musings on a site of curations, emotions, and -ions
My preteen years were—as I loftily like to describe it—a time of rampant artistic exploration. I had just discovered “A-Punk”, which served as my gateway drug to the indie world. Next thing you know, I was listening to Neutral Milk Hotel on repeat and musing over which Beat poetry line I would get tattooed on my forearm. I felt cool and hip, and I oh-so-desperately wanted everyone to witness my glorious transition from hyper-girly JoBros fan to a Thom Yorke-esque troubled spirit. This would clearly validate my ascension into the adult world! More than anything, I sought a community where I could uninhibitedly express my enthusiasm for this newfound, anti-mainstream scene. I was terrified of others judging me as a poser, since I genuinely felt attracted to all this bizarro crap. Cue my introduction to Tumblr.
After spending some time browsing through Tumblr, I realized that this place could perfectly accommodate my blossoming love for all things unconventional tinged with the tears of misunderstood youths (I WASN’T being emo… I would have fervently denied it and written you down as another thing that was wrong with the world). I decided to make an account, and instantly noticed that the ‘weirdos’ were abundant here. As I actively reblogged images, song lyrics, and quotes, I felt like I was bonding with every other user despite their being no direct communication between us. It was thrilling.
I knew I could count on Tumblr to satisfy my “mood of the day”. For instance, if I was feeling especially enamored with Gael Garcia Bernal after watching one of his movies, a quick trip to the search bar would present me with numerous rebloggable and likeable pictures, quotes, and clips of his performances. Or, if I wanted to vent about climate change or the incompetence of “the Man,” I could write a quick post and couple it with links to articles that clearly justified my teenage rage. My Tumblr blog was hardly cohesive, since my interests and emotions hopscotched all over the place. But, it was a sincere reflection of all the little things that made me, me. In a way, I was like an art curator… or Dr. Frankenstein? (Yes, I’ve always had a flare for the dramatic.)
Though the honeymoon phase with this website and my teenage angst is over, I still have my Tumblr account and occasionally check up on it. However, recent visits have prompted me to analyze several trends on this website.
For one, I’ve noticed how some Tumblr posts have a way of conditioning your emotions. Psychology lingo aside, here’s what I mean. Sometimes, you’ll come across a post with a video, and a caption reading something like, “I can’t breathe”, or “THIS VIDEO CHANGED MY LIFE.” Before even playing the video, you prime yourself to view this video in the way it has been framed by the comments. After watching this video, even if it wasn’t exactly as “legendary” as advertised, you feel impelled to find it legendary, and might even reblog it claiming the same thing. The same goes with pictures with captions like, “This picture gives me all the feels” or “If you’re not moved by this then you’ve got no soul”. Mhmm, things escalate quickly on here…
I’ve also noticed how Tumblr fosters a culture of conformity and tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation, and I’m still deciding how I feel about this. For one, it’s sort of nice knowing that others are as clueless and confused about their life as you are, but don’t really sweat it, obviously. At least, that’s the impression they so aptly convey with their witty self-jabs and reblogged material. It’s often that you’ll come across a picture of an obese animal lying on its back with its tongue out, a cartoon of a student plopped on the floor failing miserably to complete any of his/her obligations, or a gif set of a scene from a popular TV show in which one of the character’s procrastinates hard, and simply has no idea what is going on (like, ever). Below in the tags section, you’ll see tags that read “GPOY” (gratuitous picture of yourself) or “SAME”. Like I said, it’s nice to be able to bond over our collective pre-adult anxiety and seeming inability to be productive. However, it might also be detrimental to indulge too much in this “I fail at life and won’t even try” ideology, especially for us college students that are in college to, ya know, actually get shit done. Admittedly though, the normalization of such behavior is witnessed in many other mediums, and may perhaps be but a mere coping mechanism for the #strugglebus that is growing up.
There are so many more things that could be said about the multifaceted Tumblr culture, such as the crafty employment of gifs to express a thought, or the curious manipulation of language to make a phrase more dramatic, e.g omg I can’t even WUT. We can even get nitty-gritty about the colorful fandom rivalries and kinships—these really shine light on how invested a human can become in something. I used to only see Tumblr as a simple website where I could freely showcase my many interests, one casual reblog at a time. Now, I’ve discovered that it provides us with insight into the way people behave and change their behavior as influenced by others. If you are an active Tumblr user, take the time to pick up on its smaller eccentricities, beyond the more obvious weird things that go down on there (trust me, I’ve stumbled across my fair share of Marvel fanfic to attest to such weirdness). I encourage you to be the best Brown student you can be and stop and reflect on what these Tumblr oddities can really tell us about human nature. Or, you know, just screw all that highbrow philosophical shit and continue numbingly browsing through those pictures of Tom Hiddleston’s butt to your heart’s content.