Internet Community as Family

Like most great ideas, the impetus for this paper came to me while watching cat videos online. And though perhaps not the best use of time, cat videos, cat gifs, and other cat and kitten themed content are emblematic of an acute global cultural cohesion. More than ever before, people around the world are watching, listening to, and consuming the same media. The internet has allowed for the rise of a diffusive and chimeric international culture. Now, what has this to do with family? Well, what is family but a collection of people from whom we learn social etiquette and custom, and with whom we share a common cultural heritage? We have already established in class that family is not limited to biological determinates. And while people on the internet making cat memes are strangers, they do undeniably family-like things. In an age of smart phones, many people spend more time online than they do with their biological families. Subsequently, the internet family has subsumed much of the responsibility to raise and educate our youth—to indoctrinate and inculcate. Online strangers entertain and impart knowledge of social decorum. They look at our vacation photos, no matter how boring. Even if our definition of family requires cohabitation, every locale is contiguous within the framework of the internet.

And, like any familial entity, the internet community shares a communicative and symbolic language. Internet memes are semantically rich. They possess abstract meaning beyond what is superficially expressed, which is culturally significant to Interpretive Anthropologists. From “Trollface,” to iconic photos of Neil De Grasse Tyson, and everything in between, memes connote a learned and communal meaning. Like other symbolic systems, memes order the world and contextualize individual experience. When someone witnesses an event or experiences an emotion, symbolic language allows the transmission of that experience to others, creating an unbroken and symmetrical chain of human experience. So when someone is feeling sad, they might convey this using a “forever alone” picture. Symbolic systems, like memes, not only define what people can feel and know, but how they can communicate what they feel and know. Forming the basis of this shared familial culture is coded language and a normative system of interpretation.

If we accept the internet community as a quasi-kinship group, we must recognize its strangeness. It is a system unparalleled by any other contemporary or antiquated society. Structural-functionalists typically describe social systems as an elaboration of a dominance hierarchy. From this perspective, internet culture is unique. Unlike traditional social systems the internet family has no center—no chief or “father” or caste system around which meaning and cultural institutions are fixed. Instead, it is an egalitarian amalgam—a collective in the truest sense of the word. Meaning and position within the system is endlessly dynamic and iterative. The internet community is an amorphous, nebulous organism without demarcations or distinctions, in which each equal and anonymous individual, merely by interacting online, contributes to the continuation of the all encompassing cultural being.

— Sawyer I.

This entry was posted in Family Essay (2013). Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Internet Community as Family

  1. Maiji Castro says:

    This is a very interesting, well written essay. I enjoyed reading your points about viewing the internet community as a family, it seems like a very relevant topic for our generation. As you mentioned there are some pictures/stories/emoticons you can find on the internet that everyone is part of this internet family understands, that show a universal connection between everyone, what Claude Levi-Strauss was looking for between all humans. However, I think you could take this and analyze internet families at an even deeper level as well. You could look at the diverse variety of websites people use and how that impacts people, and creates specific types of families. As well as how each website attracts different personality types that have different connotations or stereotypes within the internet community as a whole, looking at these families more through a culture and personality theory. The internet community is so large, anonymous and shifting families would be easier to analyze if you chose a specific group to talk about.

  2. Martha Daley says:

    I really like the analysis you made using symbolic anthropological theory. I was a stereotypical “bubble child” for most of my life and had limited access to the internet, so it took me a while to catch up on the meanings of a lot of memes, viral videos, and other internet-related things that all my peers were in-the-know about. I agree with Maiji, I think I could have been very interesting to focus in on individual groups on the internet. For a longer essay, it might be interesting to do a comparative piece about the followers of different social networking/blog sites, such as tumblr, facebook, and twitter, and how they can connect people from all over the world and bring people who might not have connected if it had not been for these site to a familial level of closeness.

    • Alana McDowell says:

      I think the idea that it “took you a while to catch up” on memes and various aspects of the internet provides insights regarding what the author is writing here. Instead of letting the internet “indoctrinate and inculcate” you, as the author puts it, you were more influenced by your own biological family, and didn’t grow in the “internet family” so to speak. It’s funny how so much of what we learn and so many of the ways we come to communicate and express certain emotions, situations, and predicaments are, for most young Americans, very influenced by the internet. To think that LACK of internet could cause certain people to be excluded or in the dark with regards to social mannerisms and saying is portentous.

