really enjoy it! (https://wp.nyu.edu/steinhardt-appsych_opus/gender-in-fandom/)
I’ve really enjoyed our discussions across both of our papers!
This was an interesting read! I’ve been aware of the BTS ARMY in that they are a big international fandom, but your paper gave me a lot of insight into just how huge and active it is. The #matchamillion campaign is a fantastic example of online community leveraging their collective power.
In the last few years I feel like I’ve seen BTS breaking into the US market in ways international artists (particularly non-english language) have always struggled. What do you think it is about BTS that fans have gravitated to over all the other K-POP stars out there? Do you think the ARMY overlaps into other fandoms?
Thanks for reading my paper!
While I think BTS are exceptionally talented, I think it would be remiss to acknowledge clever marketing and social media strategies that have allowed for international success where other international, and other K-pop stars have struggled. The parent company BigHit, recently rebranded to Hybe, have always prioritised controlling of the flow of information and reinforcing the message that they were different from other K-pop groups.
Traditional concepts of K-pop tends to bring up ideas of manufactured music, or mistreated musicians, and so BTS pushing the message of self-produced music and identifying as underdogs reinforced the concept that they weren’t like other K-pop groups. In turn, BigHit have created bespoke social media platforms, their own broadcasting services and developing in-house programs like their documentary series and regular variety show. They are very much in control how their story is told. (https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/3-things-the-major-labels-can-learn-from-big-hit-home-of-bts/)
You mention being aware of BTS ARMY, just by virtue of their size – I’d love to hear what your perceptions were before reading this paper? I feel like for a long time I equated BTS with teenagers and automatically assumed it wasn’t for me and delving into this research was really enlightening.
Thanks for linking that article, the focus on “Indirect Artist Involvement” is really interesting in how that has been linked to success! That the record company recorded such good results (the app and virtual concert caught my attention) during 2020 is pretty phenomenal. Reading about the TinyTAN avatars etc reminded me in a way of how Kim Kardashian had massive success with her game app, slapping her image and branding on a basic sim game and furthering the success of her brand.
My perception of the BTS ARMY was probably more about how big it had grown amongst Western nations. I was aware of them more and more in online fandom spaces (particularly lurking on Tumblr and AO3), breaking youtube viewing records, and seeing them talked about in the media during televised interviews and award shows that BTS were attending.
Oh it’s really awesome that you mention AO3 – we’re actually having a really interesting discussion about AO3 and fanfiction over on Tegan’s paper, it’d be great to get your thoughts too – https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/30/wattpad-and-the-holy-grail-how-social-media-technologies-have-transformed-the-role-of-the-reader/
Oh yes I read her paper the other day, off to see how the conversation has developed!
I am loving learning about different communities engaging online through social media. Your paper was extremely informative and an entertaining read. One of the features of SNS I mention in my paper on music fandom (https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/26/the-rise-to-fame-the-power-of-music-fandom-communities-using-social-network-sites-to-promote-musicians/) is “the capacity for communities to network across varying platforms also opens the potential for sharing the music globally to reach diasporic communities (Haynes & Marshall, 2018). Your K-pop fandom community is a classic example of this potential in action through Twitter. I love how bonded the global and local community become through their online connection and translation services and agree that social media is empowering fans to participate and act rather than passively absorb content. Does the K-pop fandom community engage on other platforms such as Instagram for sharing videos or is it primarily Twitter-based? It sounds very organised.
Haynes, J., & Marshall, L. (2018). Beats and tweets: Social media in the careers of independent musicians. New Media and Society, 20(5), 1973-1993. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1461444817711404
Thanks for your comment! Your paper has been on my to-read list because of the overlap in our topics!
I’ve been discussing your question with Mads on her paper actually – I think K-pop fandom, and even fandom more generally, are using Twitter as the main hub in their community. As far as I can see, it has replaced Tumblr as a space that can host both conversation and multimedia, much in the way Tumblr used to in its height. It even has a similar organisation structure with tagging. There is also a large element of followers taking the lead from the groups themselves – K-pop groups tended to gravitate towards Twitter because of it’s international reach in a way that many of the Korean dominant platforms like Naver aren’t. The members of BTS don’t have any instagram presence, either group or individual, so I think their fans took point from their usage of Twitter and built their community there.
That being said, I think the K-pop community are leveraging all available tools. Youtube is used for sharing videos, there are fan Instagram accounts dedicated to each of the members, and ever since researching this paper TikTok has been diligently feeding me K-pop content, but more often than not I see that multimedia content being reposted or shared on Twitter as a central repository for the community.
