Some (Serious) Thoughts On Tumblr
I’ve been using this website for about two and a half years now, starting just before I moved to Paris in 2010. At the time, I imagined that it would be like any other blogging platform I’ve used (a hobby that used to be really close to my heart, but which had slipped by the wayside in the three-ish year period where I was pretty depressed/unhappy with myself/convinced that I had nothing good to write about). Paris seemed like as good a reason as any to start writing again, and tracking my life, and it was. I had almost-limitless things to talk about, and even started to gather a little following of people who were interested in what I had to say. I’m still internet-friends with some of them, and still see them on my dash all the time.
Tumblr also became the impetus to my writing professionally. I would never have been published, or gotten my (beloved) job at Thought Catalog, or signed my book deal, if I hadn’t started on this platform. And as I’ve grown as a writer, I find that the community on here continues to feel as warm and tight-knit as when I started. I’ve made some real friends on here, met people IRL, sent and received things across oceans, and generally found that there is so much here that is just wonderful.
And recently, a few people in my life whose work I am always excited to read have joined Tumblr themselves (or increased their presence), which gives me all the more reason to write and participate and try to up the level of quality I bring to my space on here. I think, all things considered, Tumblr has been a net positive influence in my life. I will forever be thankful for all of the things that it brought me, and the amazing people I’ve met.
That being said, it is hard not to notice some of the attitudes and resentments that can fester here. I recently wrote a little post about how negative Tumblr can be, and it wasn’t fully serious, but there was a large amount of truth to it. It’s not so much that I find everyone on here negative, or even that the people I happen to have on my dash participate in what I view as unhealthy worldviews, but I think that the nature of what is popular and idolized on here necessarily affects everyone who participates in it.
It’s simply a fact that the self-deprecating posts, the ones that glorify depression/mental illness, the ones that revel in the poster’s inability to succeed or progress or attain some nebulous idea of “adulthood,” the ones that go so far as to edge on the outer boundaries of self-hate — these are the ones that are most popular. They fit into a kind of overarching theme of warped, exaggerated, likely insincere humility. “We are all terrible,” it seems to say, “but at least it means we don’t think we’re better than anyone else.”
It clearly fits into another big Tumblr phenomenon — political correctness to the point of communicative handicap. We see people who scream for not properly using the word “demisexual,” or who literally tell people to kill themselves over not checking their Thin Privilege. (Side note: Telling people to kill themselves is disgusting and inexcusable, and if you feel that whatever conversation you’re in has reached the point where a call to suicide is the only feasible response, you remove yourself from the fucking conversation like an adult and stop indulging it with your participation. This should not need to be explained, and yet I see people in their FORTIES participating in this kind of behavior on here.)
While those examples are obviously extreme, the overall culture of checking your privilege and calling others out (often, I believe, for the sake of making yourself look better, or to gain some kind of internet brownie points) feeds into content that is heavily centered on the self-deprecating and insecure. Some of it undoubtedly comes from serious self-consciousness, or a desire to insult yourself before someone else does, but we all realize that this kind of behavior is what gains popularity. It gains notes, it gains followers, it gains people who want to imitate you.
I have beautiful women who post non-stop posts about how ugly and incompetent and awful they are, accompanied with beautiful selfies and posts about the fun things they’re doing with their life. I have people who post endless stories about failed relationships and dates which prove to be equally disappointing in the exact same way for years on end. I have people whose sole activity is making short, self-deprecating posts that gain enormous amounts of notes from people who want to give the impression that they hate themselves as much as OP supposedly does.
One of the reasons I love following fitspo blogs — especially people who are going through serious transformations in their life — is that they are almost universally positive and optimistic. Although they are, on a day-to-day basis, making a lot of tough decisions and putting in unpleasant, hard work, they are looking towards the future with excitement and a sense of independence. They are finally saying, after years of excuses, that they want to take their health in their hands and achieve the goals they have always dreamed of.
