Tumblr users seek to create identity over image
Now more than ever, social media has achieved ubiquity. While there are so many different platforms on which to communicate, each platform features its own unique sense of character and usage. Whether it’s Instagram for visuals and aesthetics, Snapchat for funny and real moments with close friends, YouTube for comedy and tutorials or Facebook to share articles and keep in touch with people, our choice in social media is slowly becoming a way to not only communicate with one another, but also to define who we are.
Tumblr, however, is the one social media site that differs from them all. While it has the social appeal of Facebook, the aesthetics of Instagram and the humor of Vine and Snapchat, the site has the one thing that the others don’t — anonymity.
The charm of anonymity is that, unlike with every other social media site, the user’s personal identity isn’t defined by every single post made. Consequently, it’s where social awkwardness is welcomed, vulnerability is applauded, self-deprecating humor is the norm and pop culture and social justice issues are discussed endlessly.
Through reblogging, a function where user can repost the content of another user onto their own blog with access to add comment, in addition to liking, Tumblr gives users the ability to spread and exchange ideas in such a new way while reaching a huge platform of people. No longer just limited to our inner circles, this kind of interconnectedness sets Tumblr apart. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, Tumblr provides no contest for the most thumbs up or double taps. Reblogging allows users to appreciate and bask in each other’s collective genius without the feeling of competition.
The counting of these reblogs, likes and comments is compiled in “notes,” which show up on the bottom of each post, indicating how many people interacted with the post. Content that is reblogged can often reach users from all over the globe. People are able to build lasting bonds with complete strangers, some from different countries, over similar views and values in a safe place. Someone you have never met in real life can know more about you than your family and friends, without even knowing who you really are. “Imagine a joke whispered in biology class getting a laugh from a city the size of San Francisco. That’s Tumblr.” says Elspeth Reeve of The New Republic.
According to data from Priceconomics, Tumblr is the number one source for popular website Buzzfeed’s most visited content. Buzzfeed’s most viral story in 2015, a post on whether or not a dress was blue-and-black or white-and-gold, originated from Tumblr. The fact that one of the most successful websites and largest source for viral content in the country is dominated by mostly teenagers says a lot about millennial ability to be leaders in the curation of digital content and community.
On Tumblr, those who don’t know each other on a personal level are faced less with the fear of being scrutinized by their peers. Users benefit from the ability of being able to post a picture of whatever they want and not have to worry about aunts or cousins seeing it, moms calling to ask the reason behind it or classmates gossiping about it. One can be whomever they wish — they could create multiple accounts for specific personas. Whether it’s a community for those who identify as LGBTQ to discuss their shared experience, fandoms of One Direction to make gifs or memes about the latest music video, an audience for anime fan-fiction writers, poets or a forum for those recovering from mental illness or addiction, there’s something for everybody.
Millennials are so overly concerned with the maintenance of their social media personas and the presentation of a successful, joyful life today that it is absolutely refreshing to be in an online community that not only celebrates vulnerability but is able to turn those situations into humor. Tumblr, the virtual world of memes, feminism, social justice, fashion, social justice, art and comedy, serves as a safe haven where one can explore and cultivate their genuine self with an anonymous community of strangers who support each other as they are. If all other social media platforms could evolve into platforms where people can feel valued for their identity rather than the image, then the world would be a better place.