How Twitter has changed the anime online community

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.

21 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Mushyrulez says:

    (Just skip to the tl;dr, I’m not sure why I wrote this comment in the first place. >///<)

    Honestly, your use of twitter is quite… I don't feel like I know you, at all. I think there's a key difference between how you use twitter and how we (the people who follow 100+ people) use twitter.

    You read every single tweet. However, honestly, unless one only tweets 'important' things (which you do), the vast majority of tweets are utter rubbish. Even tweets that we might feel are 'important' are actually quite trivial and unnecessary. The whole of twitter is unnecessary. If you feel that there are many unimportant tweets, reflect as to the importance of your own individual tweets – what do they actually say? Do they actually mean anything?

    Tumblr soon evolved, splitting blogging into three main fields – blogging (writing 500+ word posts, possibly up to whole 10k word essays), tumblring (writing longer posts about more 'important' matters than tweets), and tweeting (short posts with no meaning). Since I realize that most tweets are rubbish, I only follow people to read what they currently have to say. Just as how, in class, one doesn't try to keep track of every single conversation, even when one is not in the classroom, in twitter, reading every single tweet people tweet is ultimately pointless. In class, when you walk in, you might start talking to some people about something, and moving on to other people about other things, or maybe you'll just sit at your disk and do homework. Twitter is similar – there's no need to see everything!

    This is how I feel that I don't know you at all, even though in terms of your total tweets / number of your tweets I read, your percentage is much higher than other people who I feel I know quite well. Ultimately, twitter is foundationally different from blogs. Blogs are the websites that talk about things, impersonally, if you will. Twitter is the tool that talks about nothing, but personally.

    tl;dr: when you've got something to say, blog it – blogs are for content, and personality comes second.
    when you've got nothing to say, tweet it – twitter is for YOU, for your personality and your attitude, and content comes second. Or perhaps last?

    • Yumeka says:

      Excellent analysis about Twitter in terms of all the “unimportant” tweets out there. You’re right that most people’s tweets don’t mean anything or don’t give us any interesting insight, like I used as examples, saying things like what food you’re craving or shouting a random word related to a show/movie/person or whatever that I don’t know about. Whenever I have a backlog of tweets to check (like when I get up in the morning) I’ve actually gotten pretty good at skimming through them quickly and pinpointing the ones that aren’t too useless.

      But yeah, you’re right that you can’t really get to know a person through Twitter. I feel like it’s a combination of blogging and Twitter that’s important rather than Twitter alone. Blogging lets us see the expressive, deep, and passionate side of a person while Twitter lets us see their quick thoughts and spur-of-the-moment things that catch their interest. The latter alone tells us little about the person but the two combined reveal a lot I think.

  2. Marina says:

    My views on Twitter align with yours very closely, in that I try to stay as anime-related as possible in all of my tweets. That’s mostly because the name of my twitter account is linked to my blog name, and so I feel that people who follow me are only interested in my anime side of life. But, it is admittedly fun to reveal little tidbits, those “slice-of-life moments” that you mention. Since my blog is also connected to food, I like to post recent recipes that I’ve tried, or want to try–and they’re not always about Japanese food. I also tend to use it as an extension of my blog; I don’t like making short posts, or “asides,” so I throw my random impressions on Twitter. I wouldn’t mind a bit more of the personal from you, Yumeka :)

    And yet there’s that level of intimacy that I don’t really want to cross that I see others broach all the time. 10 tweets in succession from one person about the same topic breaks my whole appeal to Twitter: brevity. I like the thoughts to be quick and concise, poignant, or slapstick. In complete opposition to the joy of getting to know someone, I sometimes am disillusioned by a person from their amount of tweets, in addition to the content. There’s often that feeling of disconnect, that “so what?” portion that creates a relationship with the follower.

    • Yumeka says:

      I also like to keep my Twitter as anime-related as possible since it’s linked to my blog and I’m sure the majority of my followers aren’t interested in much else besides anime or blog tweets. And I too don’t like to make “mini” blog posts so if there’s ever a quick thought, link, or image I want to share, Twitter works perfectly for that.

