Tumblr has a reputation for being the cafeteria table where all of the losers hang out, and to be honest, that reputation is well-deserved. In the early 2010s, Tumblr belonged to the nerds. Gifsets and fan fiction about shows like “Dr. Who,” “Supernatural” and “Sherlock” reigned supreme. It was home to socially awkward teens who relished the chance to stay up all night conversing with near-strangers about their favorite fictional characters. It was a little (okay, a lot) cringe-worthy, and anybody who spent time on Tumblr during that period will find it difficult to look back on that era without wincing. Scroll through Tumblr Heritage Posts for a blast from the past; whether you were a Tumblr addict or barely knew what the word “Tumblr” meant, some of these posts are sure to jog your memory.
Despite the embarrassment, Tumblr was and still is where countless memes and trends get their start. As a Tumblr veteran, I have stumbled upon numerous viral TikToks that stole jokes from Tumblr and passed them off as originals. Enough is enough: It’s time to give Tumblr the credit it’s due, and it’s time to admit that Tumblr is the ideal social media platform.
1. You can be completely anonymous, for better or for worse.
Tumblr has no “find my friends” option, and it does not push certain blogs to users based on location. You are not forced to enter any identifying information beyond your email and date of birth. Very few users upload pictures of themselves as profile pictures; in fact, you don’t have to post pictures at all. You create a username, also known as a URL, choose a few interests, and … that’s it. No need to make an introductory post. Hit the ground running and start following people at random. You never know what you might find.
2. You have total creative freedom over the layout and appearance of your blog.
None of the popular social media platforms allow you to completely customize your page, except for Tumblr. Sure, you can get creative with layouts on Instagram, but at the end of the day, you are bound by the confines of the predetermined Instagram format. In contrast, Tumblr allows users to completely modify the appearance of their page. There are very few limits.
Tumblr blogs like Seyche and Theme Hunter catalog the thousands of Tumblr themes that users independently design and code. These themes are almost always free to use, and, after you download them, you can customize them to your heart’s content. The possibilities are genuinely endless. Scroll through and take a look — my personal favorites are minimalistic with organic elements. Some people opt for the basic theme that all Tumblr blogs start with. It all depends on the experience you want to cultivate. Are you interested in creating a Pinterest-esque digital collage of random photography that fits your chosen aesthetic? You will probably be interested in customizing your theme. Planning to use your blog as a private diary that only three strangers may ever stumble upon? Customizing your theme may not interest you. There is no wrong answer.
3. There are endless aesthetics and niches to explore.
I stumble upon new corners of Tumblr completely at random. Many blogs have no set theme, but instead focus on cultivating a general feeling or energy. Posts like this one by @wild-gastronomy are my personal favorite: “Bay leaf and lemon panna cotta, glass of ice cold water, quick pickled peaches, Persian cucumber, salmon sashimi, melon granita. Grilled fish, plums and cherries freshly washed, salty olives and labneh with olive oil, steamed mussels. Roasted apricots and vermouth, prosciutto, peas, grilled everything, actually. Including corn. Rice and zucchini flowers. And all things simple, forever and ever.”
It is poetry, a love song to flavor. It summons memories of simple dinners on patios in the summer, the quiet peace of a solitary chef in a home kitchen. Best of all, this post isn’t written for anybody except the writer themself. It is personal and intimate, but if someone happens to relate, it is available to reblog (which means reposting onto your own blog, making it visible to your followers on their Tumblr dashboard).
It doesn’t stop here. Are you into 3D art and animation? There are thousands of artists to follow and talk to. Do you like horses? There is an equestrian corner of Tumblr, believe it or not. Clowns, tap dancers, crafters, med students, therapists, moms, writers and so much more — whoever you are, there is a space for you to connect with others just like you. Use hashtags to search up keywords related to the content you’re interested in, and the Tumblr algorithm may eventually lead you exactly where you need to be.
4. Nobody is trying to sell you anything.
Tumblr’s attempts to monetize the platform have been largely unsuccessful. I have yet to encounter a Tumblr influencer on the same scale as an Instagram influencer. Follower counts are rarely made public, so popularity is gauged off the number of notes (likes) you receive, and nobody really cares how “popular” a user is. Although Tumblr has its fair share of ads, they’re easy to ignore. You will never have to sit through an ad before clicking play on a video.
Tumblr recently introduced a “tip” function where you can send money to your favorite blogs, following the release of Post+, which allows users to make certain posts available only to subscribers, who pay a certain amount of money to subscribe. Personally, I have not seen a single person use the Post+ function, regardless of how popular they are. On Tumblr, there appears to be a mutual yet unspoken agreement that monetizing your Tumblr content is dumb and pointless, and it detracts from the special “something” that has kept Tumblr a unique oasis distinct from other social media platforms. This lack of monetization makes Tumblr and its users uniquely genuine, despite how anonymous it all feels.
5. Tumblr has countless uses.
For a rhetoric class, I used Tumblr to design a blog dedicated to an author we studied and posted quotes from her work as well as my own analysis, in addition to some artwork that aesthetically aligned with her work. At the same time, I have a blog where I keep to myself and reblog recipes and artwork that speaks to me. Additionally, I have a blog dedicated to the Sims where I post gameplay photos and talk to other people who play the game. Tumblr is the bedazzled, rusty multitool of social media. There is so much to learn, so much to laugh at, and a lot of rabbit holes to fall down. If you have never swam through the deep blue of Tumblr’s dashboard, there is no better time to start than now.