Tumblr saved me

You may think Facebook is where it’s at, but your teenager is most likely spending a lot of their time on Tumblr. Never heard of it? Briefly, it’s an online blogging platform for users over the age of 13 years.

Every day for three years, since I was 17 years old, I have logged onto Tumblr – religiously – scrolling through a plethora of images, drawings, excerpts from books, professional photography, personal photography, music and videos and more. The simplest way to describe Tumblr: it’s like an online scrapbook.

Tumblr is like an online scrapbook

Similar to Facebook ‘friends’, on Tumblr you ‘follow’ people. I follow people whose interests resemble mine. I like books, movies, vintage photography and Harry Potter. After three years on Tumblr, I follow 135 people (because I don’t want to clutter my dashboard with things that I don’t like) and I have 177 followers. However, it is possible to follow up to 5,000 people.

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I understand that the 21st century can be a scary time to be parenting, with new developments in technology every day. As social media opens doors to potential problems such as cyber-bulling, I don’t blame parents for feeling overwhelmed and even a little out of date and worried about what your teen is exposed to. Without the right guidance, your child could very well be a click away from content that they don’t quite understand and aren’t ready to see.

“Without the right guidance, your child could very well be a click away from content that they don’t quite understand and aren’t ready to see”

You can find all sorts of topics and images on this platform, even stuff that’s not meant to be there (rule breakers are everywhere). With around 65 million blogs (at July 2012), I can forgive the creator for not being able to keep the random male genitals from popping up on my dashboard, (aka ‘dash’) here and there. It does make it hard to explain to my parents why there’s partial nudity on my screen, so to avoid them asking, I ‘Tumblr’ (yes, it’s also a verb) in my room because I don’t want to worry them. This also gives me the power to differentiate between what is good for me and what is bad.

“In so many ways, this saved me from all of my insecurities, from the loneliness and from the anger. Tumblr saved me”

Now, you might wonder why I so easily dismiss the issue of rude picture popping up on my dash. It’s because Tumblr is where I can be myself, and where I can express my feelings without judgment. In so many ways, this saved me from all of my insecurities, from the loneliness and from the anger. Tumblr saved me.

Why I use Tumblr

Out of all the online social media communities, I find Tumblr one of the friendliest. It is about what YOU choose to ‘post’ – whether it’s something that you’ve written, a photograph that you’ve taken, a video that you’ve made or even audio files (usually music) that you listen to. And I know what you’re thinking – Facebook is the same thing, so what is it that makes Tumblr different? Essentially, it’s more about you, rather than the number of ‘likes’ you get on Facebook. On Tumblr, you can post a dorky photo of yourself and your family and instead of getting a ‘what are you doing with your arms?’ comment from a friend or an acquaintance as you would on Facebook, you get a like, or a nice comment, or even a reblog from a complete stranger – a gesture that says hi, I think this is pretty, damn, cool. Even if you don’t get anything out of posting it there’s a certain level of mutual respect and acceptance in putting something personal onto the world wide web.

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Tumblr is about self-expression. Despite wanting to pursue a career in journalism, my angst-y 17-year-old self found it very hard to express herself. I grew up with immigrant parents: on top of the communication barrier, they struggled to deal with my teenage dramatics and the different cultural experience I had at school. I was an outcast, right up until I was in years 11 and 12 (I call these my ‘brave’ years), so it was difficult to talk to people about how I felt. Loneliness is not something you want to get used to when you’re young.

“Loneliness is not something you want to get used to when you’re young”

Tumblr changed that for me. Remember what I said about it saving me? Well, this is how I was saved – I was allowed to express my loneliness online and found comfort in knowing that I wasn’t the only one in the world feeling the way that I felt. When I couldn’t find the words to express my anger and frustrations, there was someone else on Tumblr who, at one point in life, felt the same way. It’s not about taking comfort in other people’s misery, it’s just nice to know that I wasn’t the only ‘young person with their whole life ahead of them’ who felt so angry.

Tumblr gives you a community. I was a short, awkward teenager who did not at all grow into the beautiful swan I thought I would when I turned from duckling to 17. I was teased for my height, teased for loving to read and carrying a Harry Potter book around instead of eye-liner (this seems very trivial but it did happen and sometimes, kids are just mean because they can be) and for wanting to participate in school activities – like joining the SRC (I blame movies that had themes about special secret agent groups that did super awesome cool stuff). But on Tumblr, you will find a community that tells you being short is great because you can get cheaper meals if you can pass for a child, or that J.K. Rowling is a ‘queen’ who has increased literacy levels throughout the world, and that you should be congratulated on being on SRC because it shows that you care about your school and the people in it.  I have found that the people of Tumblr have a kind heart; they’ll reach out to you if you send them an S.O.S and will also be the first to tell you hatred of any kind will not be tolerated.

“Tumblr reminds me to accept my differences, because that is what makes me unique”

For me, Tumblr has always been a safe environment. It’s allowed me the freedom to create a scrapbook that I would be joyous to look back on five or ten years down the track to see the person I was when I was seventeen. It welcomes me as an active member, empowering me to talk to other people, and it respects me when I just want to have a quiet day, alone to express my thoughts.

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Tumblr reminds me to accept my differences, because that is what makes me unique. And it reminds me to be kind to others, because they have their battles too.

 

** Please understand that this has been written one a very personal basis. I joined Tumblr at an age when I’d been informed by my teachers, parents or other mature adults about sex, drugs and alcohol. When I was 17, I thought I knew everything, but didn’t and I was always up for learning more. I was looking for a place where I could be understood and accepted and I found that place to be Tumblr.

 

This article was written by The Kids Are All Right intern Stephanie Ho. Stephanie is a third year student at the University of New South Wales, completing a Bachelor of Media (Communication and Journalism) degree.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Tumblr is like any other part of the internet isn’t it, if you find your way into the right corners there are wonderful communities and resources to be found. Plus, there’s http://dog-shaming.com/ 🙂

  2. My teenage daughter also finds solace via Tumblr. The positive feedback is amazing….imagine being able to write a piece about Ginny Weasly and then have over 2000 ‘notes’ from people all over the world who share the same interest.

    • Yes, we often think of the negative effects of social media, so it’s good to hear how positive it can be as well. I’m glad your daughter gets a lot from it.

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