Picture it. Orlando. 2008. College. I’m crushin’ hard on a tall hunk who tells me about a new Livejournal-esque platform called Tumblr. I rush to get an account with excitement, ready to fill the hole in my heart that was itching for a way to get my creativity and thoughts out in the form of online content. I finally had a new and improved platform I could use as an outlet to post my photos, poems, and frustrations over constant unrequited love.
My first Tumblr post was made exactly ten years ago today on December 10th, 2008. A decade ago my love affair with Tumblr began. It had it all - you could post photos, text, quotes, links, videos, songs, and you could reblog other users content. At one point there was a feature which I believe was called Tumblr Map where you could open up a map of the entire planet and see users by location (unless the particular user disabled the function).
This option didn’t last too long because of its naturally dangerous implications but in the small window of time it existed it changed my life. Tumblrs map feature allowed me to find local users close to me who I would start following after going through their page and determining whether or not our interests matched and often times they did. The map feature led me to my best friend Adriana, it led my best friend and then roommate Julirose to her husband, it led me to several boyfriends, and literally HUNDREDS of friends I’m still close to today.
In what seemed like a matter of just months Tumblr blew up and became the new in thing. By 2009 everyone was on Tumblr, new and old friends alike. It was a beautiful community that allowed its users to bond in a special way I’ve truly never seen on any other platform. It led to connections that Facebook could never offer even to this day. It was a private little world filled with your own hand picked tribe - with friends from Iceland to Canada. Japan to Portugal. Thanks to Tumblr I could hop on a plane, pick a country and likely have a friend waiting with open arms wherever my destination was.
We bonded over music, art, movies, tv shows, books, and a feeling of safety within our little Tumblrverse. Facebook was where we shared things publicly with our friends and family, Twitter was fun but limited and Tumblr…as soon as I logged in I felt like I stepped into another dimension. One free of judgement and pain where your people loved you no matter what. The peak of Tumblr lasted until, I’d say, 2014-15 when Instagram swept the content and communication market. Of course, Tumblr has been strong up until recently but most of my friends are either off or limited users who post every now and then (as I do).
One thing Tumblr had that no other platforms really offered was freedom to post and view adult content. In other words, if you followed the right users, you could access porn if you wanted to. Last week there was a drastic shift in this subset of adult content on Tumblr when they announced that starting December 17th, 2018 all adult content would be banned. I won't pretend I didn't gasp when I heard this news because I most definitely did. Adult content on Tumblr is as common as food photos and excerpts of Frida Kahlos letters to Diego. Tumblr without adult content is a Tumblr stripped of the intimacy many of it’s users hold in high regard. It’s part of what makes up the little world that charmed me about it in the first place (shout out to the era of SNPD’s).
A decade later, under the pretext of them having to deal with a large child-porn problem, adult content will be banned in it’s entirety. Tumblrs inability to find a balance is problematic with users threatening to de-activate their accounts and take their content elsewhere. By balance I mean that instead of buckling down on patrolling content and the age of people in porn they are overdoing it by banning it altogether. Aside from it being lazy it’s problematic in that many of us use Tumblr as a safe zone - a place where we can share our own erotica or admire others with no shame. Not only that, but the diversity of users led to a diversity of content allowing us to see different body types and subsets of sexuality that may be deemed unwanted and even bullied on other platforms.
To make matters worse, I saw a post shared all over several other social media platforms showing that if you search Tumblr for “porn” or “boobs” or “ass” you get zero results but if you search “nazis” or “white power” you are able to see endless posts filled with hate speech, hate photos and just blatant xenophobia and depending on how you view the issue - terrorism.
This is what absolutely boils my blood about this Tumblr fiasco. It’s clear that this ban has nothing to do with them truly caring about the possibility of child-porn or its users general well-being. Steven W. Thrasher over at The Atlantic said it perfectly - “…Tumblr’s adult communities—like the platform writ large—are driven not just by amateur, user-generated uploads, but by the curation efforts of committed volunteers. Come December 17, when adult content is made private and un-shareable, these communities will effectively be shut down, their collectiveness made digitally homeless.”
It’s not clear how many users Tumblr will lose over this sudden and indignant change of policy but I myself am adding Tumblr to the list of things we’ve lost in 2018 along with Mac Miller, Kanye West, and whatever thread of dignity America as a country had. It’s sad, really, because of the deep love I’ve had for a third of my life toward this community filled with open, like-minded folks who always reminded me even if indirectly that the world isn’t as bad as it seems. The walls seems to be closing in on us as the same content control patterns can be seen on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook —but I never thought Tumblr would fall into this category.
Goodbye to a once welcoming, safe community and hello to a dark, controlling, dangerous space that seems to want to limit our creativity and sense of intimacy while letting white supremacists and blatant racists continue to openly spew their vile hate with no repercussions. Tumblr has shown their true colors and I for one am not colorblind.
Quote from The Atlantic taken from - this article