Saturday, August 2, 2014

Thoughts on Tumblr

About a month ago, I made a Tumblr despite all warnings and urban myths about the decay of one's social life and sleep cycle. If you don't already know, Tumblr is a "microblogging website" also commonly described as a "black hole of insanity". It wasn't immediately exciting, and I wrote a post where I quickly went over a few of its aspects but overall "was quite surprised at how boring it was."

Over time, Tumblr became substantially more interesting, and a valuable form of distraction during hot summer nights when sleeping was impossible. I gradually evolved into a Tumblr person, but my addiction was not too extreme due to the fact that I'm not in a lot of fandoms.

So for those of you who do not have Tumblr and are curious, let me introduce you. Opening my dashboard (kind of like the news feed on Facebook), I find the first post to be...

...extremely accurate! Also, if you take a look at the post below that, what you find may surprise you, but it's actually pretty normal for something on Tumblr.

So if you're still considering creating a Tumblr account (which I can neither recommend nor not recommend), here are my thoughts and recommendations on the subject.

First, download xkit. It's a Chrome extension that makes blogging (ahem, "blogging") so many times easier. You can instantly reblog or queue posts, and choose which side blog (explained later) the post instantly goes to. It's also easily customizable, so you can do things like create an outbox to keep track of all outgoing answers (which I highly recommend).

If you create original content, use #tags to help people discover your work. A quick sketch I drew for a friend got over seventy notes once because it got noticed by a baby goat appreciation blog (I kid you not).

Also, don't be frustrated if none of your work gets noticed at first. Rarely anything happens overnight. If you do get popular, be prepared to be weirded out at things that might happen (there's really no way to explain this, except perhaps through an example). Why does this doodle of a cool dinosaur on a skateboard have as many notes as it does? Nobody knows. The only explanation is that this is Tumblr.

If you have multiple personality disorder (just kidding), you can make side blogs to help organize your posts. I have a main blog for the random stuff I reblog, an aesthetic blog that I use to catalog reference pictures, an art blog where I post my original work, a people blog for celebrity pics, a blog for music, and lyrics/quotes, and a night blog to post insomniac thoughts. Apparently, it's quite unusual to have this many side blogs, because it's hard to keep track of all of them, but I'm used to it because of Pinterest. On Pinterest, I have sixteen boards where I regularly post material, so having just four side blogs is no big deal. Pinterest > Tumblr

Tumblr also has a few practical applications. Your blog is basically a little corner of the internet that is completely and wholly dedicated to you and your interests, so you can make the format whatever you want, provided you know some coding. I basically taught myself how to write some simple HTML for the sake of being able to do little things like adjusting the width of the sidebar. Even though the goal might just be to widen it by about 100 pixels, it is the best feeling ever when you succeed after countless tries because you're learning something useful with instantaneous results. You're also learning at your own pace in an environment that is non-critical and purely experimental, which takes away the pressure and adds an element of fun!

Another cool thing is Tumblr friends! The concept basically goes against anything you've ever been taught (don't talk to strangers, don't talk to strange people online, etc) but there is very little real danger as long as you don't give out personal details. It's the most interesting thing ever, because just out of nowhere, a random person will ask you how your day has been. Each time I see the little notification on my inbox I am fascinated, because someone somewhere a thousand miles away is acknowledging my existence, which is a pretty reassuring feeling. Plus, you can talk about them to your in-person friends and say things like "My friend in England says ..." and seem well traveled and worldly, when in reality, all you do is sit at home in your room on the computer. It's amazing how technology allows people who've previously never talked to each other or meet in person to instantaneously connect over shared interests.

Finally, one aspect that I really appreciate about Tumblr is that it is aware of its users. A lot of people use Tumblr because they are sad, or depressed, or have other mental health issues, and they find a community of similar people and lots of support. Tumblr itself also gives warnings and advice to people searching for certain topics relating to mental health. For example, I searched the "thinspo" tag out of curiosity (don't worry, I'm definitely not anorexic), and before taking me to the results, I got this page:

Similarly, when I searched "sad" because I was feeling a little down in the dumps, Tumblr was kind enough to show me this:

These little details are the gentle reminders that somewhere out there someone cares enough, or was even affected by a similar situation, to want to make sure that it doesn't happen to anyone else.

And a bonus, from time to time, a random, lovely, supportive anon messages will appear in your inbox. Though sometimes unconventional, it's the thought that counts.

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