I’m really looking forward to reading your paper!
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment. It definitely got me thinking about the role of ‘lurkers’ as members of an online community.
In my research regarding the TikTok platform, Serrano et al. (2020, p. 261) found that there are four levels of communication on the platform with the first being indirect response through video views (which is recorded through a view counter) and the second being basic response through the liking or sharing of a video. Although Twitter does not publish a read count for an individual tweet, it does include the data for retweets and likes.
Additionally in their research on the difference between posters and lurkers in online communities, Yang et al. (2017) found that “as lurkers read the online content created by active users, they are considered indispensable “consumers” of an online community” (p. 162). They conclude that lurkers are a valuable and necessary part of an online community (Yang et al., 2017, p. 162).
I have believe that you can’t be part of a community if you don’t contribute to a community, however as a ‘lurker’ you are contributing to an online community through indirect and basic interactions on these social media platforms. By reading, viewing, sharing and liking, you are actively participating in these communities, even if you are not commenting or creating content. I am part of the #stagemanagersoftiktok community even though I am currently not creating content.
Do you agree that ‘lurker’ is still contributing to a community?
Serrano, J. C. M., Papakyriakopoulos, O., & Hegelich, S. (2020). Dancing to the Partisan Beat: A First Analysis of Political Communication on TikTok. 12th ACM Conference on Web Science, 257–266. https://doi.org/10.1145/3394231.3397916
Yan, X., Li, G., & Huang, S. S. (2017). Perceived online community support, member relations, and commitment: Differences between posters and lurkers. Information & Management, 54(2), 154-165. https://doi.org/10.1016/k.im.2016.05.003
It’s really interesting to consider, isn’t it? I’m not sure I know the answer – on one hand, I am inclined to believe that you need to be part of shaping a community’s values and practices in order to be a member. If other community members aren’t aware of your presence, can you be part of a community?
Conversely, an article I have come across in other research indicated that 90% of participants in an online community were ‘lurkers’ and only 1% actively, and regularly, contributed to the content (Matyas, 2017). With that in mind, I’m inclined to believe that lurkers have to be part of communities. In liking, or even viewing the content, they are shaping opinions of what content is successful. When likes start to accumulate, or a certain article or video gets significant views, the people who are lurking are still making themselves heard. Their lack of vocal engagement is still one defining element of a community.
Matyas, M.L (2017). Lurk or lead? The Benefits of community participation.
Lurk or lead? The benefits of community participation. Advances in Physiology Education 2017 41:1, 145-148. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00200.2016
You’re paper was very informative, i am not a fan of K-Pop but the way you depicted it made me hate a real interest for it.
I wanted to ask you your opinion about the fan of K-pop are there some chance that their love for k-pop be detrimental for them or for their K-pop star. Because fan are known to be crazy sometimes so it is also the case for the Army?
In sum your paper was very informative et another question are you a member of the Army?
And i would really appreciate if you had a look at my paper. I work about influencers ideal self, i will be great if you could give me your views about my paper too.
Here my link : https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/26/performance-of-ideal-self-online-having-a-detrimental-effect-on-social-media-influencers-identity/
Thanks for reading my paper!
I think, like in any group, there are always outliers in the way people behave. There’s definitely a common perception, that I address in the paper, that fandom is hysterical or “crazy”. I personally believe a lot of those perceptions stem from a place of misogyny – something that attracts the attention of women, particularly young women, is treated as crazy, rather than being taken seriously.
That being said, there is certainly an element of policing and toxic behaviour that takes place in any fandom. This seems to be particularly true of K-pop fandoms, where fans feel a sense of propriety over their idols. This leads to the behaviour that allows for the perception of craziness – things like spamming journalists who publish negative articles or attacking other artists if they feel they are taking advantage of BTS (see the below article for some examples of this). This is definitely a larger issue that relates to K-pop culture as a whole – a culture that gave rise to behaviours like sasaeng fans, who I’ve attached an interesting article about.
What I find particularly interesting is to explore how this ‘toxic’ behaviour is allowed to take place. Given that fandoms are self-governing, it raises questions, to me, about how this behaviour is managed internally. I’ve personally seen examples of mass blockings on Twitter, or ‘big accounts’ taking the initiative to direct their followers to ignore certain examples of behaviour.
I know you said you’re not a fan of K-pop, but are you a part of any other online fandoms? Have you seen any examples of toxic or bad behaviour in those communities?
Hi Again Maddison,
Firstly thank you for your reply, And to answer your question no I am not really part of an online fandom. But I saw many example where people being part of an online community had a toxic / bad behaviour online and my paper talk bout this.