  3. Di Morse says:

    As a recovering World of Warcraft addict, your essay really resonated with me. Online families can be both very good and very bad. On one hand, you have a group of people that you have at least one thing that you have in common, and you can disconnect whenever you want, unlike real life families that you may not be able to escape. On the other had, an online family can be a whole group of enablers, and sometime people become compelled to keep up with this online family and ignore things that need to get done.

    • Kayla Clancy says:

      I like that you brought up the point that online families can be also be bad. I think we need to critique the negativity that the internet brings to people. Not only can it become an addiction, which has taken shape in different ways for a lot of our generation, it can also cause emotional issues. Whether its social media, internet video games, or just different websites, the average amount of time that our generation spends connected to the internet is very high. People are even starting to develop separation anxiety from their internet devices. Without these devices people become lonely because they are losing their ability to have relationships with people. Although internet families are a nontraditional way of viewing family, it definitely cannot take the role of real people who you care about. If you disappear or need support from the internet, your “family” is not going to be worried, they might not even notice. You are just one in a million usernames on the internet, rather than a living breathing individual.

  4. Abi Peters says:

    I have to start by saying that cat videos are completely magical! On a more serious note, I found designating the internet as family group a bit of a stretch – I like it, but I feel like it is so much more complicated. And perhaps I am a bit old fashioned in thinking the family should be a group of people (not necessarily biologically related) who you know on a very deep and personal level. This is why we designate people as friends, family or acquaintances. The juxtaposition between interpretive anthropology and structural-functionalism was interesting…I would argue the internet is hierarchical. I, for one, am not well versed in memes and usually stare at them when they pop up on Facebook for a few seconds before scrolling pas. By not understanding the symbolic nature of the meme, I am not part of the family and thus excluded from conversations. Exclusion is not the same as hierarchy, but there is a definite link between the two as hierarchy is about subordination. When I ask people to explain memes to me they usual laugh or slyly smile and say “if you do not know it by now, you will not think it’s funny – you have to part of the culture.” While that might be fair enough, I am being subordinated. But do not get me wrong, I LOVE the internet and in particular cat videos 🙂

    • Steve Goddard says:

      Abi, I have to agree with you on your claim that this is a bit of a stretch, at least within the broad context given. I think that Internet community as a family is possible, but more so in frameworks indicative of familial interaction. For example website programs like “Second Life”, where people actually develop “families”, seems more pragmatic in associating the Internet with family. Within this type of a framework relationships are arguably more intimate the way family relationships truly are.

      Nonetheless, Sawyer presented a very well written essay and established a good understanding of the theories. I do like your idea of this virtual heritage because it really is a novel concept in recent history. It is always thought provoking to examine the unconventional theories because it sparks good debates! I think if the focus was on a more specific family and evaluated through practice theory, that we would have a better understanding of this idea. Good Job!

    • Allison Dudley says:

      I loved the essay but also thought it was too generalized. I could argue that Facebook serves as a family, but the internet as a whole is as Abi says is hierarchical. I think that internet is a culture with possible families inside of it. Each social networking website is used by different people for different purposes. However, I think that Sawyer used the theories to prove his/her own point well. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with Sawyer’s points.

    • Cassidy Reeves says:

      While I can see how some people could argue that the internet is too broad to be categorized as a family, I think it’s undoubtedly a complex social network that connects complete strangers and provides both parties with comfort. I like that you “stretched” the concept of a family. I think something can be said for the fact that some people have a hard time thinking of the whole internet as a family. In American society, we usually quantify family as people who are biologically related or someone who has a close emotional relationship to biological relatives. We don’t think about family as possibly being a group of people who share common interests and find support and comfort through that community. I think we see this exact example in families that are created through sports– either by being on a team or being united by following a specific team. If supporters of a football team can be seen as a family I think supporters and followers of cat memes can also be seen as a type of unconventional family.

      • Allison Kessler says:

        I agree with your final premise about sports fans and their undeniable connection. If you were to meet someone in the streets wearing your favorite sports team’s logo i feel like you would automatically make a stretched ‘familial’ relationship as many people do through forums or blogs on the internet. The unconventional family on the internet connects everyone as users of the web but also breaks down that barrier through sources that are followed because of mutual interests.