      Yeah, like I mentioned, I try not to make many tweets in succession about the same topic. If I have that much to say about something I might as well make it a blog post XD Plus I don’t want to fill up the Twitter feeds of my followers who aren’t interested in that topic.

      If you insist, I’ll see if I can think of “slice of life” moments to tweet about ^^,,,

  3. Cloudydays says:

    You know. When I first found this entry through animenano I thought that I was going to read a post about how twitter has actually begun to kill bloggers instead of helping them prosper. Instead of posts packed with images and opinions on amazing sites that look awesome you have these short and sweet little thoughts about each episode. Each has it’s own qualities and downfalls but it seems that the majority of people have turned towards twitter to get their daily anime news and episode reviews. You could actually argue that it is our downfall.

    Your argument of how twitter actually brings together the site owners/posters and the visitors together is one that I haven’t seen before so it was interesting to read. I’ve personally never made a twitter – though I’m pretty open with my facebook. Twitter just doesn’t strike my fancy as it keeps our posts a bit too short. Sure you can post each little fleeting thought you have and sure it’s fun to read those random things but unless you use twitter to link to a blogger’s recent posts, twitter becomes the blog itself.

    You do give me a reason to make a twitter but.. I often find it that I weave myself into my posts so that it’s unique from other people. Otherwise what is an aniblog other than practically rephrasing other aniblogs?

    • Yumeka says:

      That’s very interesting that there’s a totally opposing idea out there in terms of Twitter and its affect on blogging. I’ve heard that argument before, but I don’t feel that Twitter could be the downfall to blogging because 1) the 140 character limit makes it impossible to write an extensive and neatly readable post on Twitter and 2) you can’t create an attractive design for your post by doing things like embed images, captions, videos, etc., within your text. To make a comparison, Twitter is like hearing a quick news flash through a brief conversation with someone while a blog is like reading about it in full detail in a magazine.

      In the end, I think that all the serious bloggers who enjoy extensive writing will continue to blog while those who were never that into it or prefer concise writing will switch over to Twitter exclusively. Maybe Twitter is helping to weed out the dedicated bloggers.

  4. chikorita157 says:

    I use Twitter to check for the latest updates along with the interaction of people, but I’m amazed how the Internet grew since I started using it during my childhood. Compared to today, the internets in the 2000s were static pages and you had to manually create and update every single page you create. It can become troublesome if you decide to change the whole layout. Now you can customize the layout using a CMS and have the changes become effective immediately.

    Back on the topic of Twitter, I do make some personal updates, but mostly it’s related to Anime, technology and video games. Also, I follow a limited amount of people since I don’t want my timeline get overwhelmed. Still, the whole thing of Twitter replacing Anime Blogging is ridiculous since if you have lots to say, you can’t obviously fit it in one update. Also, I like to own what I write, which is why I still maintain my blogs and one of the reasons I don’t rely heavily on Tumblr for a sideblog, which also uses WordPress, but has tumblr-like features. Still, the best communication is still by email or voice conferencing, where it gets a lot closer to interacting with people in real life.

    • Yumeka says:

      What you said in your first paragraph reminds me that all the pages on the AnimeYume.com site were made from scratch in an HTML editor back in the early 2000s. Since I made each page manually, if I ever wanted to edit the entire site (like change the color scheme) I’d have to edit every single page manually! Once I started blogging in 2006, I couldn’t believe how easy it was…all you have to do is write, WordPress does all the work for you!

      Yeah, I don’t believe Twitter could ever replace blogging because of the 140 character limit and the inability to make your posts attractive and detailed, such as inserting appropriate images at certain points in the post. I also find e-mail a more favorable means of communication, again because of the character limit on Twitter. Twitter is fine if you have a quick question for someone but not if you need to write anything detailed.

      • Bryce says:

        I know this is old, but you do not and did not, as far as I know, depending on hold old CSS is, have to edit each page to change styles. If you used/use external stylesheets, it is relatively easy. That is how most blog and CMS platforms do things, especially WordPress.

