A Family You Choose: Online Communities
Earlier this month, one of my favorite artists, BTS, donated a million dollars to the Black Lives Matter movement. Soon, the fandom ARMY wanted to do their bit too, as a collective. One In An ARMY, a fan collective, encouraged fans from around the world to donate to several organizations by linking them under a master thread on Twitter, sparking a movement on the platform by trending the hashtag #MatchAMillion. That was one of the days I was on Twitter the longest, catching every update, regretting not being able to donate myself but proud to belong to a community that cared, worked for better outcomes for everyone, and came together to raise awareness about issues with great fervour. I saw that there were ARMYs who said: “We are donating on behalf of everyone who cannot donate for whatever reason, do not feel sad if you cannot!” When I read that the fandom had managed to raise over a million dollars, bringing the total donation amount from BTS and ARMY to over two million dollars, I felt a deep sense of gratitude and pride for being part of such a community that turned into a family before I knew it.
June 13, 2020, was the 7th anniversary of the Korean boy group and their fans, and so, the whole day, I swayed my head, sang and danced along to their music, just as I had done these past three years. And just like every year, this year too, I began my day wishing I discovered these artists earlier, given the impact they have had, and continue to have, on millions of people like me. It is a common feeling, I think – gratitude and love for an artist and their work move people, make one wish they found them at the very beginning, so they would have had more time to listen to and appreciate their art.
So this time too, I sat up in bed thinking about their impact and the community that these seven young men had managed to bring together by doing just what they loved the most: writing music and performing. Usually, this realization of having discovered them quite late would make me very sad, however, this time, it felt a tad bit different. This time, I let it wash over me, acknowledging it but not letting guilt take precedence over joy. I logged onto Twitter, found a community of people online who were just like me. I found people lifting each other up, being there for one another, expressing love and gratitude for the artists and the fandom together, despite not having met each other in real life. People from different parts of the globe, all united by a love for music that transcended beyond geographical, cultural, age and other barriers. I found myself a family, a family I chose to be part of the day I discovered BTS.
There are many misconceptions about online communities; people are skeptical about their authenticity and reliability. But then again, we are living in an age where for many, online communities do more than real-life groups, extending support, care, and creating the feeling of a family. There is comfort in knowing people from elsewhere are experiencing what you experience, there is some sense of peace knowing you’re not alone.
In the circumstances we find ourselves in today, needless to say, staying at home is the safest move but is becoming increasingly difficult for many. Finding ways to connect with people we love is one way to uplift oneself, to feel comforted and loved- and communities online do just that.
Picture credits: https://weheartit.com