    • Alyssa Janssen says:

      While I really enjoyed this essay, I agree with Abi that the claim of internet as a family was far too generalized. I would also argue that internet “families” are indeed hierarchical, and I would even go so far to say that the internet, Facebook in particular, promotes existing social hierarchies. When scrolling through my Facebook feed, there is a clear designation between who is popular and who is not. I often see Facebook as a competition to get the most likes on pictures and statuses, which in turn translates to how well-liked you are in the real world. I know people who get hundreds of likes on every picture, and others who have social anxiety and delete anything they post that hasn’t been liked enough. While there may not be a “chief” (except perhaps Mark Zuckerberg?), there is definitely a hierarchy in place. It would be interesting to explore the various hierarchies in place on different social networking sites, for example, Facebook and Reddit, which I would presume draws very different types of people. I would love to see how this would be viewed from a Culture and Personality perspective, and how internet sub-cultures cultivate different types of people.

  5. Hunter Emmons says:

    From the structural functionalist view that you were speaking about in this essay, it would also be good to keep in mind for the essays sake that a structural functionalist also looks at how the structure remains the same but looks at the change among the people who uses the internet. The people are certainly changing while the technology and internet is the base that remains fairly static. I also found it interesting that you are using internet to make the people who watch the same videos to be apart of some sort of family. I definitely have never thought of it that way, and I do not necessarily believe that I view these internet communities as a family. This definitely was an essay that had so much thought and time put into it, and I feel that i could have easily failed if you explained it any differently, so on that note, well done! I really would have loved to hear what else you thought about this “internet family,” so in this circumstance, it was a bummer that there is about a 500 word count, but it really was so impressive to fit all of these ideas in that short of an essay.

  6. Blaine Wajdowicz says:

    Your discussion on the lack of hierarchy on the internet is interesting, but also ineptly broad. The net can’t be considered a culture of itself, but instead, made of smaller communities of different websites. From a feminist anthropological standpoint, certain websites are naturally going to perpetuate and reproduce gender hierarchies. Take for example, porn websites. While there are a wide variety of porn types and sites and equally as much discussion about it, a majority of heterosexual porn uses violence and other mediated images to depict women as available and inferior to men.

  7. Rachel Echsner says:

    This subject is very interesting because it’s so relatable. Although I found it a bit sad when I recognized even term and reference you used in your essay in relation to internet trends and popular memes, it really does prove the point you’re trying to make. Through the internet, people are able to relate and connect on a large scale to others they have never really met in real life. You find you have common interests and senses of humor and relate on a deeper level then you do with strangers. Although you probably may never meet most of these people face to face, in a sense you are an internet family. I liked the way you used these two theories to reiterate what we learned in class about not needing to be biologically related to another person in order to be close with them. Its interesting to consider how big a part of culture the internet currently is.

  8. Lucy Johnson says:

    A. Cats. That is all.
    B. I completely agree that the internet is a community unlike any other. It is a paramount governing structure and cornerstone to today’s society. The internet is the largest grouping of people and potentially the most representational of persona that the world has ever had. Anyone can say anything they are feeling and everything said is public knowledge; forcing alliances to be made via connectedness of thought or with others who disagree. Your connection to symbolic anthropology was particularly impressive and on point. It was clear in its definition and how the images that are the face of the internet are representative of emotions and opinions. They allow the internet;s constituents to express themselves with confidence that whomever is reading will understand exactly how they are feeling. This creates social structures that narrow as more opinions are given creating an ever-closening “family” with shared values and beliefs.

  9. McKenzie A says:

    I agree with many of the previous posts in response to this essay. The theories used relate very much to the topic. I really liked the use of the symbolic/interpretive perspective and how people use the internet to express their emotions and let others know how they are feeling, similar to what you would do with your family. I found it sad that people really do spend more time on the internet then with their actually families but it definitely relates to the younger generation today. Also the point about how you don’t have to be biologically related to someone, or even really know them to feel like you have a “family-like” relationship.

  10. Marshall Walker says:

    I enjoyed your assessment of internet kinship as it relates to the structural-functionalist theory. The internet is indeed very unique in terms of status and hierarchy, in that it has almost none! Anonymity brings everyone to the same level, allowing a sort of level playing field. The beauty of this, I think, is it enables anyone to contribute to culture with the same esteem as anyone else, whereas in real life mostly only people who are already of high status get attention.

  11. Emma Simpleman says:

    Definitely an entertaining and well written essay. I really enjoyed how you looked at family through a non traditional view (like the nuclear family) and discussed how family is a group of people you learn from. I also really liked the point made on how “internet families” have no set roles such as father or mother roles.I also think it would be interesting if you compared how the traditional family and “internet family” through a functionalist view and see how both may be able to fulfill some biological needs.

