I finally signed up for tumblr, and I’m trying really hard to understand what all the fuss is about.
I often find that I have a very strong negative reaction to new trendy technologies. This is strange as I often end up using and liking them (Facebook and Twitter being prime examples, although I never took to MySpace as much as I used it). I think the best way to describe it is as a form of jealousy: I feel left out by customs I don’t understand.
Tumblr is a lot like LiveJournal, less robust but easier to use. The barrier to entry is pretty much zilch for anyone familiar with social media: sign up, drag a bookmarklet, start Tumbling things. It’s basically a blog without commentary, or a LJ without real comments. I find that I tend to post lots of pictures and quick links to Tumblr, whereas on this blog I try to post substantive entries (or at least I will now that my del.icio.us links aren’t it’s primary content), and I feel like I have to stick pretty strictly to technology. Whereas on Tumblr I feel totally comfortable posting pictures of dresses I’d like to buy or completely personal, superficial viewpoints on pop culture.
The culture of “reblogging” on Tumblr (which substitutes for commenting, although you can hack together comments with a third-party product like disqus) seems to incite a lot of drama. Basically, you can copy anything anyone else writes and add your own commentary on your own Tumblr. Then a link to that commentary shows up on the original post. This is basically exactly the same as comments on a blog or LJ. However, recently Tumblr CEO David Karp deleted a bunch of Tumblr blogs that mocked Julia Allison, justifying this as “anti-harassment,” but in reality just annoying a lot of his users (he overturned the decision two days later). Apparently Allison was annoyed that links mocking her showed up on her own blog. Finally, Tumblr introduced a “blocking” feature, which allows users to block links to reblogs. I think.
Tumblr’s culture is very young. LJ has a culture leftover from the late 90s; it’s sort of mired in netiquette and FAQs, and attracts nerdy fandom nerds and 30 somethings. Tumblr seems, from my limited perspective, to have a culture more akin to the American Apparel, no-politics-more-irony, everything is ripe for mockery hipster viewpoints of the late 00s. It’s also firmly embedded in early 20something New York and San Francisco social life (and much, much more popular in the former city).
I’m sure social status on Tumblr would make an excellent case study for the dissertation, but I still find it all a bit distasteful. I’m Tumbling away, hoping that one of these days I’ll fall in love with it like I have Twitter. So far, not so much.