Isabel Li ’25
Tumblr isn’t your average social media outlet. After all, when you think of social media, you’d probably think of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit and Pinterest instead — all of which are popular and ubiquitous platforms across the country. However, Tumblr, often deemed irrelevant or obscure due to its non-mainstream status, is actually an extremely versatile platform that harbors all sorts of communities and underrated gems of the Internet.
My phone’s home screen presents my carefully curated collection of social media apps, each serving a distinct purpose. Instagram, where I follow all of my favorite artists and post my own art, is the ever-expanding platform for photos and cleverly tailored captions. Facebook, defined by connections with real-life friends and family, is where I keep in touch with people I’ve met over the years and contribute to online community groups. Pinterest is the colorful algorithmic moodboard that provides me with an endless stream of artistic and aesthetic inspiration.
Following a recent resurgence in Tumblr blogs and aesthetics due to Gen Z users, my peers recently recommended that I make a Tumblr account. However, I have to admit that I was initially reluctant. I wasn’t sure what I would use it for and whether there would be content I find interesting, especially since it is largely overshadowed by other media platforms. Among the array of features in Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, my primary social media apps, what distinct functions would Tumblr serve?
Nevertheless, I decided to create an account and try it out, which, despite my initial hesitancy, proved to be worth it. I was pleasantly surprised with Tumblr’s unique functions and unconventional algorithms that define its one-of-a-kind user experience.
Unlike each user’s profile on other social media accounts, the ones on Tumblr involve fully customizable multi-page blog websites with unique templates and atmospheres surrounding their posts. While all the profiles on Instagram and Facebook conform to a singular, standardized formation, Tumblr allows its bloggers to express themselves beyond their posts, from font to layout. And because many artists are attracted to the customizability of its profiles, I was able to find many new and underrated artists from all over the world that are not on mainstream social media. I’m constantly impressed by each Tumblr’s distinctive style, with my two favorites being a newspaper-styled art blog and a minimalist literary magazine. Seeing many emerging artists and their personalized Tumblr portfolios has inspired me to create one of my own — it’s still a work in progress, though!
One of the first things that Tumblr provides for new accounts are the suggestions for what communities to follow based on the user’s interests. Instead of immediately suggesting specific blogs, Tumblr encourages users to follow general tags. This feature prevents already popular accounts from monopolizing the attention of new users, and instead allows the users themselves to discover new and interesting blogs within a specific community of interest.
Tumblr’s unusual algorithm is something else that has allowed me to find so many spectacular posts; unlike more popular platforms, it does not rank posts strictly by recency. In fact, on my explore page, I discover share-worthy posts that are weeks, months, or sometimes several years old — a nonchronological feed driven by the absence of dates indicated directly on the posts. On the other hand, when I’m using Instagram or Pinterest, I find myself constantly refreshing the home screen for the newest, most up-to-date content, quickly overlooking the content that has been posted mere minutes ago. Essentially, Tumblr takes the focus off novelty and allows users to linger and enjoy posts of the past, which could help slow and bring relaxation to our hectic lives.
I also appreciate that Tumblr blogs are not defined by numbers of likes or followers, unlike the sometimes anxiety-inducing number-based systems of Instagram or Facebook. Nowhere on Tumblr’s blogs can you find a follower count — a feature that highlights the essence of the blog itself rather than the popularity. In an era when our opinions of online content are often shaped by the number of likes, views or comments, I find that Tumblr reduces the extent to which such superficial measures of popularity sway my opinion about a certain post or blog.
Most of all, Tumblr isn’t a conventionally addicting app. Unlike the spontaneous nature of Instagram stories or the continuous stream of content from Pinterest, Tumblr’s characteristics allow the app to feel more relaxing and creative, which is what distinguishes itself from all the other media I consume on a daily basis. With the lack of numbers involved, its environment feels more communal and noncompetitive, an atmosphere that I have yet to find elsewhere online. During such busy college months, turning to Tumblr definitely feels like a break from both schoolwork and normal social media outlets.
Although it may seem antiquated in comparison to the mainstream, I would definitely recommend the medium for anyone who is looking to wind down while being entertained by the vast array of art, photos and memes that Tumblr has in store. It is certainly a platform calmer than Instagram, more personalized than Facebook, and more communal than Pinterest. For the many of us who are trapped in the busy loop of school and work, Tumblr is an overall amazing app for relaxation, creativity, and inspiration.
Image Source: PCMag