  12. Sophia Kolybabiuk says:

    A broader perspective on what this essay is generally about is how media and internet have a world of its own. It has lured in people by having specific videos, blogs, websites, etc. to attract individuals of certain interests and put them into categories and communities of their own that all have something in common. The idea of internet being such a large and daily used implication in our lives is sad to realize that it has taken over a lot of our lives to the point where families are more involved in the world of technology rather than interacting with each other as people. Technology definitely has a world of its own, which i guess you could consider a “family” unit. It is a family in its own way by helping people connect with each other by having something in common. A family doesn’t always have to be biological, like the writer stated, it could be a simple connection within a group of people. I enjoyed how the writer included symbolic anthropology and how memes symbolize certain pictures with emotions and how someone feels.

    • Brianne Hart says:

      I agree with Sophia’s comment because I also thought of the whole internet community being a world of its own. It’s interesting that we meet people online and they become part of a separate family outside of our biological family and we feel very close to these people. I really enjoyed the author’s use of symbolic and structural-functionalist perspectives but I started to wonder what a structuralist perspective would be? Considering there is structuralism in kinship it might be interesting to see how other places in the world develop relationships/family through the internet. There might also be an idea of binary opposites of belonging to an internet family but then having a separate biological family. A structuralist standpoint wouldn’t account for change so it might be interesting to look at how technology has influenced the accessibility of these internet families.

  13. Elliott Cairns says:

    I definitely agree with most of the things in your essay and it was very well done. The idea of internet “family” units is very new in todays society and seems foreign to those who don’t devote a lot of time within chat groups and forums. In other class I am in, we examined self-injurers and cousin-couples who both found support through the internet with similar peoples in their shoes. What’s great about the internet is it does replicate an intimate social atmosphere that can focus on support, or camaraderie while still maintaining anonymity. Also your paragraph on meme’s was very spot on where a simple two sentences can be related to by thousands of people. Great essay

  14. Stephen Fleming says:

    First of all that was a hell of a last paragraph. I completely agree with the Author on the point that the internet has made us all into one happy family with memes relating to inside jokes with another. and how physical family photo albums are now on the internet for anyone to see from “friends only” to “everyone” facebook has changed the term “Family”.

  15. Hannah Hilden-Reid says:

    Di makes a very strong argument that I think everyone who engages in use of social media networks on the internet can easily understand. Websites such as Facebook allow the user to sustain friendships by simply a “like” whereas face to face human interaction requires significantly more effort. The internet truly is another world in which human interaction has completely transformed.

  16. Annika Sandberg says:

    I think this essay is really fitting for this weeks topic of Globalization. It brings up points of people being interconnected, making the world seem smaller. It is a great example of how quickly people around the world can share videos and content, and accompanying them, new thoughts and ideas. I think the thought of people around the world laughing at the same cat video is comical, but also says a lot about world becoming increasingly smaller and the idea of globalization expanding.

  17. Lana Porter says:

    I am curious as to the affects of this internet family. You stated that we are all in a way fed the same cultural diet by being a part of a larger collective internet community. What effect will this take on individuality if we all consume and normalize the same images and texts concerning emotions, experiences, etc.. Also, what effect will it have in connecting the world further? This internet family perpetuated globalism on a large scale because one can connect with a person on the opposite side of the world just by logging onto the internet.

  18. Kait Bashford says:

    I like how you consider the internet community as a type of family. I have a friend who is an exchange student from Korea that keeps in touch via Facebook, Skype, and other social forums. Without these internet relationships, she would feel much more distant from home while she’s away because connecting with friends and family over the internet has allowed her to enjoy the best of both worlds. Interpretive Anthropology is perfect to describe this idea because the internet is full of symbols. Whether it is pictures, memes, videos, or emoticons, we are all interacting in ways that are symbolic of how we feel and the lives we lead. What is the internet but a symbol of the relationships between humanity (socially, academically, etc.)? Good job!

  19. Saskia Newkirk says:

    I think it might be interesting to look at this phenomenon through the lens of Culture and Personality. What are the ‘types’ of people created by our culture (and its increasing emphasis on the internet)? This “internet as family” concept may be related to the types of people being molded by our tech-obsessed culture.

