(Opinion) internet communities

BTS attends the 2017 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Nov. 19, 2017 in Los Angeles. BTS got its first Grammy nomination.

Sitting inside a Korean barbecue restaurant with my family, I received a notification from our editor-in-chief congratulating me on a piece. Too caught up in the beef brisket and beats of the K-Pop music playing in the background, I replied with a quick “thank you” and returned my attention back to the sizzling grill. It was only when I started receiving texts and had gone through an entire bowl of rice that I realized what had happened: An article that I had wrote about my appreciation for BTS, its music, its message and its effect on modern society had received an overwhelming response on Twitter. Just as BTS’s song, “Idol,” played over the sounds of the lively restaurant, I sat and scrolled through an overwhelming number of kind, supportive tweets reacting to the article without even realizing my spicy pork was burning.

Though I am a sophomore, some unfortunate freshman experiences have led me to start over — it has been more challenging than I anticipated. Feeling isolated and overwhelmed, I decided to go home to Northern Virginia that weekend on a whim, partly for seasoned food and partly for some peace of mind — the stress of college had caught up to me. I was in the right place for the former, but I found the latter in a place I didn’t expect: the internet.

I began listening to BTS last September at my friend’s recommendation, but I became a fan because its music and message resonated with me as I struggled with college. I found comfort in lyrics that taught me to love myself, messages empowering me to “speak myself” and the meaningful impacts the group has made and continue to make in our society. I had seen other fans of BTS on social media, but I had never interacted with them other than with a like or follow.

When my article went up on the Collegiate Times’ Twitter account, I suddenly realized that for the first time, I was contributing my thoughts to a much greater conversation. I was shocked by the numbers of retweets, likes and comments from BTS fans, or as they’re called, Army. As I sat in that restaurant, I kept reading and rereading people’s replies in disbelief. I couldn’t help but smile as people offered their words of support, with the most prominent in my mind being those who called me a fellow Army member. I was amazed by the response, but I was far more surprised that the kindness and community that I had desperately been seeking for on campus, I had found on the internet among strangers I had never met before.

BTS has created a community that transcends borders, age differences and language barriers. With their shared appreciation for the group, people all around the world have found their place, formed friendships and created a space to express themselves on the internet among other fans. However, this isn’t the only fan base with a large and lively internet presence. From artists to books, sports teams and television series, the internet offers an endless space for fans to share their interests, interact with each other and find a sense of belonging.

You may wonder how one can find friendship and solidarity while sitting at his or her laptop. The thought of having friends that you’ve never met in real life may seem ridiculous, but it is far more common and meaningful than you may expect. Time and space no longer dictate friendships. Your friends might live in different time zones and speak different native languages, but none of that ultimately matters because you are able take the time to speak to each other and share your stories. Yes, it’s almost more work to keep these relationships going, but that makes them all the more worthwhile and meaningful.

While you may never be with each other physically, you are with each other in thought. Rather than going to the mall together or partying together, your friendship is based on the conversations you have, the memories you make and the connections you feel. Knowing that no matter how late it may be in their part of the world or the sentences that become fragmented in translation, knowing that there is someone who cares and is there to talk despite the obstacles makes a relationship mean so much more.

Especially for introverts like myself, these internet communities can be a place for people to find their voice. The passion you have for something can serve as motivation to speak up in a comfortable space, which could happen to be online. And in the process, they may just encounter a supporting, welcoming community like I did.

The purple heart emoji has come to embody a sense of belonging and community that has been created by a shared love for a band that has given us far more than we ever expected. Beyond its contribution to music and culture, BTS has given its fans a place to come together, find friendship and be a part of something greater than themselves or their immediate surroundings. These internet communities represent a greater future of our interconnected society where relationships aren’t defined by physical space, but rather the bonds we share.

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