Tumblr ‘micro-blogging’ takes over THHS

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You get home from school. It’s 3:00. You decide to log on to your Tumblr since you haven’t been on in 15 minutes.  You are scrolling through your dashboard, watching videos, laughing at gifs, and freaking out about what happened in the latest episodes of all your favorite television shows. You decide it’s probably time to start your homework. It’s around 3:15, right? Wrong. You look at the clock. It’s 5:00. Did you really just spend two hours scrolling through pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch, the fetching star of BBC’s Sherlock?

For many Harrisites, this is life on Tumblr.

Tumblr, a combination of a social network and blog platform, was created by David Karp in 2007. Since then it has grown to 77 million users. Tumblr  is considered a micro-blogging platform, meaning the blog posts are shorter than more traditional blogs (think WordPress).

When you log on to Tumblr you first come across the Dashboard, a conglomeration of all posts from every blog you follow. These posts can include videos, photos, audio files, text posts, and gifs (animations). Blogs can be found on all subjects: political blogs, nail art blogs, do-it-yourself blogs, science blogs, TV blogs and art blogs, are just some of the featured genres.

Many Townsend Harris students use Tumblr to show off their original creative work.

Yash Sharma, sophomore, said, “I use my Tumblr mainly as a portfolio for my designs…Whenever people ask to see my designs, I just give them that link. It’s easier than sending individual photographs.”  Yash creates graphic designs featuring Townsend Harris athletes and previously worked with Nike advertisers in a summer internship program.

Tumblr is intended as a blog platform in which users post their own original content in a structured, consistent manner, but in the past three years Tumblr has blown up amongst teenagers just trying to have some online fun.

Fandom is a good example of fan-culture internet slang that Tumblr has popularized.   Generally, a fandom is a community of fans that gets really excited about certain shows, books, or movies like Doctor Who, Harry Potter, or The Avengers. Many fans choose to publish their fan art, fan fiction and fan videos on Tumblr. The site also serves as a message board where fans discuss their theories and opinions on their fandoms. It is not uncommon to see heated debates voiced by two very passionate  fans on the theme of brotherhood in The Avengers. If the internet is Townsend Harris then Tumblr is the humanities seminar and television is classical literature.

Other students treat their blogs like a public online scrapbook, filling them with found photographs, artwork, and quotations.

Angelina Liu, freshman, said, “I have a bunch of Tumblrs: a black and white photography blog, a fashion/preppy blog, a personal blog, a theatre blog, and a summer blog. Most of the time I blog for fun and to gain inspiration, like from seeing a lot of things posted in the fashion blogs I follow.”

If fandom blogs are for the geeks, then these scrapbook blogs (often called “hipster blogs”- though this term can be controversial) are for the self-expressive.

“I blog to express, not impress,” said Angelina.

Even amongst these scrapbook blogs there is a sense of community and friendship.  “It helps me mentally in the sense that I can find personal posts that I relate to completely, and it’s a relief knowing that I’m not the only one who deals with certain issues.”

Fangirling (or Fanboying)–the act of obsessing over a fandom–can be fun, but what is the addictive ingredient in the Tumblr recipe?

The website’s design traps users into an infinite continuum of procrastination. The dashboard allows users to scroll through all posts made by everyone they follow at any time. There is no need to click to the next page, and with a few simple keystrokes you can like and reblog posts without leaving the dashboard.

“I got attached to the infinite number of pictures on my dashboard, and I lose track of time when looking at them,” said Akhtra Khan, junior.

The amount of time students spend on Tumblr is potentially problematic. “I’m on Tumblr six hours a day,” said Nijah Phills, sophomore.

When Deborah Chai, junior,  was discussing her Tumblr habits she said, “Please don’t ask how often I am on. It’s so sad, and no one needs to know.”

Tumblr also allows users to ask questions to bloggers. You can ask questions without revealing your identity via the anonymous button. Not surprisingly the anonymous button has become a medium for cyber bullying.

“People who speak their opinion which is controversial get a lot of backlash. If someone doesn’t like Sherlock or Benedict Cumberbatch they’ll be called names, and I’ve seen people who’ve gotten so many negative messages that they’ve had to leave,” said Deborah.

But when asked about whether the abuse of the anonymous button leads to a hostile environment, most students described feeling a sense of community on the site.

Some Harrisites, such as Maya Grodzka, junior, have created close friendships.

“I personally met a friend on Tumblr. She lives in Brazil and is learning English. We speak English and Portuguese together. She is a year younger than me, and we are now facebook friends. So I believe that Tumblr can initiate friendships worldwide.”

Tumblr users, like all internet users, say things online that they would not say in real life.

Although this can mean nasty anonymous threats and comments, it can also allow shyer people to bond with others.

“I  think it’s because it’s the internet that I can share things more with people than I could in real life. T.V. is a pretty big part of my life, and I’ve gotten really close to people who just enjoy the same things I do,” said Deborah.

So the next time you’re wondering what happened to those two hours you had scheduled for homework, they were probably spent on Tumblr.