(I am not even going to address the more vitriolic Fat Acceptance activists on this website who then harass or antagonize these people, as they are too pathetic to warrant discussing.)
But reading the blogs of people who are making change in their lives inspires me deeply, and reminds me how much of my life is in my own hands. There is a perfect storm on Tumblr — between the self-deprecation and the crippling political correctness — of complete dismissal of personal agency. Rarely do people say, “Maybe there is something that I can change, maybe this has something to do with me, maybe there are ways to make things better.” It’s so much easier to engage in half-hearted acts of self-mockery or complain about all of the things happening in your life that you don’t like than it is to take serious moments of introspection to decide the tangible things you can do on a daily basis to improve your station in life, and the station of those around you.
So when I read the blogs of people who were, only a year ago, battling serious disease and overall impaired health, who now have a future as bright and promising as they want to imagine it — it’s like taking a deep breath of fresh air. Because their optimism and hard work on one subject manages to bleed into every aspect of their life, and they are some of the funniest and most lighthearted, happy people I have found on this website. And every day, they are fighting against their own odds and forcing themselves to make a change. They could easily be complaining, and they choose not to — but (especially because of how ludicrously unpopular fitspo is here) they are a fairly isolated community on Tumblr.
One thing that is very important to me right now is personal responsibility. I’m 24, and am in the early stages of a life of financial independence, career development, relationships, children, travel, and good friends. But only if I am willing to work for and cultivate them every day. I often think of myself at 21, completely rudderless and in self-imposed debt of all kinds, getting arrested for something as idiotic as driving on a suspended license (yes, I know), too embarrassed of my life and wasted potential to ever really tell anyone about myself, spending months taking buses for almost 2 hours a day to get to a terrible job that gave me just enough money to get a one-way plane ticket to go somewhere that would hopefully change my life. I hated myself in a way I can’t even really understand at this point, and I never want to be that person again.
But what was most significant about that person was that she never took responsibility. She never acknowledged her role in things, and was always eager to pointlessly self-deprecate and say she was incapable of being better, and blame everyone around her for her own failures. And when I see so many intelligent, capable, attractive, inspiring young people around me who write as though they were Chelsea circa 2010 and had no greater aspirations or hopes for the person they could become, I find it profoundly depressing.
There are great things about this website, no doubt. There are communities which can form, information which can be exchanged, and friends which can be made. But there is also a tone of seriously unhealthy self-image and shifting of responsibility, one which can permeate even the most confident person and convince them that this is what their generation consists of. We make these attitudes popular on here, and who knows what kind of influence they are having on the way we see the world around us. I know that I sometimes feel much worse when I close this website than I did when I opened it, much less optimistic and hopeful about my life and my generation. And I never want that to happen to anyone.
I guess what I want to say is that we are all capable of so much, and can take so much of our life in our own hands. There is so much about ourselves to love, and embrace, and be proud of — there is no reason to feign insecurity or shift responsibility to the people who will never be anything but indifferent about your success. I recommend everyone find and follow people who are positive, and challenging themselves, and demanding of the world around them. Because we might find it temporarily satisfying to see someone else complain about their own lives, but it only prevents us from remembering how much we are capable of doing with our own.
Yahoo buys Tumblr
The news is official, Yahoo buys Tumblr for 1.1 billion.
There are a lot of people up in arms about it for good and bad (mostly bad) reasons. It should be made clear that startups (and companies) are in the business to make money. Startups are built for exits. Sometimes that timeline has a long horizon (IPO). Sometimes they are short (acquired, sold, fold). That’s why investors are willing to invest in them; so that one day they might bring back a large return for their risk.
As much as I love milk tea, Boba Guys isn’t “just for fun”. Our goal has always been to be the very best at what we do and to change the tea game like the Blue Bottles and Philz Coffees of the world have been able to do for coffee. Building and owning your own company is a lot of fun, but we’ve also put in a huge chunk of our life savings and countless hours into it. It takes its toll.
