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The‌ ‌rise‌ ‌of‌ ‌digital‌ ‌counter-culture‌ ‌

The recent trends in digital media show a rise in the splitting of consumer bases into factions, with the majority following mainstream trends, but a small but loud group favouring their following of the “other” or the anti-mainstream trends and vetting their interests and opinions as the better one. Netizens dub this the “counter-culture” and even though this has existed off the internet and has existed for very long, recent trends post pandemic have shown it is way more likely to get into online fandom wars these days. More often than not, we find the counterculture argument laying heavy emphasis on the fact that they support the ‘underrated’ elements in the field in question. But digital counter-culture slightly differs from the standard widely acknowledged definition of the term “counter-culture”. The digital counter-culture movement consists of a group of people on the internet sharing their collective opinions about a variety of topics that is more often than not deliberately contradictory to the mainstream, widely consumed one(s).

With the sudden increase in internet users and social media usage times after the pandemic barricaded house doors worldwide, with the rise of one group, counter-culture movements cropped up everywhere as well, Internet feuds and discord sparking up at every social media platform easily, the rise of the digital counter culture movement and why a majority of the new onslaught of opinions that the internet is facing these days can be boiled down to a very impressionable teenage/young adult age category, attempting to understand the psyche behind the anonymity. Could this be the underdog effect in play, or is this an attempt to maintain individuality through exclusivity considering how herds tend to add to the ‘anonymous’ nature of the internet? To understand this, one must look beyond the faces of the internet and understand the works of artists like George Carlin or artworks like Dismaland who attempted to be non-conformists to make a statement or start a movement, more often than not on the defense of free speech itself. When considering this multi-faceted approach and the subtext of a lot of the ironically mainstream counter-culture movements, the question of how seemingly fandom wars, or a certain subcategory of memes in the digital space even come close to this mammoth of a motive behind this movement aiming at observation, brutal honesty, and unfiltered self expression crops up. Well to look at that, one must look at the broader ideas of identity crises in the digital age, which have been heightened by the ‘always online’ nature of everything post pandemic.

Artistic expression has been a vessel of self expression for many and with that being shifted to the online counterparts as well, a lot of the artistic populace couldn’t make the transition all the while production, variety and consumption of artistic material became more convenient and more frequent as the lockdown period progressed. Factions became more apparent as there was seemingly expression for almost every thought, liking and whim on the digital palette of internet users from a wide audience base. Couple that with increasingly repetitive almost-algorithmic daily schedules and you’ve got an identity crisis looming over the horizon if censorship goes rampant (until the next trend rolls around, anyway.)

This might explain why there are so many impressionable audiences who get white-washingly attached to the artists of their liking, likening the fandom wars as them projecting their own desire of expression through the expression of their favourite art pieces. That explains how the counterculture movement has turned into a cyber-culture with essentially the same elements of what makes the movement just what it is, just slightly differently. But the trend of indie artists gaining loyal fanbases has been more than just pushing back against the mob mentality on the internet trying to find exclusivity.

There are a couple more reasons why the indie cyberculture garnered such a strong following in recent years with a more personal seeming connection with the creator and varied content only being some of them. To some, the digital counterculture might even be a passing fad, a break from the mundane monotony without these big theses on how free speech helps prevent identity crises. To some, it might be the underdog effect in play, with them feeling like they are supporting underappreciated art pieces as some form of participation with the exclusive benefit of standing out from the crowd. Counter-culture movements are never widely defined beyond its basic structure, because it's meant to be defined by the individual who is a part of the counterculture movement in question. It's meant to be a culture highlighting the self expression movement, after all. Regardless of who defines their part of the internet in what way, the rise of the digital counter culture movement has been increasingly apparent on the internet these days.

While this part of the internet feels like an escape from the mobs of the mainstream, this very denial of the mob mentality as a behaviour might become a rebranded version of mob mentality itself. As the medium for expression expands, so do the boundaries of what counts as conformity. Escape a mob and a new one might just begin in the blink of an eye because everyone has seemingly infinite access to expression input and output, almost all of the time. With the bandwagon effect thus in full swing on digital media, maintaining a visible ‘individual’ identity becomes increasingly difficult, and as the internet user base increases, it is only bound to worsen. Whether or not this cyber culture movement is a passing fad, having explored multiple facets and properly knowing the part of the internet you identify and associate with and want to express is usually a good methodology to establish that layer of humanism and association on this anonymous webspace.

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