This is the first time I’ve used a non-Tumblr platform for a personal blog since about 2010. My first blog, now many years defunct, was on Blogspot; I mainly posted digital art I’d made using Inkscape and GIMP. Back then I vaguely wanted to be an illustrator or graphic designer, and a friend in one of my middle school art classes recommended that I join Tumblr for the art community. Once I did, my young mind was immediately warped by the website’s truly singular culture. This is not an indictment of Tumblr—I think all young minds get warped by one thing or another. For me it just happened to be Tumblr.
I love Tumblr, and not even in a “this website has so many freaks for me to gawk at I can’t believe it’s free entertainment” way, although that definitely contributes to my affection. For all its faults, Tumblr has remained one of the few websites I use that is not yet overrun with advertisements, influencers, or solely algorithm-pushed content. I can still log on and know that the posts I see will be from people I choose to follow, and that they will be in chronological order, and that the prospect of anyone making money from their Tumblr posts is laughable. To me these are basic requirements of any website that is supposed to be conducive to human interaction, and the fact that almost every non-Tumblr social platform fails these criteria is a sign that social media is not in fact about socializing at all.
Tumblr, though, never felt as nakedly exploitative of its users as the other platforms on which I grew up. As more and more content—I hate that word; please imagine me grimacing each time I type it—got shunted through the normalizing ecosystem of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, BuzzFeed, et al., Tumblr continued to generate real weirdness. And it was also a place to make real friends. There are people I’ve met on Tumblr with whom I’ve been friends for nearly ten years. Multiple friendships from Tumblr have now turned into IRL ones, and I would be genuinely overjoyed to meet any of my Tumblr mutuals offline.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when my local government announced a stay-at-home order, I was very grateful to have Tumblr’s longstanding community of friends, comrades, fellow-sufferers. Rather than being subdued by the grim prospect of Rona World 2k20, the website seemed refreshed and fecund. I have always seen Tumblr as a repository for the bizarre, and under the most bizarre circumstances of my life to date, I enjoyed having a space in which all my online pals and I could process our collective delirium.
But then the bizarre became the mundane, and the mundane became traumatizing. The mainstays of Tumblr behavior—casual self-deprecation; flippant references to bad coping mechanisms; obsessive hyper-theorizing about random media—stopped feeling like fun escape hatches from the careful late capitalist smoothness of the non-Tumblr internet. Everyone was locked inside and dealing with the most psychologically taxing period in recent history, and we were dealing poorly because there is no way to deal well with these times, and yet here we were posting through it all the same. Like things were normal. Like this was just the regular level of maladaptive Tumblr weirdness, and not the online equivalent of a terrified infant grasping desperately for familiar stimuli.
I love Tumblr, but I can’t keep using it right now. I need a void that won’t scream back. Substack is probably not the right platform either, quite frankly; I read some of their articles for new writers about building your audience and defining a niche and that shit honestly gave me hives. That being said, Substack is a lot nicer for longform writing than Tumblr, I like the interface, and I am intrigued if not entirely convinced by the prospect of an email newsletter. So we’ll see how this goes. If it sucks, IDK, maybe I’ll move to Neocities or something.
Some things you can expect see me post here at some point:
Anyway, thank you for reading this. I know I said above that I needed a screamless void, but I actually would like to know what you think, about this post or any of the ones to come. Please do reach out to me with any thoughts or arguments.