There’s no denying that Internet social network sites have rapidly changed the meaning of communication. We can now instantaneously share all manner of news, from breaking political events to what we’re having for lunch. One such site – Twitter – has brought about a massive change in terms of how we relate to each other with this ability to share links, videos, pictures, and our thoughts in real-time. As someone who’s been running an anime site for nearly a decade now, I wanted to discuss how I’ve experienced Twitter change the anime online community, especially in terms of blogging…
In the days before blogs and other Web 2.0 sites, individually-run anime fan sites like my old AnimeYume.com site, were flourishing. When visiting such sites, it was hard to really get to know the person behind them other than what they’d say on the site, which would often just consist of what had been updated on the site that day. If you wanted to have any kind of one-on-one communication with the webmaster or webmistress, e-mail would typically be the best method. Sometimes you’d get a response from them, many times you wouldn’t, so for the most part the people behind these anime fan sites remained more or less enigmas to us, our sole impression of who they are being derived strictly from what they’d write on the site, which would usually only be anime-related. I do recall having a few friendly relationships with webmistresses of fan sites I used to visit. It would always start with e-mail, and if I was lucky enough to get a response from them and we had fruitful conversations, we’d exchange AIM screennames and talk on there once in a while whenever we were both online. Such cases were few and far between though.
Fast-forward several years from then. Now wikis have made fan sites obsolete, with blogs taking over. With blog commenting, visitors can now add content to someone else’s site, something unheard of back in the day, and webmasters/mistresses can just as easily reply to each visitor’s comment individually should they choose to do so. And then we have the icing on the cake – Twitter. With just about every site owner having a Twitter account, we went from hardly knowing them at all outside their site content to knowing things like how they feel today, where they’re going right now, what song they’re listening to at the moment, and what food they’re craving for dinner tonight. In addition to reading their blog, Twitter allows us to actually share in their anime fandom in real-time as they tweet about their thoughts on the latest episode of an anime they watched, a good anime YouTube video or picture they just found, or what anime merchandise they just bought. We no longer need e-mail to share our thoughts with an anime site owner we like or to have any kind of one-on-one communication with them; we just need to follow them on Twitter and with a few clicks they’ll get our message. Sometimes our Twitter conversations will go back and forth for a while almost as if we were talking to them on Instant Message. Taking all this into account, Twitter has essentially broken down the barrier that used to exist between site owner and site visitor.
So is all this “openness” that Twitter has brought to the anime community, particularly among bloggers, a good thing? I would certainly say the good it’s brought outweighs the bad. Like I mentioned in my previous post where I answered AceRailgun’s 50 questions, I like being able to put a bio behind the blogger. If there’s a blogger I like, I want to be able to follow them in their daily activities and thoughts, anime-related or not, as that helps me put together a better picture of who they are and thus I feel a stronger connection to them when I read their blog posts. Being able to message them anytime with minimal effort is great, too!
Naturally Twitter doesn’t force you to do anything; you can tweet as much or as little as you want, getting as personal with your tweets as you want or staying as private as you want. And of course, you can choose who you want to follow and you can even control who follows you. So the only downside I can think of with the advent of Twitter amongst anime fans is when people go overboard with using it, filling our Twitter feeds with uninteresting tweets like what they’re eating now or that they want to go to bed. I want to know what my fellow bloggers are up to but I don’t want to know everything. Then there are the times when people have a string of non-anime tweets about a show/movie/event/person/etc that I don’t know. I don’t mind this once in a while but it can get annoying when it happens all the time and I have no idea what they’re talking about. But it’s very easy to just un-follow anyone whose tweets you don’t like. I guess I’m picky in who I follow on Twitter since my subscription list is very small. That’s also because I don’t have an iPhone and only have Internet access on my computer at home. So if I’m away from home all day, I could come home to way more tweets than I could read if I were subscribed to a lot of people. I honestly don’t know how people who are subscribed to 100+ Twitter accounts actually have the time to read everyone’s tweets. But yeah, if I don’t follow you on Twitter that doesn’t mean I don’t like you!
I’m also a very conscientious tweeter in that I’ll only tweet things I feel are significant to me or my followers. Since most people follow me through my anime site, I keep my tweets anime-related or site-related 90% of the time and I also try not to tweet about the same thing consecutively as it’s probably annoying to followers who aren’t into that subject. No tweets from me about the household chores I’m doing or that I feel tired today, or anything like that (I use Facebook for personal posts actually). I’m very much someone who “only talks when they have something to say.” But I do wonder if maybe I should have more “slice of life” tweets once in a while and that my followers don’t only want anime-related tweets. What do you think?
To wrap things up, Twitter has brought about great changes in how anime site owners and anime site visitors relate to each other. Several years ago we would have to invest good time and effort to communicate with someone behind an anime site and get to know them; now we can know more about them everyday than we’d probably care to know, with minimal effort. Twitter has really helped bring about a feeling of “community” and “openness” amongst anime fans that didn’t exist when I first got into anime. While Twitter might not be around forever, I definitely think its basic idea will remain from here on.