I first joined Tumblr about 4 years ago, in May of 2011. I’d never heard of microblogging before and really had no idea what Tumblr was all about. I quickly learned, though, and discovered why so many (usually) young people have become addicted to the social network.
I say “social network” because Tumblr isn’t really a traditional blog – though you can use it as one. Rather, it encourages microblogging, liking and reposting content, making it a platform to post short text, artwork and videos. Up until now, Tumblr has been a place of relative choice and freedom. That’s something that calls to younger folks (and creative folks), because it gives people the feeling of ownership.
Creating a Tumblr blog is quick. Making posts of any kind is easy. Changing your layout is a few clicks (unless you edit yours like I do). A dashboard feeds you content without effort. You simply consume and interact by liking posts, reblogging them and following people.
You can use browser add-ons to block tabs and word content you don’t want to see. You can easily block users you don’t want to hear from. Nothing posts on your dashboard if you don’t want it to – everything has always been yours to control.
Now we have these.
These are sponsored posts from Yahoo, the parent company who owns Tumblr.
Back when Tumblr was purchased, we all feared the changes that would infiltrate our network. After all, companies don’t buy out technology without dollar signs in their eyes. Things were quiet for a while. We’ve gotten a lot of positive improvements to Tumblr that have been very useful. We’ve also gotten a lot of UI changes that I’ve really detested, but am forced to deal with.
Slowly, I’m watching Tumblr shift from something I felt ownership over (at least, my little nook), to something Yahoo is going to use to feed me advertisements. After all, they have a rapt audience of young people at their fingertips who are constantly browsing tag pages, dashboards and searches. Slipping one… or two… or three… or four… sponsored posts into the mix won’t be that noticeable huh?
Wrong. I use Adblock and I still noticed it.
“What’s these weird, blank photo frames on my dashboard?” I wondered.
Then, I saw the sponsored icon in the top corner and realized what was going on. Sure, I can completely block the CSS div tag using Adblock. But that’s not the point. The point is, this is just the beginning. In a year from now, will we even be able to recognize Tumblr as the same site it was before these changes began to trickle in?
Thoughts on Microblogging
There’s good and bad things about microblogging and associating with Tumblr. Imagine, if you will, a platform that (mostly) young people use to share every little thought that comes to mind. Reblog every little thing that tickles their fancy. And doing this to the illusion of having an audience that actually pays attention to what they’re posting.
There’s a lot of good and creative things on Tumblr. But there’s just as much, or more, swearing, anger, hate, filth and negativity that I don’t want to be a part of. I’ve had to compromise in a number of ways to take part of Tumblr… and there’s always the fear of scrolling down an innocent tag page to find totally disgusting and unacceptable content that my tag blocker didn’t catch.
Over the years, I have questioned if this is a network I want to be a part of for these reasons. But, the truth is, I enjoy microblogging. There’s a freedom that comes with posting little, insignificant things, and sharing stuff that amuses or moves you. I think that’s the draw of something like Tumblr – microblogging feels good and creative, even if you’re not actually the one doing the creating. A follower count and tag pages give the illusion that other people care, but I find that questionable, to be honest.
Microblogging is addictive, but lazy content curation. Most of the stuff posted on a typical Tumblr is a reblog of someone else’s creations (unless you’re an actual creator of such content, which is not the majority of users). But creative folks use it because a “like” feeds into the feeling that someone out there paid some attention to their stuff. The problem is, there’s so much out there now, even more in 2015 than there was in 2011, that our dashboards become nothing but a scroll fest of us consuming, clicking “like” and maybe reblogging.
Is that really reaching other people, or just another post on someone’s already overflowing dash? We have no way to know.
My WordPress Microblogging Experiment
I’ve written all this to come to my point: I’m doing an experiment with microblogging. I haven’t seen many people using WordPress as a microblogging platform, even though it could be one. I understand why – when faced with the ease and reach of a Tumblr blog, why should you? I also understand that it feels as if WordPress users and Tumblr users are two very different kinds of bloggers.
Would I just go around reblogging other WordPress bloggers’ content without a thought… even though we have the ability to do that? No. Why? That blogger would most likely be offended that I’m stealing and reposting his content! And I’d agree with him, to be honest.
It feels like WordPress is more for creating and showcasing your own content. It’s not as much for passing stuff around and reusing people’s content without permission.
It’s weird how what is perfectly acceptable on a platform like Tumblr could be considered content theft on WordPress.
Still, what happens if I experiment with my WordPress site and post with the same kind of freedom (sans stealing content) that I do on Tumblr? Then mirror that content (in excerpts) on Tumblr and see what comes of it?
I don’t know. But I’m going to find out!