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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.
A Writer's Responsibility
Being a writer is awesome. You get to make up worlds, fill them with characters you love, and then kill them off one by one (because making your readers hurt is a special kind of drug). However, there is a lot of personal responsibility that comes with writing as well, and that’s something that a lot of writers don’t seem to realize. There are a lot of things I won’t discuss here that could fall under writer responsibility that people are sure to think should be included – the writer’s responsibility to their characters, to their readers, to agents or deadlines, his responsibility to inspire or change the reader’s life – those things are things that I believe differ from person to person and from writer to writer depending on your situation and beliefs. Instead, I’ll stick with things closely tied to the actual writing process. Onwards, brave companions!
1. Do your own work/writing/research.
Writing is WORK. It is not easy. That being said, you can’t hand off that work to someone else. It’s wonderful to bounce ideas off of someone, but you can’t take credit for their ideas. You also can’t take bits of other people’s writing and call it your own. Plagiarism is gross, guys. Furthermore, writing itself is not the only work that a writer is a responsible for. I’ve written before on how freakin’ important research is, but there’s no doubt that research can be the suckiest part of writing. I know that. Really. I just climbed through a million articles on Shambhala. Research can be horribly boring. However, you still need to do it. You need to do it for the sake of your story, because facts are awesome. Furthermore, you need to do it yourself. Only you know exactly what you need, and only you can decide what is worth including or not worth including. If you can’t do your own research or writing, that also implies that you are lazy or that your story is not worth it, and those are not traits I see in any of the successful writers I personally know. You are responsible for that. It’s a brutal truth, but a truth nonetheless.
2. You are responsible for your successes, but you are also responsible for your failures.
This is a big thing for me. I see a lot of writers that are super thrilled about when their writing goes well for them. It’s an awesome feeling. But I also see writers that love to play the blame game when things go wrong. “I didn’t sleep well last night.” “I just didn’t feel like writing.” “I didn’t want to do my fact-checking.” “My neighbours were being too noisy”. There are a lot of reasons why you might not be able to write, but I will bet that ninety percent of them are based around you. Blaming others does not one any good. If you can accept your successes, you need to be able to accept your failures as well.
3. When you do have a failure, learn from it.
I have what feels like a million writing failures. Really. I have made character mistakes, research mistakes, plotline and development mistakes. I cannot tell you many times I can look back on a certain piece of writing or something I did writing-related, wince, and hope to god that it stays buried in the shallow, cliff-side grave I covertly left it in during a moonlight gardening spree. Failures suck, but good does come from them. You can learn from your failures. Ignoring one of your weaknesses does not make the weakness go away. You owe it to yourself and your awesome writing ability to focus on your weaknesses like an angry shark until those weaknesses have been obliterated and devoured and you are cruising through an ocean of win.
4. Do everything to the best of your ability.
Because laziness sucks, and I KNOW you are better than that. You KNOW when something is not the best of your ability. Do you really want to let it out knowing that you half-assed it? That might work for school essays (guilty as charged over here), but it should never be acceptable for something that you are hoping to make into a career.
5. ACTUALLY WRITE.
This one is a no-brainer people. Seriously, just go do it. That’s the one thing a writer is pretty much totally responsible for.
You can totally do this, guys. So go to it.
If you don’t agree with me on this, that’s cool. If you do, that’s also cool. I am by no means an expert and this is just my personal opinion. I also think that Sharktopus and Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus are legitimate examples of excellent cinema, so there you go.
Next time someone asks you why you did something, tell them this
Say,” Because I’m a borderline narcissistic sociopath, who along with feeling no remorse for my actions, has no intent to accept responsibility for any meaningless feelings I may have harmed,hurt or otherwise distraught”
Better than saying,” I don’t know”