  5. moritheil says:

    In some sense the difference between the Twitter-enabled blogosphere and the pre-Twitter blogosphere is closeness. Prior to twitter, you only got your dose of other bloggers once a week or so when they updated. With Twitter you could see their moods, their thoughts, their hopes and vexations on a daily basis.

    It’s like the difference in closeness between someone who lives in the same building as you and some guy who lives down the street.

    • Yumeka says:

      That’s a good analogy. Before Twitter you only got to knew people through the anime-related content on their blog that you would see every few days to a week. With Twitter, you “see” the people everyday and get to know what they’re up to in real-time. Like you said, before it was like the guy down the street you’d only see once in a while and now it’s like you’re next-door neighbors with all these people XD

  6. Kidd says:

    My last podcast was about this topic and I had a lot to say there.

    But yeah I do like how twitter has made me get closer to the community and my readers. They can ask me questions about my opinions and I can reply to them in real time. Its also a good way of getting to know some bloggers on a personal level.

    I tend t think most tweets are important unless you are following that one dude thats always tweeting. I find that I get a lot of ideas for my articles from my so called random tweets because of the various discussions it brings up.

    • Yumeka says:

      It is fun being able to communicate with your readers in real-time. With Twitter it’s almost like your doing IM with all of them at once as well as mini-blogging for yourself =D

      Yeah, too many tweets can be annoying unless there are enough good tweets among them to make up for it XD

  7. I think of twitter like the time between classes in high school. Everybody is moving in different directions so its harder to have a longer conversation but it can still be quite entertaining. Blogging on the other hand is more like an intimate discussion between peers where one is more likely to thoroughly discuss the topic on hand.

    Anyways, interesting post.

    • Yumeka says:

      Thanks, and nice analogy! Blogging is definitely more like an extensive, intimate discussion while Twitter is more like fleeting, to-the-point conversations. Each is different but each serves its purpose.

  8. TWWK says:

    You know, I miss the days of the anime fan sites. I really treasured sites I found and remember them well – particularly several Tenchi Muyo! sites that I frequented. I also felt a strong connection to the “shrines” that used to be so prevalent. It’s strange, but it feels all so old-fashioned and nostalgic now, even though it wasn’t too long ago.

    • Yumeka says:

      I know, I often feel a pang of nostalgia for fan sites too, considering I still have mine (though it’s been in time-capsule mode for a couple of years now). They’ve just grown obsolete unfortunately – you don’t need to go to a Tenchi fan site to find out info, Wikipedia is more detailed and up-to-date; no need to go to a fan site for images of your favorite anime anymore, just do a Google image search for all the pictures you could need. Your own thoughts and opinions about anime you watch isn’t obsolete however, so that seems to be why focus has shifted to blogs, which are all about that.

  9. Bryce says:

    I came across this post and it seemed intriguing. I do not think it was twitter alone though that changed things. I think social media in general has changed things. I’m not on twitter, or at least active, but I already know the benefits that social networking brought.

  10. Nopy says:

    Talking about the old web reminds me of when anime web rings were in abundance.

    I have over 100+ that I’m following, and I don’t really get to read everything that they tweet. I just have Tweetdeck running on my desktop and I glance over every once in a while to see what’s happening. I actually heard about the Japan earthquake within minutes of it occuring because of Twitter.

    • Yumeka says:

      I use something called Echofan for my tweets – it’s a Firefox add-on that stays in the corner of my browser and will alert me to new tweets with a number appearing there (indicating how many unread tweets I have). Unlike people with iphones and such who have Internet access everywhere they go, I mostly just rely on Echofan for tweets, so if I were following 100+ people, I would be overwhelmed with tweets. I prefer just having a few tweets I care about rather than spreading myself thin over many and not being able to give due attention to them.

  11. Keiichi says:

    Wow this is so true. I’ve had an anime site for about 13 years now (AnimeHorizon.com) and I really miss the way things used to be. Now there are just too many sites out there and the intimacy of it all has changed. The relationships that I’ve built have dwindled and our whole anime world has scattered so far. I’m doing everything that I can to keep up!

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