As a person born in 1999 I grew up playing the sims on a dinosaur PC while my brother who is 13 years older than me played resident evil on his PS1. My two sisters who are ten and seven years older than me flooded their Myspace and Facebook walls with mirror selfies showcasing their Blackberry and Samsung flip ones. Before I knew it I was 13 and blindly launched into the social media era of Instagram and Snapchat in the year 2013. Along with that I was talking to strangers on Omegle.com (Yes, it’s as dangerous as it sounds) while interacting with other internet friends on the Kik app. Do I still have everyone comprehending the situation? This was the time when the floodgates opened introducing an entire new era of social media apps to the world and younger generations such myself.
Research is still studying the psychological effects of people my age growing up influenced by social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook. People my age typically born between 1997-2000 were exposed to this new kind of social media overnight around an early pre-teen age and it was drastically different than good ole’ Myspace or AIM.
Fast forward a year and it is 2014. I was getting ready to go into my freshman year of high school. Around this time a newer website for blogging arose to popularity called Tumblr. It was a blogging website that blew up because they had blogs for literally everything. You name it. Cooking, K-pop, anime, TV shows, fashion, travel, grey’s anatomy, Lana Del Rey, even furries. Yeah.
Content Warning: eating disorders, mental health, and suicide
I could literally write a whole novel- probably an entire book series about Tumblr and its different niches along with revolution it caused on the internet for many teens. I amongst many other isolated and lonely teenagers found myself spending hours on Tumblr looking at blogs re-blogging posts, listening to music, reading stories, and searching hashtags. TW: Before Tumblr had a strict content policy nothing was off limits. Some of the blogs I came across as a teenager were disturbing.
I can recall specifically clicking on this one blog and although I am tempted to say its name I think I’ll just play it safe and leave it out even though the blog is long gone by now. But essentially the blog I stumbled upon was romanticizing the columbine school shooting and was obsessed with the two killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The blogger had endless gifs of them and scenarios written out about the two. I remember being shocked as I scrolled through their page. I decided to message the blog owner (another teenager like myself) trying to reason with them to get some help. To my horrific discovery there were plenty of other bloggers that were mesmerized by serial killers such as Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez, and Jeffery Dahmer.
Algorithm is weird and yet it makes sense; you’re bound to come across pages other people in your circle follow. I was following blogs for soft grunge and other darker artistic pages.
Another blog I found on was a pro-eating disorder page. I was looking at all beautiful Tumblr girls in the soft grudges aesthetic when I saw the hashtag “#pro-ana”. The page was filled with skinny attractive girls while in between posts writing “encouraging” messages to keep themselves from eating. Pro-and means the promotion of anorexia and other eating disorders. Things such as, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” were plastered across the blog while also offering links to group chats were people banded together to “support” one another- if you catch my drift. https://lipmag.com/opinion/the-dark-side-of-tumblr/
Lastly, this is no surprise and you probably could have assumed from reading my blog that Tumblr was also a space for adult content. You might ask, “Madison, how did you even end up on such pages?” Well, as I mentioned above, as a depressed teenager I found myself loving the grunge aesthetic and music scene. It was a way to express myself and escape. If you watched the video above part of the “aesthetic” was romanticizing mental illness and suicide. I’m not saying its right, it’s awful. But at the time a lot of the bloggers I followed were depressed and so was I. I was consuming content that was idealizing suicidal tendencies and pictures. At the time I found comfort and solace in following blogs that felt the same way I did.
If you are having any thoughts about taking your life or harming yourself please call the suicide lifeline at 988.
Nonetheless I stayed on Tumblr for another 4 years until 2018. I recently pulled up my old blog and scrolled through all my follows and photos I had accumulated on there over the years. All the old memories came rushing back in of who I wanted to be, and what I imagined my life would become. It wasn’t all bad- for real. Although this blog may appear to be a big downer Tumblr was a huge part of my life that showed me beautiful art, places, and gave me lots of inspiration. I eventually unfollowed many of the blogs as I found it wasn’t helping my situation.
In December of 2018 Tumblr enacted strict content policies on their website and many of the blogs I once saw slowly but surely disappeared and deactivated.
These seemingly perfect and beautiful (mostly white) girls were the aesthetic people across the world were trying to achieve. During this time was when Instagram models came to fame as well. This was the rise of when people became engulfed in capturing the perfect photos with the perfect outfits, hair, set-ups, aesthetics, etc. And then came the likes. It was about attention, the numbers, the comments, the follows, the re-blogs and the fame. Representation on Tumblr was few and far in between at the time for said soft-grunge era, so I am using images to represent the photos found during that time. As discussed above many body image issues arose during this time.
It feels weird now to be almost 23 and a trend that I lived and embodied is now being seen as nostalgic by people younger than myself. I literally got a clothing ad email today where it said “dress like Tumblr girl”. I was like, “oh my god. not again.” This is the first time I’m saying this but…I feel old. It’s kind of like how as a teen I romanticized the 2007-2012 emo phase that millennials went through. Well, needless to say I had my time in the sun with the Tumblr phase and the things that came with it. Good and bad. I had fun dressing the way I did, I enjoyed being creative an expressing myself during my teenage hood- I just wish I didn’t take everything so seriously is all. I wish I stepped out of my comfort zone more and didn’t stay in my bedroom all the time glued to Tumblr.com.
Thanks for letting me get all of this off my chest.
To end this, here are some treasured Tumblr photos of myself I took in my “grunge phase” back in early high school