Tumblr died in the stupidest way possible: Porn.
I really just don’t get it. I didn’t use the site much, but it was doing fine. Then they banned adult content and just like that, the entire community vanished in an instant.
I know about the app’s imminent de-listing from Apple and Google’s app stores due to restrictive policies. I also think that that’s a huge, major issue with mobile devices that we’ll need to seriously discuss in the 20s. But it still had a website; it was idiotic to fundamentally change the “free speech heavy” aspect of the site just to cater to a stupid app.
The whole process was a clusterfuck of tragicomic propotions. They deleted all posts with “female presenting nipples,” which is… a very interesting concept to begin with. But their automatic filtering app was really shitty! A huge number of my own posts, none of them pornography, were falsely deleted before I even got a chance to archive everything. This page (NSFW) talks about the process in some detail.
Fandom-centric communities (often heavy with NSFW fanart) were splintered. Queer communities (often educational resources for sex eduation) were crushed. And countless innocent, unrelated blogs were shut down by fed-up creators (including mine).
Everyone’s favorite swear-heavy Youtuber Penguinz0 made a good half-animated video on the subject with some, um, creative metaphors:
What We Miss From Tumblr
I never LIKED Tumblr, don’t get me wrong. But from an archivist’s perspective, seeing an entire era of internet culture essentially wiped out is heartbreaking. The internet is not permanent and Tumblr showed that even social media titans can crash.
I miss the camaraderie when positive, pointless posts would spread like wildfire and silly puns could go viral. I miss the wacky fragmented sense where there was never a community hub and everything was just a jumbled mess, especially if you followed more people.
And I especially miss being able to follow the artists I liked and keep up with all their art. An absolute travesty that that’s gone now.
What Tumblr’s Demise Caused
It caused bad shit.
Tumblr refugees needed to go SOMEWHERE after their site was gone. Some people tried out Tumblr alternatives, but those didn’t pan out. Most people moved onto other social media services. Instagram wasn’t good because it was photos-only, and doesn’t work correctly on desktop. Facebook is for old people. I’m sure some people chose Reddit, probably, but got chased away due to its annoyances. So in the end, everyone chose…
Yes, Twitter, the site already infamous for absolute nutjobs posting fifty times a day. A site where clans of Nazi warriors roam free and Macedonian astroturfers pretend to be Bernie Sanders supporters.
Mixing Twitter’s inflammatory, reactionary nonsense with Tumblr’s hyperventilating drama-filled silliness… was a bad, bad ending.
Tumblr was already infamous for having people start to turn pretty crazy over time. When everyone moved to Twitter, it just got even worse. Some internet acquaintances I’ve followed for years have become absolutely insufferable. On Twitter, every single thing is an outrage. If you aren’t talking about the new topic of the day, you are PART of the problem and you are a villain. Everyone trying to have depth-y, nuanced conversations of serious topics… in 280-character posts.
It’s absolutely a terrible platform for Tumblr users, and yet it’s where most of them ended up going.
The silly, positive parts of Tumblr didn’t carry over; all that’s left is the anger and quick-spreading viral posts.
Tumblr was a bad site with a terrible interface and a toxic community. It was also a fun time filled with some nice memories on occasion. Now that it’s dead, the good parts have disappeared, and the bad parts have only been amplified even further.
I have no idea how to fix it. It’ll take a Great Internet Revival for people to wake up and realize the poison that the social media’s been doing to us, and I don’t see how it’ll ever happen. It’s not like I’m quitting social media at the moment, so I’m part of the problem myself.
Do you have any ideas? If so, please, please tell me. I really want to have some optimism for the future of online communities. Just a tiny sliver of hope.
To conclude, here’s some more silly Tumblr posts floating around on my computer:
Looking for more blog posts? Read my essay “The Internet is Not Permanent,” or read about one of the very last big memes popular on Tumblr: Bowsette!
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