Who runs the Internet? furries

The IT industry is full of people involved in this unique fandom about anthropomorphic animal characters. In front of IRLmeets Dylan Reeve four furries to investigate why this might be.

“Furries run the internet.” It’s a common refrain among IT industry geeks on Twitter and elsewherebut there is certainly truth in it, and that is the case even in Aotearoa.

The furry fandom is a subculture that focuses on anthropomorphic animal characters. For the most part, the subculture sees people participating in message boards and groups online, just like any other fandom. Just as Swifties gather online to share images, stories, remixes and products dedicated to Taylor Swift’s wonders, furries meet online to share conversations, media and content about six-foot-tall biped wolves, for example.

Many outsiders, if they know anything about furries at all, assume that the community is little more than an obscure kink. This is simply not the case, according to both insiders and those who have written about the fandom. However, it’s a bias that furries are well aware of, and it means many aren’t comfortable being open about their participation.

Ember Fox, a purple cyberpunk Fennec fox, was doing server maintenance. (Photo: @slideruleskunk on Twitter)

Despite the low public profile of the furry fandom, it is often suggested, and seems anecdotally true, that IT experts are overrepresented among community members. As such, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of behind-the-scenes furries at communications and technology companies around the world. Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon: probably all the biggest tech names in the world have key furries.

Briefly: in one tweet from 2019: “All modern communication would collapse if about 50 people, most of whom are furries, decided to turn off their pagers for a day”. Or, in another tweet: “I guarantee the internet would collapse in the most horrific way if all the furries in the world let Thanos break.”

Another recent tweetin response to a photo of dozens of furries together on a flight, he imagined another disaster scenario: “I object to many Furries being on the same plane because if there were an accident it would destroy the US IT industry.” paralyze in an instant.”

Things may not be so final in New Zealand, but we’d still know if we lost all our furries in a freak accident, said MJ*, a cloud computing consultant and furry conference organizer. “It would definitely have a noticeable impact,” he told me on the phone. “You would surely find many” [IT] companies with large shortages in some departments.”

According to MJ, there are even furries in senior management and c-suite positions within well-known New Zealand companies.

H*, a software developer with “half a degree in computer science, a degree in IT technical support and a degree in software engineering,” suggested that the fandom was widely represented in New Zealand’s IT. “I haven’t come across a single major IT company that doesn’t have at least one of us working,” they noted during an encrypted voice chat. “Often in senior positions.”

Ember Fox*, a chief software engineer from Pittsburgh, told me that the situation is similar in the US, but on a larger scale. “There are a lot of furries that have a lot of different functions in the technology,” she told me during a video call. “Furries exist throughout the tech industry hierarchy. A friend of mine is a CTO at a company and when I was working at a university I was a manager there and I had some student employees who were furries.”

MJ’s fursona is a large, not particularly furry, dragon. (Image: included)

MJ has been active in the IT industry in New Zealand for over a decade and now helps companies navigate the complex world of cloud computing. Most of his friends in the furry community know what he does for a living, but due to the sexualized public perceptions, the same is not the case. “It’s something I wouldn’t hide or deny if it came up, [but] I’m not sharing it unnecessarily,” he explained. “A lot of it is because I’m in consulting, and there’s definitely a certain ‘corporate persona’.”

H is similar. “It’s not something I would normally mention in my professional life,” they explained. “People in IT tend to be vague about what communities are like online, but there is a perception about the fandom that is sometimes wrong.”

Negative perceptions of the furry community are often influenced by a few overly mainstream images in which the fandom is often presented as little more than a fetish community. One of the most talked-about examples was in the 2003 CSI episode “fur and disgust”, suggesting that the fandom was little more than huge fur-suit orgies.

H’s fursona is a black and blue furred domestic cat with heterochromia, ie differently colored eyes. (Image: @JaybeeSFW on Twitter)

This is totally false, according to the furries I’ve spoken to. Instead, they describe an inclusive and welcoming online community where they feel safe to be themselves. “There is a high prevalence of queer people in the fandom. First, because it’s often a very acceptable space, and second, because it gives people a way to experiment with their identity in a safe way,” H explained.

Final*, a systems engineer at an Internet service provider, explained some of the origins of furry communities online and their value to their members: “We created our own spaces and websites to come together and be in our communities. are spaces that we can moderate to ensure that hateful people have no voice on the platform, and we can keep it safe, especially for members of the fandom who are younger.”

But why are there so many furries in IT? There are no definitive answers, but the inherently online nature of the fandom probably has something to do with it, according to most of the furries I spoke to. “If you’re part of the furry fandom, you spend quite a bit of time on the internet reaching out to other like-minded people,” Final suggested. “You spend quite a lot of time online, you become handy in [computing] and then you will pursue a career in that.”

FINal’s fursona is a fictional species of their own design called an Aliudae. (Image: @DSteverArt on Twitter)

“The fandom is also a very friendly place for queer and neurodivergent people, and there are a lot of those kinds of people in technology too, because a lot of people like us prefer to work with computers than with people,” explains Ember Fox.

This strong connection between the furry community and IT also provides networking opportunities for furries. “A lot of the people I know who work in IT I originally met through the fandom,” H told me.

“I can’t go to a conference in [the IT] space without it, in fact, ending up as a fur-meet-up of a particular description,” said MJ. “So I’ve literally gotten contacts for different aspects of the job. And people will often post about jobs. I know from the fandom recommended for jobs, and vice versa.”

For Ember Fox, the idea that her next job might come through a furry connection is very realistic. “I interviewed through furry contacts for a number of different jobs. The job I currently have was through a traditional recruiter, but my short list for other places I’d like to work includes mostly furry people,” she said. “So probably the furry community would be the most likely vector if I left my current role.”

So is it true that the internet is run by furries? Perhaps – there is certainly some truth to the idea, the fandom is well represented behind the scenes of the IT world. But don’t worry, we’re all in safe paws.

*All furries in this story are identified by their fursona names or initials to protect their privacy.

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