The Social Media Time Forgot

How Tumblr won the social media game by doing absolutely nothing

Tumblr’s often framed as a dying platform, and its scarcely 200 million active users compared to the billion on Facebook and Instagram prove it, but that status has made it largely left alone by advertisers and data collectors

Tumblr’s often framed as a dying platform, and its scarcely 200 million active users compared to the billion on Facebook and Instagram prove it, but that status has made it largely left alone by advertisers and data collectors

Ella Whalen, Staff Writer

It seems that the internet has been becoming more and more catered for advertisement. TikTok users can’t even say the word “dead,” Facebook has notoriously been collecting personal data for years now, Instagram is full of influencers with sponsorship deals who have to manufacture their lives to earn enough to live; I’ll admit, I’ve only heard these phenomena second-hand, so they’re likely exaggerated, but even the basis for these shouldn’t be so present on a platform meant to connect people. While my preferred platform, Tumblr, has its stereotypes as well, in my mind it’s one of the few that’s still friendly to the user today.

As Tumblr was designed as a blogging site, it has many unique features to go with it. I’ve yet to see another social media platform have options to post text, images, video, audio, and not even have a word limit, instead including a ‘keep reading’ button to prevent the dashboard from clogging up. Things that I’ve only seen possible elsewhere in limited ways, like color ‘themes’ beyond light and dark, or with outside help, like queueing posts for later, are incredibly easy on the platform as well. The ‘reblog’ function still giving attention to the original poster has been helpful with the art scene as well, allowing posts to be shared with credit attached automatically.

What’s more important in my opinion, though, is how difficult it is for its users to be advertised to. Traditional ads are pretty sparse to begin with, only appearing on the main dashboard, and range from mistargeted (I doubt many of Tumblr’s users qualify for a senior discount) to nonsensical (there have been several that are just random strings of letters). The culture, too, is highly repulsive to advertisement—there have been many times influencers and celebrities who don’t fall suit have been plain bullied off the platform, such as when everyone edited John Green’s posts (yes, you used to be able to edit other people’s posts) to say profanities I couldn’t repeat here, which is a running joke on the site to this day. While that may seem harsh, here it’s seen as taking out the trash in order to keep Tumblr a place free to post un-advertiser-friendly content.

Speaking of the culture, while there are general statements to make (I cannot deny the site is overall left-leaning politically, for instance), the entirety of one’s Tumblr experience is up to them. There are no promoted or suggested posts—you only see the posts from what you’ve followed. You can make your experience exactly what you want it to be. There are numerous communities and microcommunities around the website, and they aren’t forced to fight each other to increase clicks on ads or what have you. Tumblr may be losing money by not milking its users like more modernized platforms, but to me, it’s the most user-friendly social media site out there.