This thesis aims to merge the three research areas of digital communication, persona studies, and fan studies by examining interactions within the BTS ARMY fandom community in the contemporary microblogging spaces of Twitter and Weverse, and investigates how fans perform, express, and construct their individual and collective identities through digital activities in the age of globalization. The theme of this work was inspired by the increase in popularity of Korean pop music as the evolution of the genre and musicians have been a fascinating phenomenon in globalized culture. However, the focus of this research is on the fans who take part in the fandom not only to receive content related to their beloved idols, but also to participate in online conversations about issues important to their being and lives in society. This exchange of opinions and values can have an effect on individuals in terms of their identity and worldview. In addition, the architecture of the platforms on which fandoms participate is also decisive to this identity construction. Weverse is distinct from Twitter in being solely dedicated to the fan community, while Twitter is a general social network for everyone. This differentiation constructs a paradigm of fans and fandom object shifting in terms of interaction, performance, and identity. To answer the research question of how BTS ARMY fans between 18 to 25 years old use the online social platforms of Twitter and Weverse to interact with each other and the band, 10 qualitative interviews were conducted with BTS fans belonging to ARMY fandom. The data from the interviews was analysed using thematic analysis, with five main themes identified. First, interviewees explained their own interpretations of fan concepts by distinguishing them as individual understandings of being ARMY and belonging to the BTS fandom. Second, collective fan identities were established on the basis of belonging to the ARMY community and undertaking joint fan activities. Third, the behaviours and self-expressions of ARMYs were consistently replicated within the individual identities of BTS fans. Fourth, observations concerning the affordances offered to fans by Twitter and Weverse were explicated. Fans acknowledge social media’s worldwide reach in uniting subculture communities, as well as the technological capabilities that allow fans and the band to interact in both direct and indirect means. Finally, the last theme looked at the constraints of these two platforms for fans. The respondents criticize the undeveloped Weverse features that prevent direct interaction between users as a result of the differences in the architecture of both platforms. Similarly, fans express dissatisfaction with Twitter notifications that prioritize data collection from user accounts over social interaction. This research concludes that fans take advantage of the diverse features offered by the platforms, which enable them to engage with other members of the formed community with whom they share collective identification, as well as use those characteristics that allow the control and articulation of their individual identities.

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Dr. William McCarthy
Media & Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Zuzanna Ilejko. (2021, July 31). „Got ARMY right behind us”: BTS ARMY fan identities on Twitter and Weverse. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from