Tumblr is my social media platform of choice. A blogging website founded in February 2007 with the social capabilities of Twitter, Tumblr allows users to upload content, follow other blogs and “reblog” other users’ posts. All without Twitter’s 140 character limitation.
As a young woman in the 18-24 age bracket, I represent the typical Tumblr user: 54 per cent are female and 62 per cent are under 35-years-old.
My Tumblr is a confessional journal and one of 170.9 million active blogs on the site. I have been embarking on some life changes recently and I wanted to blog about my experiences, anonymously. I soon found myself part of a global community of similar individuals. My follower count rocketed. My blog thrived.
Not only is Tumblr an outlet for content, it is a resource. My dashboard, with its continuous scrolling front page akin to Twitter’s, that displays the posts of users you follow, was like an Aladdin’s cave of information. Scrolling down my dashboard, anybody could create a detailed picture of what made me tick. Scroll – personal blogs. Pop culture ‘fandom blogs’. bell hook quotations and articles on misogynoir. Make-up and natural hair tutorials. Scroll, scroll, scroll.
Tumblr can be a great haven for women, especially WoCs, the LBGT community and abuse survivors – those often not spotlighted by the mainstream media. Young women can find content which speaks to their experiences, no matter how niche they may be. Vintage Black Glamour, The Sex Uneducated and Karnythia are just some my many favourites covering the political, social, health, art and appreciation blogs focused on female issues.
Tumblr and I are now on a break, however. Like everything on earth, it has its limitations. With 76.4 billions posts and around 113.6 million new posts per day, it is extremely easy to become overwhelmed, a little obsessed and ultimately consumed by the machine.
There is a search, tag and category function, but the categories are very broad and only spotlight a handful of blogs. Posts can be tagged with buzzwords, but it’s all too easy to become a victim to the ‘never ending scroll’.
Signposting could be vastly improved, as it is easy to ‘miss out’ on great content while being flooded by dire and irrelevant posts.
While I used Tumblr anonymously, a lot of users don’t. Users can disable the option to receive anonymous messages but this doesn’t stop abusers creating accounts just to target users with vitriol, something I witnessed way too often. For every Body Positive blog encouraging young women of diverse ethnicities and body types to submit pictures to celebrate womanhood, there are users re-blogging such images with added ridicule, abuse and threats of violence. The “dragging” that I have witnessed has become a turn-off – and caused my several week hiatus from the site.
I do see myself returning as an active user though. Yes, there are some design flaws and trolling is a problem. But the vast majority of my news, ranging from current affairs to pop culture is sourced from the blogs I follow. More often than not it is published before major news websites, with the added commentary of users who would not have a soapbox elsewhere. Tumblr is Twitter without the character limit and someone who likes to expand on ideas, this makes is a ideal social media platform.
Mesha McNeil is the Digital Girls UK coordinator for Digital Women UK.