A lesson in social media longevity, from the fandom perspective

Fandom-esque is a biweekly blog about the fandoms of the pop culture sphere and their latest ongoings in TV, film and more.

By Diana Velasquez, Senior Staff Writer

Twitter these days seems a little more on fire than normal.

Twitter is now fully in the hands of Elon Musk, who seems hell-bent on burning it to the ground. I don’t have time to list all of the things he’s screwed up, but he has managed to break Twitter’s verification system, fire thousands of employees who won’t work for “long hours at high intensity” and demanded the best lines of code from his workers and what they achieved in the last six months to weed out stragglers because the site has about as many glitches as the new Pokemon game.

So, as of this blog’s posting, the site still exists, but there are a hell of a lot of problems under its new management, and some people are taking this as a sign to jump ship.

Twitter can’t really be replicated. There’s no social media app out there right now that functions in the same way at such a high profile level, but if Twitter is on its way out, people have suggested migrating to other social media sites — like Tumblr.

Tumblr is not quite a dinosaur of the internet in the way MySpace was, but it’s certainly showing its age. In general terms, Tumblr is a microblogging social media site with the ability to host all kinds of multimedia content.

In a more pop culture sense, fandom has, and always will, dominate Tumblr.

Tumblr was at its peak in terms of fan-ish content around the mid-2010s — in 2013, the site reached 13 billion global page views. Fandoms like “Supernatural,” “The Avengers,” “Doctor Who” and “Teen Wolf” were at their zenith, and many of them to this day remain bastions of fandom culture.

Tumblr, in recent years, has fallen off in terms of popularity. It’s gone through multiple company hands and after Tumblr banned NSFW content from the site in 2018 many artists and fans fled to, well, Twitter, in order to keep producing the content they desired.

Well, welcome home, cheaters.

I’m kidding. It would be great if Tumblr had a resurgence — everyone seems to be indulging in their childhood hyperfixations these days — but what people should be aware of is that Tumblr operates completely differently than Twitter. For one thing, it’s a blog site, so liking a post isn’t going to put it on anyone’s dashboard. You have to reblog it to do that. Two, it’s not chock full of celebrities and official accounts, it’s more of a lawless land of gifs, art, edits and meta.

In general, what I want people to take from this Fandom-esque entry is that things come and go on the internet, but no matter what happens to the site you’re using, life will indeed go on.

Yes, I will admit I have a Twitter addiction. It’s an app that swings between extremes, and my dash is usually full of both bright fluffy fanart and depressing political news at the same time. 450 million people use the app on a monthly basis, a number no one can really comprehend, but the point is — there aren’t a lot of other apps with that kind of user base.

So, no, Twitter is not going to sink over the course of a night like some digital version of the Titanic. The app may very well glitch, crumble, and then die — but that’s a process that’s going to take a few weeks if not months. You’ll find a way to interact with the friends you’ve made there.

Fandom has been making ways to interact across the globe since the 1960s. In this decade, fandom as we know it emerged on the wings of the pop culture phenomenon Star Trek. Star Trek is responsible for a lot of shifts in pop culture, but the success of sci-fi and fantasy in media aside, it can also claim to be responsible for the original fandom ship “Spirk” or the romantic pairing between Captain Kirk and Spock.

When fans wrote stories or made art about Spirk they circulated them through zines discreetly in the mail. It wasn’t something people talked about outside of their inner circles. Yet the community thrived and people wrote hundreds of pages of art and fanfic before the internet even existed, not for any monetary purpose, but as a leisurely activity in a tight-knit community.

The advent of the internet of course made things easier. Rather than relying on comic-cons or word of mouth to find content, fans flocked to sites like LiveJournal, Dreamwidth and Fanfiction.net that, despite all of their faults, were excellent places in the early days of the internet to gather and share fan content.

But in the early days of the internet, websites and social media platforms had even more issues than they do now and guess what? People left when things got bad. People migrated to other platforms. LiveJournal, Dreamwidth and Fanfiction.net are still standing — rather derelict, full of holes and populated by the occasional rat or two — but they’re still here. People can go back to them if they so choose. Many don’t, though, and thrive on websites like ArchiveofOurOwn, Wattpad, Tumblr or — here we go again folks — Twitter, to get their fandom content.

Literally, every website has issues. For my fannish content, I prefer ArchiveofOurOwn, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have issues with some of the systems that run it. There’s always room for improvement, and while I wouldn’t call what Musk is doing to Twitter something good, it’s not a new concept that the new management would want to come in to shake things up.

Even fandoms come and go in terms of relevance. Avatar: The Last Airbender, known for its fantastic world-building, one tea-loving Uncle Iroh and some truly nasty shipping wars, aired its last episode in 2008. In 2020 when the show returned to Netflix, it received a fandom renaissance of sorts on TikTok and Tumblr. The fan-favorite fire nation prince Zuko, even featured on Tumblr’s Top 20 of 2020 at the number 20 spot.

Nothing stays dead on the web. Twitter will go down in flames, or it’ll keep on floating until it crumbles into dust, or maybe this post is obsolete and everything will be fine! I literally cannot tell you. My point is — don’t freak out.

Websites come and go, but communities can’t be severed. If the day comes when I have to send out my tweets or my fanfictions to friends via carrier pigeon, that’s just the path I’ll have to take. More likely though, another website will come along in the next decade or so, and we’ll be packing up our usernames and passwords to make another account — and so the cycle starts yet again.