No entrepreneur in their right mind spends a huge chunk of their life building something for free. Money isn’t everything, but it’s certainly part of the equation. How it comes (through advertising, paid subscription, talent/tech/user acquisition) isn’t always uniform but payment is unequivocally rendered. If Tumblr gave me the option to get paid out for putting ads on my site, the left side would be Phoenix College and the right side would be penis pills before you could refresh.
What’s troubling to see is that there is a lot of entitlement towards something we didn’t create. Even worse, there’s backlash when a startup decides to monetize. We saw it happen with Instagram. It’s a free service and it’s awesome! We use the service and we can leave at any time.
One could argue that the services would be nowhere without the users (or early adopters). I would counter that I have acquired far more value from Tumblr, than they have from me. And I’ve been on the service for almost 5 years and paid nothing. When Google Reader decided to shut down, I was disappointed but optimistic that someone would pick up where it left off and make it better because again, I paid nothing and deserve nothing. If I cared enough, I might even build my own.
We live in interesting times..the tools and technology available today enables anyone with an Internet connection to build and deploy anything we want to see in the world. Don’t like a blogging platform anymore? Roll your own. Hate ads? Learn to pay when you receive value. I’ve never bothered to e-beg like Maria Popova but would you be upset if I did?
“There are no stats programs here. There is no like button.”
For as long as I have wanted to be a writer – and that’s about 40 long years – there was never any part of that dream that included obsessively checking a page of statistics and judging my self worth by the numbers within. I always wrote for the sheer pleasure of it, from putting that first word down to finishing the final edit, writing has always been a labor of love. Recently, it had become just a labor.
So here I am back at my old domain, the one where I started writing publicly (ok, blogging) in 2001, the one where I started telling my stories to the world. I’m taking the majority of my writing away from tumblr, away from the hearts and reblogs, away from the instant validation. I don’t want to labor anymore. I want to love what I write. I want to love why I write.
There are no stats programs here. There is no like button. I will have no idea how many people will read each post. But I will write and I will learn to love to write again.
I was chatting with Michele on Twitter, and she said, “For the first couple of years I blogged I had no idea how many readers I had. And I was better off for it.” It reminded me of Greil Marcus, talking about the early days of Rolling Stone, when they said, “My God, people are actually paying attention to this. Let’s pretend they aren’t.”
Wordpress has found itself flush with a few new users following news of the Yahoo/Tumblr deal
- 400-600 posts per hour are typically imported from Tumblr to new Wordpress blogs, according to founder Matt Mullenweg, prior to the company’s recently announced acquisition by Yahoo.
- 72,000 posts per hour have been imported since news of the buyout first broke, though that’s hardly a number for Yahoo/Tumblr execs to worry about, given the site’s 75 million post per day average. source
“When you get to a point where you’ve read an amazing number of books, you change. You’ve read so much that what may seem new or interesting to most (and even to the writer of the book you’re reading) is just a variation to you. Your expectations regarding the work change. Due to subjectivity being what it is, many writers can mistake what’s happening and view it as the books getting worse, not their own aesthetic changing. Two things can happen. One, despair at what they perceive is the dying of quality. You see this a lot with people who hit a certain number of books read: they begin to rail against the dreadfulness of everything. It can lead to bitterness, cynicism, and outright hatred of something they previously loved. Secondly, and you see this with a lot of artists, is that they begin to gravitate toward something that feels new to them. They seek out ‘artist’s artists’ and are not happy when those voices aren’t welcomed by the mainstream, because these are stories aimed at people who’ve simply consumed a terrific amount of fiction to be able to enjoy the work.”—
I like this idea. It makes me wonder whether the same thing can be said not just for books and music (specifically, I’m thinking of the new Savages album), but film… food… everything. Are there certain high water-marks we reach and never really come back from as manic consumers of something?