Real Communities Forming Online – Peek to Soft Toy Lovers Community on Instagram

I started to publish pictures of my soft toys on Instagram little over year ago. My account is called Doll n Teddy Life. I had taken holiday pictures of the toys before and published them on Facebook to my friends. Some of my friends said to me that I should start a photo blog. I did not feel that normal old fashioned blog was for me because they are quite static and I have not been interested in other peoples blogs. Years went by. Then I found Instagram and thought that this would be the right place for my pictures, so I started my blog there. What came as a surprise to me was that there are lots of people around the world like me, people who take pictures of their toys and carry them around with them all the time. I had met only one like me before. Katriina Heljakka calls this phenomenon photoplay in her study Principles of adult play(fulness) in contemporary toy cultures : from wow to flow to glow (2013). I call myself a blogger, because that is what I feel my photoplay is and I call other people that do the same thing on Instagram bloggers normally too and also in this article. If you want to check some of the blogs out on Instagram, you should try #plushiesofinstagram. And some good blogs you can go and see are for example Kerle the Squire, Honey Grove Bears and 2 Coll Toyz.

It also came to me as a surprise that there is tight community on Instagram among people who publish photos of their plushies/soft toys. And it is a real community even if it is mainly online. It is hard to estimate the size of the community. New bloggers are creating their accounts and as in normal communities you do not know everyone. There is a community of bloggers in Twitter too, but I am not part of it even though I do my post on Twitter too. I do not have time to be part of two communities in two platforms.

The community gives its members support when needed and also takes part on their joys. For example if some one faces cyberbullying  on Instagram and the community becomes awere of this, there are lots of supporting posts against the phenomenon. If someone is having health problems, people are commenting, on the post that the information is given, ”get well soon”. One person (or human, as some of the people behind the profiles call them selfs) was in major surgery last fall and had complications when recovering from it. One of the plushie bloggers who knows him personally was updating information on Instagram about his condition so that everyone could know what was going on. And when he got back home from the hospital there was a welcome home party for him. People took photos of their plushies partying his homecoming and added hashtag of the party to their posts.

There are lots of events in the community. Event meaning here that you take a part by posting a picture with certain hashtag. Every Tuesday there is a tea party organized by one of the bloggers. In summer 2016 there was plushie Olympics at the same time the real Olympics took place. It was the first event that I took part in. There are also campaigns that go with certain hashtag, for example there was a campaign against bullyism. There was also campaign called ”Plushies with Purpose” basically meaning that people would tell the reason why they are carrying plushies with them. And people also organize giveaways. It is short of way saying thank you for following me. The bloggers also send each other post cards and small gifts. I have not done this but I think it is nice because you get snail mail so really this days.

Overall the atmosphere among the bloggers is loving and supporting. It is funny, that when you have done the blogging for a while you start to feel close with people you have never met. I have noted that I have started to act in the community differently than what is habit in my own Finnish culture. I am commenting things like ”Hugs and Love”, when love-word in seldom used in our culture. When I am posting thank you for followers, when I have reached certain amount of followers, I use the words ”Love you all”, not a Finnish way at all. It is more Anglo-Saxon way and I think it has come as the way of plushie bloggers community.

People and their plushies are also traveling around the world to meet other bloggers and their toys. There can also be bigger meeting in some place. I have not yet taken a part of these meetings even tough some of the bloggers have come to Finland. And there are other bloggers in Finland too. I have not taken part of this real world meeting because I am not so in that community. I have not enough time for it unfortunately. My participation in the community is just liking and commenting pictures of others and attending to some of the campaigns. I would like to be more involved because the people in the community are so wonderful and warm hearted.

I think that that is a good example of who communities today are not only happening in real world and with people that are spatially close. Online communities can be as real too.