By Melody Bishop
Tumblr is known to most as a website for the sharing of thoughts and images, or a collection of personal blogs, but it is so much messier than this. I had an account with Tumblr for two years before deleting it my sophomore year of college after I realized what a negative influence it was in my life. I wasted countless hours of time just scrolling, mindlessly browsing through images of pretty people, places, and things that only made me hate my life at the present moment. The time I spent on Tumblr could have been spent sleeping, finishing homework, running, or any number of different and more useful activities: this was strike one against the site.
Strike two was the difficulty of filtering out content I did not want to see on my dashboard. No matter how selective I was in whose posts I followed, pornographic and sometimes disturbingly violent images would inevitably intrude. More prolific, however, was the bombardment of “thinspo” images that all users at some point shared. These are usually pictures of people with perfectly sculpted bodies that are just genetically impossible for the majority of the human race to achieve, and users share these as reminders and inspiration to be thin.
Some “thinspo” posts even come dangerously close to promoting eating disorders and encourage unhealthy ideals. These posts involve unrealistic standards of beauty that I inevitably began comparing myself to; it’s hard not to under that kind of constant exposure. For the first time in my life, I seriously disliked my body because of a stupid website. It was also impossible to not start wanting things that I neither needed nor could afford, a dangerous outlook for a broke college student who has otherwise always been content with her wardrobe and belongings.
The final strike that led me to delete my account was realizing the general melancholy and self-pitying tone of Tumblr. It was a depression vortex, and I always felt worse after spending time on it. Users have the option to share comments or captions next to posts, and these are usually negative in tone. It wasn’t uncommon to see something such as “You never really cared,” or something equally middle school angst ridden and absurd. Worse than this, though, was the option for users to send anonymous messages to other users. What ensued was “anon hate,” users taking out their insecurities by leaving atrocious hate mail for undeserving victims. Members of Tumblr boasted about how the site was a type of community, uniting us all regardless of where we were from, but all the cyber bullying that happened completely nullified this claim.
Tumblr also glorified social anxiety and exploited mental illness. I couldn’t scroll more than five minutes without finding posts pertaining to being “awkward” and painting this trait in a light that made it seem endearing and somehow special, even desirable. But it’s not cute to be in your 20s and unable to deal with your responsibilities simply because you dislike people. Users would even go so far as to demand likes, reblogs, or messages on posts to prevent themselves or a friend from self-harming or attempting suicide. These users downplayed and made a mockery of social anxiety and depression, real and serious problems, by exploiting them to gain more followers and reblogs.
Despite Tumblr’s popularity as a website, I know its ugly side; I somehow got myself stuck in the rut of following posts that only became a negative influence. Tumblr was a toxic presence in my life. It wasn’t until after a dinner conversation with a friend on the above mention points that I decided to delete my account. I had long had these issues with the site, but it never occurred to me to remove it once and for all from my life.
When we become aware of a negative influence in our lives, what other option do we have? Letting it remain fixes nothing. We have to be proactive about seeing the changes we want to see for ourselves. Getting off of Tumblr certainly didn’t make tremendous changes, but over a year after leaving it I can tell there’s a difference. It’s a subtle one, but it’s enough for me.