Obscurity, Miscellaneous and the Internet’s Testosterone

Andrés Monroy-Hernández 2012-03-08

Recently, the influential, yet obscure, bodybuilding.com‘s forums were a bit on the spotlight after some of its members discovered a security hole in Facebook.

Influence through Obscurity.

I find it interesting that, despite their influential role, a number of online communities, such as 4chan and the bodybuilding forums, remain somewhat obscure. I believe 4chan did not gain a lot of mainstream media attention until the whole Anonymous-Wikileaks scandal, and even then, the number of even tech-savvy people who confuse 4chan with FORTRAN is not negligible. Perhaps, as someone during ROFLCON mentioned, these communities are insular and newbie-adverse on purpose as  a way to maintain their underground status.  They rely heavily on in-jokes and secret handshakes that take a lot of lurking to decode.

All  Forums Tend to Miscellaneous 

The bodybuilding forums, like 4chan and others, grew a large and active sub-community out of their “Miscellaneous” section. Even on the Scratch Online Community, a wholesome website primarily for kids to share their own video games and animations, the  ”Miscellaneous” discussion’s forum has been the most active and rowdy social space of the website. But has also served as some sort  of public square for the community that I think is something that most online communities need to maintain authenticity at the expense of rowdiness.

Internet’s Testosterone

Some people have noted the similarities between 4chan and the bodybuilding forums. In particular, between /b/ and the bodybuilding’s Misc forum. The platforms are significantly different, bodybuilding.com uses pseudonyms and has archives while 4chan  is completely anonymous and ephemeral. Despite those differences, different events have shed light at the possibility that both communities have a  decent amount of overlap.

I think part of it is the population they attract. The population of a website focused on bodybuilding is somewhat easy to stereotype: young males with a lot of testosterone. /b/ is a bit harder, but based on the content, it seems like testosterone is a common denominator as well. It is interesting, and perhaps obvious, that when you bring a bunch of young males together, similar kind of content tends to emerge.


Despite the wide adoption of  the Internet by a large percentage population, it seems like gender-based clustering continues to exist. I wonder then, what would be the opposite of 4chan and the bodybuilding forums? Is Internet culture disproportionately influenced by male-centric online spaces?  What female online spaces have the most influence? Is the Internet always going to be about Justin Bieber vs “bros“?