I Was Raised on Tumblr, Here’s How I Turned Out
Pre-NSFW ban, unhinged, unarchived Tumblr; a wolf in sheep’s clothing. From 2014 to 2016- the website peaked, coveting itself as a ‘fandom central’, flocking an allsorts of Wholocks and book-dwellers. With a consistent reputation for housing moustache-enthusiasts and fiction drawn introverts, the website also coveted a darker discourse. From targeting alleged problematic creators, pushing mental illness to the trending page, or striving to not be like “other girls”- it had you covered. Sound familiar? You might have the popular short-form video app TikTok in mind as well.
Tumblr’s format allows users to remain totally anonymous. The culture of the website is to express freely behind text-posts and moodboards. Broiling between anonymity, community, and the obscuring nature of Tumblr’s algorithms was something that became toxic- fast. There was a simple A to B process: throwing a flower crown on your favorite serial killer, and then throwing it on the internet.
Tiktok, being new and emerging, has developing values. It's not quite as anonymous, and not quite a best kept secret. Between the respawn of cancel culture, deja vu discourse, and thriving fandoms, similarities still prevail. Hold a mirror to TikTok, and see Tumblr’s highs on the other side.
Overshadowing both of these platforms is an overwhelming goliath: mental health, youth, and social media.
At a glance, numerous teens get sucked into damaging online communities. Tumblr easily became your secret life tucked away on your bookmarks bar. At best an escapism fanatic's top fantasy, at worst the reason for your next therapy session. It became that for myself in 2015, when Tumblr’s front page was hooked on nicotine and had a size 00 to match.
2015, alongside Tumblr, was also earmarked by many firsts in my life. First therapists, doctors, and diagnosis. To be transparent, I had access to content romanticizing mental illness prior to Tumblr. Although it’s anecdotal, it would not be wrong to say it’s a repeating cycle. Misguided algorithms have always had a way of pipelining in the worst directions, and will do so further. Echo chambers and close-knit communities (see TikTok, Tumblr) will naturally amplify the negative that is already ricocheted.
Though, the years that followed were also earmarked by much better things. Healing is not a soft-spoken process, nor is it a process that can be charted like a trend- it is not liminally upwards. I had felt social media wreaked havoc in my formative years- with my heart in my hands- I was able to grow and rebuild.
Deep down, I resonate with the new generation. I see flashes of them on TikTok, in corners where mental illness is shameful and glamor is in self destruction. It’s difficult not to see myself in rambunctious pre-teens on my “For You Page.” I understand though, that they will be okay.
I was raised on Tumblr, and I turned out alright. In loud healing, I’ve resown a trust in myself and regrown a relationship with my mind and body. I’ve allowed myself gratitude for my past and honored that I have built myself stronger from where I have been. Heart in hands, I try to reaffirm that loving the whole self is a necessity.
Cycles have always had a specialty in repeating. Although TikTok might mimic Tumblr, Tumblr mimicked what came before it. With new generations of cycles comes new knowledge. The concentration of mental health content on TikTok has potential to follow a new trajectory. Users often have more focus on betterment and options for coping. For TikTok- I am hopeful for mental health awareness and for the openness to treatment, especially in areas where Tumblr has flunked.