Aniwords – How Anime Avatars Explain Life

A little less than two weeks ago, a guy writing for New York Magazine threw out an article that ostensibly linked Twitter users who have anime avatars with a certain internet group, and there was a bit of a fuss about it. I kind of joked about it when the article came out, but I also spent some time musing about it—and so, as I do with most things I spend time thinking about, I wrote a column for Crunchyroll about it!

Here’s the link~


11 thoughts on “Aniwords – How Anime Avatars Explain Life

  1. I’m thinking I’m one of the rare few whose avatar ISN’T an anime avatar. Partly because anime isn’t all that I’m interested in and also in part that I used to (still to some extent) have a deep fascination with birds. Besides, I like so many anime…how can I pick just one?

    Interesting piece. I don’t think much about avatars since I tend to judge people based on their words rather than their virtual appearance (which can change periodically anyway) but I realize now that there is a constancy to many avatar profiles that I unconsciously rely on for identification for aniblogging and Twitter.

    What’s the story behind your avatar, bless?


    • All good points! And yeah, it’s really interesting how people’s avatars can affect the way you read their words. I do think you can get used to people’s speech quirks online, but the avatar is just such an immediate signal about who’s talking. Or, not about, but of.

      And here’s the story behind my avatar!


  2. My avatar isn’t an anime one either… But my “D” is pretty much ubiquitous nowadays. (For reasons that have roots back in the heyday of s.s.* on Usenet.) On Facebook and my photo Tumblr, I use a picture of my camera though. I’m not one of those folks who changes my userpic on a whim either, I set it and forget it.


    • Well, I do get the significance of using the letter “D.” 😉

      And I’m often tempted to change my avatar, but I generally do a pretty good job of resisting because I like my current one a lot.


  3. I change avatars every now and then, but eventually I always revert to this Naoki Urasawa’s rendition of Atom/Astro Boy. Long story short, it’s a character that deeply moved me when I read Pluto back in late 2000s, and I just adore the design. I don’t even realize the physical resemblance until I’m made aware that my IRL friends thought that it’s a self-portrait/caricature of mine, asI used it in a lot of places.


      • For the longest time I thought you were a girl from your female avatar and various headers pictures here on your blog. ISTR this has come up more than once.

        And WRT your reply above, yeah, “D” is my initial… But that’s not the only reason I use it. But it’s a long story of the “you really had to be there” type.


        • Haha yes, indeed, I’ve been told my general online persona/modes of expression + my aesthetic sensibilities make people think I’m a girl. I take it as a compliment. ^_^


  4. I’m kind of in an opposite place, because I use the same WingKing handle on pretty much every anime-related blog/site from here to ANN to MAL since I wanted to establish a clear fandom identity, but MAL itself is where I originated the handle and still the only place where I have an actual avatar to go with it. Of course MAL’s a bit weird anyway since your forum avatar and your chat/comments avatar can both be different if you want, but I have two that both relate to my handle. My forum avatar is Van Fanel from Escaflowne (anyone who’s seen the show would immediately get the link to my handle), and my chat avatar – which also graces my profile page – is a VF-1 Valkyrie from Macross that I personalized with a custom paint job (the link to my handle there is obvious). I like being able to honor two of my most important shows with just one handle, although the Valkyrie is the one I’d be more likely to adopt as a universal avatar if I chose either, since I put a lot more thought and work into it.

    I do think there’s definitely something psychological about seeing a real avatar next to someone’s name, though. Besides the whole picture association thing you talked about, there’s also more of a sense of permanence when you see an avatar; taking the time to put one up subconsciously sends a signal that this person likes the site and intends to stick around for a while, and I think that makes you more likely to read and respond to their comments. I’ve seen that before in other forums, where I suddenly found my posts getting a lot more responses after I put an avatar up than before when I was just a name.


    • Oh, yeah, I have seen that sense of permanence thing you talk about before. Definitely have noticed that people who don’t have avatars can tend to get ignored a little bit—a lack of an avatar=a lack of a personality=a lack of a person or something like that, perhaps?


  5. I don’t associate anime avatars with an specific political or cultural line in general. If anything, I would think that depending on the websites is possible to make some connections but that isn’t always exact.

    Anime News Networks forums are conservative?


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