To generations of youth, the bedroom wall has been a gateway to freedom that coincides with a burgeoning sense of individuality.
As with most things in the digital age, the internet was the bedroom wall’s disruptive match. Iconic posters, fliers and polaroids have migrated to entirely new mediums of self-expression. Does a wall integrate video? GIFs? How do I repost an image from a wall across the globe and add it to my own? These aren’t hopeful requests; they’re demands by a generation eager to engage with and re-purpose media.
Blogging started from the bottom, with platforms like Live Journal and Blogger in the late 1990s and early 2000s featuring little more than text and simple tagging. As web capabilities increased, hosting platforms like WordPress began offering alternatives with advanced options like multi-page websites and integrated imagery and video. The extensive customization offerings led to rapid growth in popularity, with a 2005 study claiming that 32 million Americans read blogs.
While platforms like WordPress offered an endless array of customizable features, there grew a desire for streamlined blogging that was as quick as it was versatile. Enter Microblogs, also known as Tumblogs, for the nature of browsing (tumbling) from page to page. Tumblogs gained huge popularity by 2007 amongst a new generation of content-savvy web users, as the blogs featured short, multimedia posts designed for sharing via a one-size-fits all post type.
Though there were many Tumblog platforms offering similar platforms, David Karp’s Tumblr quickly became the market leader using a simple but smart system of sharing and reposting other users’ content to create a tight-knit community. Fast forward to 2014, and Tumblr’s growth is seemingly unstoppable. With 120,000 new users a day added to its 168.4 million existing Tumblr blogs, to say that Tumblr is a force to be reckoned with is an understatement.
60% of teenagers aged 13-19 consider Tumblr as their favorite form of social media, so how does the platform get neglected when compared to social media giants like Facebook and Twitter?
Users don’t have to worry about the perception of their blog as a direct representation of themselves. Tumblr feels secure, and not because of an unnavigable list of security toggle switches (ahem Facebook). The bedroom wall isn’t about gaining a following, though you can if you so desire. Tumblr is secure through its relative obscurity.
A user going through a punk phase can manage a blog worshipping the Sex Pistols while still remaining active on a blog that exclusively chronicles photos of cute puppies. All of this is accomplished under the same account. There’s no pressure to connect with friends, or anyone for that matter. Tumblr is the anti-Facebook. Your mom? She probably isn’t on Tumblr. If she is, you can be sure you won’t bump into her, at least not deliberately.
Tumblr is just as focused on connectivity as any other social media platform, but in its own unique way. Never has a generation been more empowered to connect with individuals primarily based on their interests, rather than location and circumstance. This means that cultural threads of all shapes and sizes find suitors and empower followers to create their own.
The past couple of decades have seen the concept of Intellectual Property completely redefined. Industries with business models relying on IP as their primary source of revenue are in disrepair due to disbelief and denial of the Internet’s power. Music Industry, I’m looking at you. From the Millennials onward, “sharing is caring” has become the internet’s unspoken manifesto.
The seemingly egalitarian desire to share cultural bounty is actually far more ambitious. A rising musician creates a song and hopes that song gets shared and remixed. A film student posts a project to Vimeo and hopes someone like musician Lana Del Rey will grab a piece for one her entrancing video collages, permitting access to her cult-like following. Where does Tumblr come in? Tumblr is the sound system through which the “Remix” generation blasts their music, without fear of the neighbors calling the cops.
When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced the purchase of Tumblr for $1.1 Billion, there was a brief backlash from Tumblr users concerned that the acquisition would harm Tumblr’s ethos of freedom. Tumblr CEO David Karps assured users that part of the massive deal stipulated that Tumblr would remain autonomous of Yahoo and Karps would retain executive power. Over a year after the Yahoo deal, Tumblr has shown no signs of change, with a user base growing faster than ever. The final hurtle in Tumblr’s quest for longevity nears as they continue to finesse an ad model that doesn’t alienate users.
Driven by Sid Vicious’ middle-finger to the world, entranced by Kate Moss’ iconic beauty, and relaxed by Bob Marley’s vivacity playing soccer in his youth; the idols alone boast a taste for cultural achievement. Yet the collection as a whole represents a much greater freedom: the power to see and curate unique connections. Tumblr takes this ubiquitous cultural ingredient and empowers it by allowing global networks of like-minded individuals to coalesce. The shining beacon at the intersection of blogging, social media, and culture remains the “it” spot for freedom of expression, and the new bedroom wall lives on.