Subcultures of One

Simon Barrett, the writer of You’re Next and The Guest (and some other movies I would rather not mention), appeared in an episode of re:View to talk about The Guest earlier this year. It’s a half an hour discussion on the film years after it’s release, so it’s not an advertisement, just reflection on it, so if this kind of analysis is your thing or you like small budget movies, you should take a look.

But, in the beginning, he mentions the concept of Subculture of One. A little research tells me that he didn’t come up with the phrase, it has come up here and there, but he was the first source for me on the subject, so let’s run with that.

How he explains it is that in a small town, where it might be hard to find like-minded people and if you’re interested in something different, it is easy to become a subculture of one: the only person to listen to goth music, watch weird movies or something similar. For example, I know people who were very interested in D&D when it came out in Finnish back in ’87, but had trouble finding people to play with. It’s easy to see how this could happen, especially now, when we have access to huge amounts of material. If I was interested in, for example, Nigerian movies (where they actually produce more movies than in Hollywood), I do have access to them, but it might be difficult for me to find other people to share this with.

I think most people join subcultures for social reasons. They find people they like, who have collectively made the decision to like something specific. But that’s the extrovert way of doing it. I know it’s easy to see these people as introverted, but being shy is not only for introverts. However, introverts seem to me as more likely to find something they find weird and wonderful and not have anyone to discuss it with.

Of course, the Internet not only facilitates finding these weird obsessions, but it also enables finding other interested parties. However, that’s not always possible. There’s still a lot of women, who feel they can’t talk about their interest in various subjects, because they will simply be objectified.

Also, even though interactions on the Internet over various forms of social media have become very commonplace, they are still not the same as having an actual shared experience or discussion with a real person. Maybe younger generations, who have grown up with this technology as a huge part of their lives, don’t see a difference, but I do.

I’m a white male with a master’s degree in software engineering and a steady income, so I find it easy to join various subcultures I’m interested in (although I do tend to find the people in various groups disagreeable). However, this is because most of the world has been built specifically for my needs. If I didn’t belong to this group, I might be more inclined to become a Subculture of One. I know many women game on their own, because they’ve found playing with certain males a horrible experience.

This must be a very frustrating situation. I mean, I’ve basically chosen to become a Subculture of One in certain regards, but I wasn’t forced to. I would often like to discuss various things with other people, but it’s just hard for me to find forums to do so in a meaningful way. The Internet provides a lot, but it provides this for all, which means I’d often rather just shut up and think about this stuff on my own, even though I know these discussions might be in many ways beneficial for me.

Still, I have a choice here. I could go out and try to discuss things like certain movies without having to sift through meaningless opinions that don’t add anything to the conversation.

In a way I love my ability to be a Subculture of One. Even if I don’t really have access to a community, at least I can still practice many of these hobbies alone. I can sit and look at my movie collection or fondle the backs of the cases without any kind of help from outside. The intellectual side is going to be lacking without interaction, but I do reflect and that works to a point.

I still find this idea fascinating. Access to billions of people and still being unable to find a group that works for me.

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