  20. Jon Mastman says:

    This essay communicates what I have heard many times over… on the internet. Just as globalization serves to connect the entire world to the World Market, the internet created a way for all of the peoples of the world to instantly and effortlessly come together and form bonds that they would never had had before. This breeds a whole new culture of its own. There are countless small time video commentators ranging from call of duty to mine craft that reach out to people in every country in the world daily over such mediums as Youtube and Zero Production. Internet culture has produced oddities spanning from gifs of Gene Wilder posing with a sarcastic comment below it to cat photos with watermelons on their heads, and personally having grown up with it, I wouldn’t change a thing.

  21. coltsedbrook says:

    I would like to say that your blog essay is quite interesting. It raises a particular issue regarding the use of the internet in the 21st century. Yes, I will agree with you that individuals do in fact spend more time on the internet opposed to spending time with their biological families. I would question you in saying, “How does an individual fit into this idea of community, when in fact there is no real interaction between individuals regarding physical contact”? What I mean is that you are assuming that there are individuals that appear to have a sense of community while being on the internet, but I do not think that there is a definitive evidence to support your case. Why do I disagree? Because there is no way of measuring who connects with who? Basically, I believe a sense of family is supported by physical care and undeniable compassion. A family may not be biologically connected but the relationships that each member within the family gains is far superior than a simple conversation online. Great point raised!

  22. Martin Golibart says:

    I really like how you illustrated the “Internet Family.” Looking through a functionalist anthropologist eyes, we can see how we use this “Internet Family” for basic needs. The “Internet Family” shares all kinds of tips and advice, or even just experiences with each other. Often, we find ourselves googling how to do something, or looking up youTube videos to figure something out. We reach out to our “Internet Family,” in order to take care of our basic needs. We have certain things we need to do in our lives, and Functionalist theory would say we fulfill these needs by using the internet to figure things out. Googling and YouTubing are the customs that we developed as a culture to share and learn.

  23. Claire Cohen says:

    I really enjoyed this essay and found it to be very informative and well-written. Internet families could also be analyzed from the functionalist perspective. Internet use has become more prevalent among young teens (especially in dealing with topics such as cat videos). As teenagers begin to feel constrained by their nuclear family and strive for their independence, they may seek other groups to fulfill the role of their family. Teens who are looking for replacements of their families may turn to other internet users to fill the needs that most families provide for individuals.

  24. Ellis Hughes says:

    This is a very intriguing way of looking at the internet and its vast influence. It is very much a source of cultural influence (just as our family members are) and these days it guides us in new trends and collective attitudes. But going way back to what Abi said, I would agree that the internet very much creates a kind of hierarchy in culture. I myself am a little behind on the new social networks (I started twitter just last spring, I’ve never posted a vine and I’ve never snapchatted!). So usually I learn about new cultural developments on secondhand accounts — but I’m catching up! — And what about those who do not know how to use the internet? They are very much at a disadvantage for the internet is such a vital aspect of modern communication, which is also applicable to symbolic/interpretive anthropology.

  25. Brianna Dascher says:

    I had never thought about how the internet community really does have no leader or necessarily even hierarchy, but it’s so intriguing. I think not only do memes create a kind of universal language, as you said, but they convey a sort of repertoire and understanding between people that couldn’t have existed before. In my mind, it seems analogous to something of an “inside joke”. Memes are so not only universally known, but generally universally appreciated – which allows for a bond to be created quickly and more deeply than was possible in a less technological era. I feel like I could show anyone a picture of grumpy cat or the “Forever Alone” face and have an opening to conversation, because it would feel so natural in our current world.

  26. Ashley Sanks says:

    I’d have to agree with a few others that this essay is extremely well written, and a really interesting take on 21st century relationships. I’d be curious to see how this “internet family” held up in the realms of Practice Theory. Since the internet is so embedded in American Culture (we’re posting blog assignment online!) yet it is not physical per-say, how does the breakdown of this family work? You argue that in nearly complete tandem, anyone could understand most of the memes and what in general they could stand for. Largely, people are making this connection from within their homes, in isolation from the ‘rest of the family’ somewhere floating around in the cyber-web. How does this crack the hegemony? Looking at Gen Y and the Millennial’s specifically, I’d be curious to see in what way a generation that grew up with this ‘family’ and are so embedded into it physically and meta-physically, where the crack in hegemony exists. I’m just positing this as a thought, but again, a very interesting essay none the less.

