Angela is a junior high school student from the OC. She loves math, writing, and reading good books. Disney and old Hollywood movies are her guilty pleasures. When she grows up, she wants to be a doctor or engineer.
Tumblr. No, the “e” is not supposed to be there. It’s not Facebook, nor is it quite like Twitter. It’s a blog site, now a widely popular internet trend, that has been dubbed the online center of pop culture for all who keep in touch with their inner artist, hipster…and creeper. Most skeptics, initially turned off by the website’s simple formatting, later find the act of scrolling through blog posts strangely addicting. It’s an explosion of media, an online fusion of bloggers of different backgrounds and interests, forming different cliques reminiscent of high school—except better, for Tumblr isn’t bound by the limitations of a socially-conscious high school. Inside every teenager and young adult lies an inner lunatic that desires interaction with other lunatics to obsess and contemplate over the truly important things in life: art, Doctor Who, and Darren Criss.
In all seriousness, Tumblr is basically a website where people are free to blog, or reblog from other users, various kinds of media-based content, including music, videos, pictures, text, and the commonly used GIF image. Simple. Straight-forward. Not particularly sophisticated. But why has it received such a powerful response? How it is possible for people to spend hours upon hours on this site and not get bored?
The thing is, Tumblr is not strictly a social network in the sense that interacting online is its main purpose. If people like your blog, they follow you. If they want to send you a message, they can type in a question in your ask box or send fan-mail. There are ways to socialize, but there are better, suitable, and more convenient ways to do so on Facebook. So one thing is for sure: a blog does not have to have a face associated with it. Hence, everyone is encouraged to be themselves. No pressure to conform. No need to feel embarrassed about your interests, because in a community so large, chances are high that others share the same interests.
Tumblr is like its own culture altogether. Despite having so much diversity, the community has a distinct sense of style and humor that is so easily picked up and emulated. People are individuals, but they are also part of something. That being said, Tumblr is not for everyone. Parents especially will need to be cautious about some of what the website has to offer. A few points to keep in mind:
1. Anyone can post anything. I do mean anything. Sex, violence, profanity…etc. It’s not uncommon to come across something you never intended to see. So how do you avoid it? The truth is, there is really no way. The Tumblr search engine is one of its weakest features and does not even attempt to filter out R-rated material. Even an innocent search can bring up twisted, perverted, and tasteless interpretations of the subject matter. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to reserve access to the website from the fifteen-and-under crowd, for now. Either this, or closely monitor the type of blogs your child follows to avoid inappropriate images from suddenly appearing on the dashboard. Of course, every teen in on a different level of maturity. If you can trust him or her to quickly scroll past explicit content, then they are ready to blog.
2. Cyber bullying is possible, but it can be easily prevented by un-checking the option that allows anonymous bloggers to send messages, or by disabling the “ask” setting altogether.
3. Without showing bias, I have to warn politically-conservative parents that Tumblr in general has a fiercely liberal atmosphere. This isn’t a huge problem, but it may be uncomfortable for those who do not want their child to be influenced by this.
Tumblr is not the ideal site for teenagers to surf through; mostly, it’s just a waste of time. However, Tumblr represents a way to connect and relate to others in a medium that is louder and more revealing than any spoken word. That, to us, is priceless.
Photo Credit: Chad Swaney from Flickr