Thoughts on Capper General’s interesting graph of fandom activity online

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We here at Research Is Magic are really happy that the fandom has given us such a warm welcome. A little while ago, Capper General tweeted us this awesome graph:

Brony fandom online activity

It’s neat to see how interest in the show has skyrocketed, while “brony,” at least as a search term, has continued to be about as periphery as it always was. That’s not unexpected: who outside the fandom would be interested in searching for bronies, and who inside the fandom needs to search for bronies? Stated otherwise, if you’re a brony, you probably have your social network already, and you probably get to those networks in ways other than searching for the word brony).

There was some discussion on Twitter about how the fandom is becoming irrelevant based on this graph, but I’m not so sure. /mlp/ has held steady — perhaps it’s dipping a little, but that’s expected: as the show gains a more mainstream audience, 4channers will most likely move on to the next obscure thing that solidifies it as a community (because it excludes people who are not in on the joke/lingo/secret/whatever). The fact that /mlp/ became a thing and is doing well is pretty remarkable as it stands.

Outside of that, the fandom instantiates itself in hashtags and other discrete moments of shared attention. That #MLPSeason4 trended during the premiere of “Daring Don’t”  was pretty amazing, and I think it’s useful to remember that when a new episode airs and thousands of people are tweeting with the same hashtag, that’s a fairly specific group of people with similar levels of devotion to the show (at least relative to everyone else), regardless of how they label themselves.

Beyond that, I’ll need to think a little more about what all this means. The changing role of /mlp/ and the historical role of 4chan more broadly in the history of the fandom needs further investigation. Furthermore, the fandom has always grown from disparate threads of people coming from multiple directions and subcultures–it’s not like an original TV show like Breaking Bad with no previous history, where the fandom must have had one set moment from which it began and the demographic that loved it was largely the demographic for which it was intended.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Capper General’s interesting graph of fandom activity online

  1. I feel like I should apologize for mentioning it so often, but it always seems to be relevant to the topic at hand. The graph above seems to match what the Brony Study people found last year. The fandom is growing, and more than just growing it is growing faster than it ever has before. This information is a little old now and I’m not sure how accurate it still is, but I don’t think there’s any immediate risk of the fandom dissolving or becoming irrelevant.

    The fandom is most definitely changing though, and the /mlp/ board on 4chan may not be the suitable home that it once was. It’s always seemed to me that 4chan was an inherently cynical place and the changing culture of bronies doesn’t seem to support the cynical attitude that is prevalent there anymore. The internet is a really big place though, and the community has definitely grown into other parts of it. I don’t think there will ever come a time when bronies completely abandon 4chan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the 4chan portion of the community began to stagnate while other parts continued to grow.

    I have a story that may help, it happened just today actually. I opened Facebook and saw that my main feed was full of ongoing arguments or incendiary statements designed to start arguments. There was political crap, religious crap, gender crap, social crap and economic crap. Everyone seemed to be so eager to pick fights and it just made me feel tired. Then I went into my brony group.

    In there, people were discussing plushies, and the new vinyl figuring that one of us got, and this picture somebody posted of Rarity in a silly hat. With the click of a button all of that incendiary stuff was gone. Nobody here was trying to be inflammatory or provocative or political, they just came to a shared space to talk about ponies. I know it sounds incredibly silly, but it’s so refreshing to have a place where you can escape all that other crap, even if only for a few moments.

    It’s a place I can be 100% open and sincere, I don’t have to hide my opinions or tone down my rhetoric because none of it exists in that place. These are the kinds of places I think the fandom is expanding into, and unfortunately I don’t think 4chan is the right place for it.

    1. I couldn’t agree more about the positive tone on brony websites, and among the fandom in general. Pretty much every website that I regularly visit, I avoid comments sections like the plague. Not so on Equestria Daily, or now here on Research Is Magic. And it’s not that everyone agrees on everything, it’s just that when disagreements occur, people tend to be civil and respectful, rather than flinging insults and vitriol like I see almost everywhere else.

      1. I can concur with the general positivity.

        Except for when certain topics come up (Princess Twilight, Equestria Girls). It’s winding down now after so much time, but over the long drought even the fun loving atmosphere of EqD took a dour turn whenever those were brought up.

        It’s why I was incredibly happy to see both there and on Derpibooru (the main pony sites I visit) to see a pleasant happy tone amongst nearly everyone after the Season 4 premiere aired. I even said that it seemed like the prior nine months of turmoil hadn’t even occurred.

        With Danny’s comment about seeing his Facebook feed being filled with flame worthy material, but finding peace and solace amongst Brony related things, I’m with him there. I hardly use my Facebook anymore because nearly every one I know posts things that could send me into a frothing rage, but I look in the comments of certain posts on EqD and know I’m among my own kind now (I shook my head and lamented that it’s the people I know personally who seriously piss me off, yet it’s the complete strangers who I only know through user names and avatars that I feel happy with).

        I think the vitrol of the last few months were only because it had been so long without new episodes, so some were going stir crazy. Things have severely calmed down now that new episodes are airing again.

        Hey, it’s like the song goes: “A fire of friendship lives in our Hearts, as long as it burns we cannot drift apart. Though quarrels arise their numbers are few. Laughter and singing will see us through.” (And I just this second realized that the renewal of new episodes was our Hearth’s Warming Eve glowing heart).

        1. There does seem to be a lot of alarmist stuff in the community, and I honestly don’t care much for that. I got to miss most of it because I only came into the fandom after season 3 concluded, but I did get to witness the full fury of the EQG scare.

          On some levels I can understand it. People are generally afraid of change, and especially for a community that is so deeply invested in the source material as we are, I understand that a perceived change can be a very scary thing. But looking back over things I can’t help but think all of it is a little bit silly. One of the primary draws of the show is character development, and you cannot have any real character development without change. So how is it that the community can simultaneously love that the show changes, and be terrified when the show changes? It strikes me as fundamentally dissonant.

          I see it as a natural evolution though. Things change along the way and people who can’t deal with it gradually fall away, so the community is constantly self regulating and leaving only positively minded persons behind. To tie this back to my original point, and once again to the Brony Study (seriously, sorry guys) I think that’s why we’ve seen the brony presence on 4chan taper off. We may have started there, but we started with a high degree of cynicism and negativity that has been winnowed out as the community as a whole has grown more positive and accepting. The very environment that once nurtured this community has become vitriolic to the core values that it holds today, so naturally the community has migrated to more habitable locations.

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