  27. Adriana Petersen says:

    I completely agree with Kayla’s comment above. I think it is really important to recognize the negative impacts of the internet. I think it would be really interesting to also analyze people’s views and purposes of the internet through practice theory. I would be curious to see how various media represent internet sites such as Facebook and Twitter versus how people actually use them. Are they actually beneficial? Do they help people connect socially? I think to a certain extent they do, but what happens when those internet relationships become face to face? I think in some cases the internet can create a barrier when it comes to communicating with people who are physically present. Although the internet does create a quicker and smoother way to communicate and connect, and for some, can even form a family, I think it is crucial that we do not become too absorbed in that world and remember the “living and breathing individuals” that are physically around us.

  28. Wilson Riphenburg says:

    I find some truth to the notion of the internet community as a family; however, the broad spectrum of groups and individuals whom compose it creates a lack of the intimacy and familiarity associated with the traditional use of the word. That being said, there are internet collectives that connect and commune on a daily basis, creating a sense of identity or belonging within that circle. In this way, these might be viewed as distant relatives to the concept of a traditional family. Furthermore, I agree with the idea of an ‘egalitarian amalgam’ in that the absence of a ruling party creates a sort of uniformity of agency from one internet user to another. Each individual can create their own experience and identity, stemming solely from their own intent; without the discord common to many group interactions in person. I also liked the part in which you said that many things on the web speak in a symbolic language, and I would agree in saying that this may be why the internet is such a culturally potent, sensitive and dynamic medium.

  29. Scout E. says:

    I think this blog essay brings up many interesting questions that are not easy to answer. Overall, I think it depends on who you ask about whether they think the Internet can be classified as family. For me, including a lot of other people, the Internet really is not a family because we do not want it to be an extended family. But there are definitely some people who treat certain Internet communities, most notably Tumblr, like family. I am a Tumblr user and I see this firsthand. Tumblr users will publically post that the niche that they associate with in the Tumblr community is their family because they can’t find one in their personal life. With this said, I agree with the author when he asserts Internet families lack distinctions. Again, this is seen in individual Tumblr families. There is no hierarchy unlike what is found in familiar, traditional familial systems.

    • Alana McDowell says:

      I totally understand your point of view when you say that the internet is not a family because you don’t want it to be. I feel sort of the same way, except that being able to connect with people I **actually** know through Facebook helps me maintain relationships with them despite physical distance. A lot of times a “family” sentiment is shared between my friends and I this way. But for people who face hardship in their real lives, the internet can be a haven for them. This is especially true of Tumblr, but pretty much any site or blog as well, where people who are bullied or abused or have anxiety or whatever have you can come together and support one another, even if they never physically convene. In this sense, the internet can be the exact family you wish it to be (IF you wish it to be) since you can find basically EVERYTHING on the internet, and have complete freedom to choose what sites to visit and engage in. Because internet access across the globe is growing all the time, it holds so many different ideas, communities, and networks that effectively step in as family for people who feel alone, isolated, or misunderstood. Very cool!

  30. Kitman Gill says:

    I loved this blog essay. I think equating the internet community and family is perfectly legitimate and very accurate. The internet does indeed indoctrinate and inculcate the youth. It fulfills the role of a family, albeit a very large, atypical one.
    The internet has so many fads, and they shift so fast, that it can be hard to keep up with what’s going on. My junior year of high school, I deleted my Facebook account. I was without social media for almost two years. When I finally got back into social media (pretty much everything but Facebook. That ship had sunk for me), I was massively confused by the plethora of new memes, gifs, and lingo. It was almost enough to make me leave the social scene of the internet again. However, the people on the internet, people I’ve never met, helped me figure out everything. Through various sites, I finally found my footing in a culture that had shifted while I was absent. I definitely feel that the internet community does fill the role of family in that they help us figure out a culture and can even raise us to understand the virtual world.
    People on the internet can be nice, rude, mean, goofy, stupid, funny, completely disagreeable, and so many more things it’s not even appropriate for me to write. We all have people in our families that also fill these adjectives. But even with all these conflicting personalities, both biological and internet families fulfill a lot of the same functions and provide a structure of support whenever we need it.

  31. Neil Tobiasen says:

    Very well written essay for the blog. Love how it started out with you figuring out or idea watching car videos hahah. I really enjoyed your choice of topic because the internet is one of the biggest connectors of society today. more than a hundred million people use facebook everyday, which is just an absurd amount. It actually scares me how much is out on the internet an what people can find out about you if they just decided to type your name into the google search bar. The internet is slowly becoming one of the most scary things in modern society. People can find your address, phone number, and other personal information just from stalking your Facebook page, twitter, or Instagram. Just look at the Craig’s list killer. Show up at the guys house for the purchase, Hey, are you trying to buy a couch? Just kidding you’re dead.

