For the past decade, I’ve tried every new social media product to come along but I find myself returning to the two giants of the industry most often: Tumblr and Twitter. I’m optimistic and delighted every time I open up Tumblr on my browser, while Twitter is something I only click on once or twice a day and always with a small sense of dread. This week I sat down to think about why that is.
Tumblr put simply is fun, fantastic, and all about the here and now. The fact that I can’t even search my own feed for past things I’ve said makes it exist almost entirely in the present tense. The people I follow are people I know, people I work with and live near, but also a good dose of random comedians, musicians, and celebrities I’ll never meet. The things everyone posts about are mostly jokes or things that make you smile, either random things that popped into the writers’ heads or comments on current events.
There’s no memory at Tumblr: everything is fleeting. Though that concept may seem daunting to some (archivists, I feel your pain), it also means the content in my feed is an endless stream of new information, either comments on what is happening right now or thoughts about the future. One of the reasons I loved the Internet when I first discovered it in the mid-1990s was that it was a clean slate, a place that welcomed all regardless of your past as you wrote your new life story; where you’d only be judged on your words and your art and your photos going forward.
If I look at everyone I’m following on Tumblr, by and large they are peers I’ve known for the past few years in my current circle of friends, people that excite me with new ideas, music, and art, and lots of humor. On Tumblr, I have no idea where most people grew up, what schools they attended, and they are similarly in the dark when it comes to me. You get to know more about the people you follow day by day as their comments and ideas fill my picture of what makes them tick.
I like my current social circle of friends and their thoughts, jokes, and ideas they share each day on Tumblr. I know I’ll be delighted with new information on Tumblr, interesting articles to read, breaking news, and jokes about those. Tumblr is a steady stream of mostly joy and makes my life better. Twitter is filled with people I barely know, chain-emails and disaster news about the sky falling that reminds me of my own past as well as my “followers” at every turn. The Internet is here today and all about tomorrow, and I prefer my social media to reflect that, and that’s why I love Tumblr.
You see, you can pretty much switch out the names, swap the old for the new, the square for the hip, and it all sounds like the same recycled article. Oh, and you can write said articles on sites that look an awful lot like blogs but aren’t because apparently blogging is dead.