Did you ever heard the term Cancel Culture?
Cancel culture is the is a “calling out” vigorously and condemning a powerful figure online because of actions the person has done.
And this arise in communities online for example the community of a Social media influencer found out something they do not consider acceptable about the influencer they follow they can just cancel that person in one day and end his career.
I suggest you to read my paper to get to know more about the toxic effect communities online can have.
Here is my link : https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/26/performance-of-ideal-self-online-having-a-detrimental-effect-on-social-media-influencers-identity/
Hope to hear from you soon
This was a really interesting paper to read. Well done!
I love learning about different communities and the way that they interact online. I have been aware of K-Pop communities since I lived in Asia, however I was not aware of ‘Hallyu’ and its relationship with the Korean government. I was reminded of the Korean online E-sports industry, which also has support of the Korean Government. As part of their mandatory military service, some individuals are employed as gamers in the Korean Air Force team which is an official team in the league (Jin, 2010, p. 87).
I have previously done some research on television fandoms and their use of social media platforms in ‘Save Our Show’ campaigns. One such example is the Fringenuity’s Twitter campaign to save the show from cancellation as detailed in Mar Guerrero-Pico’s 2017 article. This campaign was ultimately successful because of the support of the larger Fringe community, however the actual organisation of the event was done by just a few individuals who meet on Skype each week to plan the details of the campaign (Guerrero-Pico, 2017, p. 2081).
My question for you would be, while the ARMY doesn’t have a formal structure, are there a handful of more active members maintaining and organisation the community as in the Fringe example?
In own on experience of organisation the promotion for this conference, it has been interesting to see the different levels of ‘activeness’ within the group. Are people still a member of a community if they don’t actively contribute to the community?
Jin, D. Y. (2010). Korea’s online gaming empire. ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Guerrero-Pico, M. (2017). #Fringe, Audiences and Fan Labor: Twitter Activism to Save a TV Show from Cancellation. International Journal of Communication, 11, 2071-2092. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/4020
Thanks for reading my paper! I actually really love that insight about e-sports – I think the relationship Korea (and to a lesser extent Japan) has with e-sports is so interesting. The point you raised about them participating in the military draft as part of an official team is fascinating – it’s similar with K-pop idols who are drafted to the ‘entertainment’ divisions of their military branches.
In both my experience on Twitter, as well as the research I did, indicated that like the Fringe situation you referenced, there are certain ‘leaders’ who take charge in different areas. Given how dispersed and varied this particular community is, those roles are often quite disparate, and I find there are pockets of leadership in different areas. To use a specific BTS example, there is a handful of large fan accounts that act as leadership. Most pertinently the ‘big accounts’ in the BTS fandom are almost exclusively bi-lingual, translating news and tweets from Korean to English. I see this as providing a bridge between the domestic fans and the greater international community. For example, one such ‘big account’ is @choi_bts2, who has 1.2 million followers. Her entire account is dedicated to re-tweeting Korean news and announcements about BTS and translating them into English.
That being said, I don’t think a large following necessarily equates with leadership. There are many accounts with large followings that play different roles within the community such as @btschartsdata – they have 1.5 million followers, but their role within the community is to provide updates about how BTS songs are tracking on charts worldwide. They don’t provide commentary or encourage their following to behave in a particular way, but they are still a largely accessed and important part of the community.
Your question about membership to a community is a really interesting one! I think fandom, particularly one with K-pop idols as a figureheads require some element of different analysis. The paper touches on it briefly, but it is the mediated intimacy between the members of BTS and their fans that form the foundation of this community (Chang & Park, 2019) and that relationship was never going to have equal participation on both sides. With that in mind, I think community in this instance must be considered through the lense of a sense of affective belonging, which I think exists whether or not a member actively participates. Fandom as a community is an “ideological space” that is defined by your own self-identification, rather than by any role you play in it (Crow, 2019) .
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – it’s definitely a question that got me thinking for a while! I’m definitely guilty of ‘lurking’ as part of online communities, but I’d still consider myself part of those communities. What’s your take on this – can you be a member of a community even if you don’t contribute to them?
Chang, W.J. & Park, S.E. (2019). The Fandom of Hallyu, A Tribe In The Digital Network Era: The Case of ARMY of BTS. Kritika Kultura. 32 (2019). 260-287
Crow, T.F. (2019). K-Pop, Language, and Online Fandom: An Exploration of Korean Language Use and Performativity Amongst International K-Pop Fans [Master’s Thesis, Northern Arizona University]. Proquest Dissertation and Theses. https://www.proquest.com/docview/2299415342