  32. Alana McDowell says:

    One might consider thinking about memes through the cultural relativist viewpoint, in order to see how different cultures view the internet and what it does for their society and their youth. This would be particularly interesting because in this day and age, as the author says, the internet is something that is shared globally. In essence, the internet is one thing. But it may mean something different to everyone or to every culture. Certainly in the United States the internet is something we love and, quite frankly, are addicted to. But to someone from another culture, perhaps a conservative Bedouin woman, the internet might be considered something that plants wild and irresponsible ideas in the minds of young people.

  33. Sophia Grenier says:

    I have to say, I love cat videos and I love the internet. More than that, I love the kind of people who are very prevalent in internet communities. I think people have found a way to get really excited about things in an “acceptable” way–to create an environment where they celebrate what they love. That is AWESOME. Yay Internet. I think it’s also something we’re almost frighteningly reliant upon–I mean, look, we’re writing comments on a blog that’s on the internet. Our grades, our education, our medical information, our banks–they’re all online. What does this say about us as a culture? Have we forgotten how to live life without the power of–as my sister calls it– “The Google Machinery?” This is a subject that could really use a lot of attention from Anthropologists. How is the prevalence of the internet in our lives defining what it means to be human?

    • Nick Young says:

      This is an interesting comment. There is a ton of room for anthropologists to look at online communities. The staggering thing is that there are probably more communities/ cultures on the internet already than there are “real” cultures in the world. Think about it; there is a specific internet culture around cat videos, same with comic books, video games, knitting, colorful socks, ect. I have seen some crazy things on the web in my days, and everyone of them has a group of people with their own sets of values, norms and cultural expectations. It’s really crazy to think about.

  34. Michaela Quinlan says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this essay, and it provoked a few thoughts regarding the internet as “family.” Though, like you said, from a Symbolic Anthropologist’s perspective there is a shared language between internet users through popular culture (memes, etc.). I find the comparison between this shared context and a family extremely interesting because the internet relationship is extremely distant. People share a “connection” but only on the surface of a comedic sentiment. It would have been interesting to discuss how a Symbolic Anthropologist would view this distant form of relationship in regards to being a form of family. Also, I found the structural-functionalist analysis to be so interesting and extremely true! The fact that the internet gives everyone free reign to produce anything for anyone to see makes it a truly encompassing place, though the cultures produced on the internet are not always collective. The internet is more of a melting pot of different cultures rather than a reflection of one true culture.

  35. shelly kim says:

    I like your idea of putting the internet society in terms of family and i really think your interpretive theory is strong. but i think you only explained one side of the story. i don’t know if family is a suitable word for internet society because people do not have any affection towards each other. while people laugh reading memes and share their ideas on stuff, they do not have that minimum affection towards each other because we are total strangers who’ve never met before. if you conclude the other side of the coin, your paper will be better than ever.

  36. Brianna Larkin says:

    I also agree with Kayla’s comment waayyy up above, in the way that we are so connected into the internet that some may find it really difficult to detach from the virtual world and come back to live in reality. This might sound old fashion but, I find it quiet frustrating when I go to dinner with some of my friends and practically the whole time they are on their phones either on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and there is a much longer list i can go into, but rather not. While the internet has become the most prevalent thing in our society right now and years before, it has become more difficult to talk to real people. I was in lecture the other day in one of my other classes and he was stating that talking to people is becoming almost a fear. Years back we would call people and talk to them about what we needed. Then the automatic messaging device came up on the rise, making it easier to get a hold of people. Have you ever caught yourself thinking while you’re calling someone that I hope they dont pick up because I am really not in the mood to actually talk. Many people have, and that’s just one of many examples that we are now relying on technology to communicate with other people. As much as I love having our society advance I get kind of scared to think what will become of people communicating and what will take over.

