Life on the internet moves quickly. Internet cultures in particular grow, evolve, and sometimes die out so quickly that most mainstream people are completely unaware of their existence. When it comes to electronic girls and electronic boys, their influence is now so widespread that the mainstream can’t help but notice.
If you’ve been stumped by the recent talk about “e-girls” and “e-boys,” you might benefit from a quick explainer of these colorful internet personalities.
History and Origins of Boys and Girls
E-boys and e-girls are a fairly recent phenomenon. It mostly coincides with the launch of TikTok, which took place in 2018. TikTok is of course a unique short-form video sharing site. A little bit like now no longer exists Vine, TikTok allows users to post 15-second video clips. This format has spawned many new genres of online content and is home to many fads and trends that sweep through the web like a tsunami.
It is in the brave new world of dancers and singers that the electronic girls have found their true home. It wasn’t long before the electronic boys became a distinct variation on the style and culture of the electronic girls, culminating in a fascinating culture that is still evolving to this day.
The people we now know as electronic boys and girls don’t just appear carefree on TikTok. It seems Tumblr may have been the incubator for the online personality type that would eventually become the electronic people discussed here. The term “e-girl” can be traced back to the late 2000s, but it started as a derogatory term to refer to attention-seeking women who frequent the internet.
Main influence on E-girl and E-boy culture
The e-girl and e-boy culture is the result of a long lineage and wide amalgamation of different influences. It combines closely with other important elements of internet culture such as 4chan image board (go there at your own risk!) and other internet meme sources like Reddit.
There are clear signs of goth and punk movements, which have been around for a while before the web. Those influences are perhaps filtered through the lens of the emotional fashions that were a mainstay of Tumblr and the 2000s in general.
In addition to major fashion influences, Japanese cultural media such as anime and manga are very evident. Especially the “kawaii” (cute) culture, which is itself a major driving force in Japanese popular culture. The popularity of K-Pop (Korean pop music) in the West is also influential. Although the K-Pop aesthetic is more popular in the electronic boys aspect.
Speaking of music, artists like Billy Eilish are important contributors to the world of e-boys and e-girls. However, musical influences are constantly evolving and can change rapidly.
E-boys and E-girls are those who resist influence
One of the main reasons why people are suddenly interested in electronic girls and electronic boys, is Business Insider’s article. That article does an excellent job at outlining the entire culture, but one part of it is particularly poignant. Author Paige Leskin draws parallels between e-girls and e-boys and the counterculture fashion of the punk and goth eras.
It’s part of a response to the fake, glossy world of Instagram influencers. It’s gross, dirty, and sometimes unabashedly sexual. Electronic boys and girls aren’t looking for the mainstream ideal of a perfect life, lying on the beach sunbathing and drinking expensive cocktails. They are rude, dirty and anti-establishment.
What is “Ahegao”?
A pervasive element of culture when it comes to electronic girls is the so-called “ahegao” face. As mentioned above, Japanese anime and manga have a strong influence on subcultures and include adult content found in the media. The word “ahegao” roughly means “lewd face” and is basically the exaggerated face of (mostly) female characters in “hentai” (Japanese adult animation) as they in ecstasy.
That now-iconic expression has taken on an ironic, meme-like life of its own and is part and parcel of the e-girl personality. A pioneering contributor to the e-girl trend is an online influencer named Belle Delphine. While Delphine herself can now be classified as an adult actress, the ahegao face is embedded in an electronic girl like the “V for Victory” sign that originates from kawaii culture.
Like so many things that go through zeitgeist, chances are many people who adopt this part of the e-girl style don’t know where ahegao comes from, but everyone certainly knows it has deep undertones.
Although the terms “girl” and “boy” are used to describe these aesthetics, they are not necessarily gendered. Each person represents an appearance that can be accepted by people of any gender.
Determining exactly what these girls and boys look like can be difficult, as no two people will have the same set of factors. However, as with goths and punks, you’ll know it when you see it.
Electronic girls usually have light hair or at least wear light wigs. This is largely thanks to the influence of Japanese anime on the subculture. Anime characters often have fanciful hair colors like pink, purple, or blue.
In terms of clothing, makeup, and accessories, there’s often a mix of dark goth- and punk-inspired pieces mixed with kawaii elements like Hello Kitty items. In terms of makeup, the idea is to create a vulnerable, youthful and, generally, pale look if we’re being honest.
Electronic boys have a special set of hairstyles, often including the middle part popularized by K-Pop stars. Many other fashion elements are shared with E girls, but focus more on masculinity and sensitive masculinity.
E-boys and E-girls Live On Screen Only
For now, at least, e-girls and e-boys are largely confined to their webcams and social media accounts. It’s less likely that you’ll see them when you wake up walking around the supermarket. It is the performing arts that go hand in hand with themes such as progressive politics, gender attitudes and sexual ethics.
In that sense, it’s a bit like scissors, where the typical drag queen looks like a regular person in public, albeit with shaved eyebrows! As such, your typical e-girl or e-boy would look like an ordinary young person on the street, perhaps with light dyed hair.
This may change in the future, as the interface becomes more mainstream. This can lead to people mimicking the subculture without really understanding what it means.
We’ve seen this happen again and again with other subcultures like punk, goth, and metal fashion. That could end up in mainstream social media sites like the Kardiashians wearing the iconic shirts of heavy metal culture, without any interest or appreciation for the music. Music created it. So if you ever spot an electronic girl or an electronic guy in real life, make sure they support them.