  37. wesley gordon says:

    people are certainly changing while the technology and I thought that it was interesting that you put the internet society can be seen as a family because in a way it is a family. your essay makes me wonder how would a Symbolic Anthropologist would view this form of relationship in regards to being a form of family. Anyway this was essay was well written and I enjoyed reading it

  38. Drake Williams says:

    This is an incredibly well written and thought provoking essay. I think depending which corner of the internet you are looking at our internet piers could be family, or enemy states though. Some “trolls” use the internet to show a bit of humor, while others seem to serve as tormentors. The internet definitely brings more social cohesion than we could have seen without it, especially internationally etc. On the other hand, the internet also allows people with drastically differing views to communicate which, as I’m sure many have seen, can break out into a full on commenting war. These internet “families” definitely create a strange new form of culture. I am very intrigued at the idea of studying the culture of the internet, trolls, and especially meme’s. Thank you for the amazing insight into the technological world and its relevance to culture.

  39. Alana Spielman says:

    I really enjoyed reading this essay. I liked how you showed a specific example of how family is not just biological. Instead of just talking about it in class, this example is very applicable to everyday life. Considering the internet as a type of family can seem far-fetched, but when really considered, majority of the things your biological family provides, you can also attain on the internet if not more. Using examples such as memes allows the reader to fully connect to the topic of this essay.

  40. Patrick Curtin says:

    I absolutely agree that the internet could be considered a family. But I would also agree that Its users often times feel accepted but at times are also made fun of and picked at. I believe all emotions are magnified online, the internet can bring out the absolute worst in people. I loved that you used theories that can be a bit tougher to use in our essays. I think you could have used culture and personality very effectively in this essay but I also found your analysis to be very informative and compelling.

  41. Nick Young says:

    I totally agree that internet communities can be considered a type of family. A lot of people consider their best friends to be family, and surprisingly, I have made some pretty good friends through online gaming. While I’ve never met these people face to face, I consider a few of them to be some of my best friends. We used to play semi-competitively together, and there have been disagreements, good times, bad times, times where we haven’t played together for months because of “real-life” obligations, but we can always expect an invite to a game whenever one of us gets online. I have friends from New York, Florida, St. Louis, even London. Like I said, I’ve never met them face to face, but I have spent countless hours communicating with them, and they have earned my trust, as I have earned theirs, so that has to count as some sort of familial tie, right?

  42. Amanda B says:

    Very interesting analysis on the world wide web as a family. It is true that, whether older generations like it or not, the internet is becoming one of the most time-consuming activities especially for this generation. It may not seem logical to fully accept this new kinship (because one should only spend so much time looking at gifs), but it is becoming a larger influence in today’s culture that can be embraced to a certain extent. That being said, the analysis of the family is a great perspective. The internet has increased human interaction immensely; while some may disagree, social media websites are probably among the best accomplishments in today’s society for the ability to be able to connect so many people and create this new large family. The internet has been able to create a family through the use of symbols and shared interests on the internet, even though it is not as structured as other families.

  43. Greyden H says:

    I enjoyed reading this essay. If you look at the progression of technology over the past generations, it is easy to notice more and more people becoming enthralled in the internet. I definitely view the internet to be one big family now, considering there are so many social websites now, all of which allow individuals to openly share their personal information. A high school student could hear a rumor about a fellow student, and without actually knowing them personally, could look them up on Facebook or another social media site and find out at least a small amount of info on the person. Families have certain personal connections within the family that can’t be created otherwise; its blood. The internet does the same thing, just differently. “Family” ties people together in a way that cant be done differently, and the internet connects people in a way that couldn’t be done otherwise. You can “connect” with anyone on the internet with the click of a few buttons.

  44. Sam Calahan says:

    Great essay! It’s hard to think of those we interact with via the internet as “family,” but you made some compelling points about how they serve many purposes associated with the family. Of course, they obviously differ in one fundamental way, missing arguably the most important function of the family – physical human contact. Without this, everyone in the “internet family” would be posting “forever alone” pictures with none able to console any other. I think that the ever-increasing prevalence of the internet and its ability to serve many familial functions, combined with it’s lack of actual human contact, is contributing to a loss of “real” familial connections. We all know what it’s like to be in a conversation with someone who’s scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or whoknowswhat, only for them to look up and ask, “Sorry, what were you saying?”

  45. Gabe DuPont says:

    Good job addressing a cultural phenomenon that we are only just now seeing transpire. Our generation is the 1st in human history to be almost entirely connected to the global. While we know this is becoming part of the human experience, we don’t know the implications of this trend. I found it interesting that you view the internet community as a family. While one is not likely to think of that at first glance, the internet community can draw many correlations to a family. The theories you used were good, but I would have been interested in seeing how a structural-functionalist would have dealt with this form of change. All in all, great ideas and great essay!

Comments are closed.