For every social network, there are memes with which it is associated. With Myspace came the scene generation, with Twitter came the Beliebers, and with Facebook came the self-indulgent frat boys and sorority girls.
And now there’s Tumblr. Allowing users to quickly post images, blog entries, audio files and YouTube links, Tumblr makes connecting with one’s lifestream as easy as with Twitter, but with greater specificity. And due to Tumblr’s reblogging feature – an element that allows users to click a button and re-circulate popular material – much of the content presented on Tumblr is a series of diluted ideas and concepts drawn from a relatively limited bank of trends. Here are some of the trends that I’ve found to have pretty significant influence among the Tumblr user base.
Female wannabe-indie tweens
Tumblr is often referred to as ‘4chan for girls.’ Cyberbullying isn’t prevalent, but knockoff comic-strip ‘rage memes’ and Advice Dog spinoffs are. A specific example of the female voice’s attribution to an elementally male cyber-sensation is Bachelorette Frog.
Bachelorette Frog is a womanly edition of Bachelor Frog, a resentful male toad who lives alone and blasts inanimate objects with piss. His face has been immortalized on top of a primitively designed green background. Bachelorette Frog is transposed upon a similar purple background. Both Bachelor and Bachelorette Frog are forms of single-frame comic art famed for their snarky, two-sentence expressions that anyone can create using memegenerator.net.
Tumblr users also enjoy creating their own ‘rage memes.’ Type it into Google Images and you’ll immediately recognize its formula. The artist depicts an easily relatable topic and concludes it with the face of an indescribably angry humanoid bellowing in frustration. Although the ‘rage meme’ was originally intended for male audiences, the femmes of Tumblr identified with its sharp-witted comedic style and altered it to appeal more to women.
Not all Tumblr users intend to encourage the brand of cultural suckage described above. Some are simply there to express their inspirations, their fashion icons, their ideal lifestyles, and ultimately themselves.
Tumblr users share a number of recurring gimmicks – love for Nutella, appreciation for artfully decorated cupcakes, floral print dresses, Starbucks beverages, rainy Paris passageways, and celestial landscapes of Helvetica-emblazoned skylines. They display a propensity to reblog film photos from disposable cameras. They prefer to share images of icons they aspire to be, but only once they escape from the palisades of their predictable American suburbs. And if one were to religiously photograph Nutella, blog about pho, and conclude every funny reblog with “what is this” and “I don’t even,” they would soon have more Tumblr followers than Lady Gaga has bloggable outfit changes.
The Tumblr user base is remarkably young, which possibly explains the cornucopia of idealist propaganda floating around the network. They introduce themselves as “14-year-old daydreamer from Melbourne, Australia” and “16-year-old vintage-lover from Northern California.” The combinations of romantically adolescent self-descriptions are infinite.
For whatever reason, Tumblr attracts a specific ‘brand’ of human being. Almost all users are democratic, health-conscious self-proclaimed non-conformists who prefer kittens to puppies. They ‘smoke dank,’ down vodka, and consider cigarettes to be, above all things, an art form.
Tumblr users often regard overwhelmingly average nightscapes as breathtaking when photographed by a Polaroid camera. They like their wrists tattooed with infinity symbols and Roman numerals. They want their necks linked with Warhol quotes and bedroom walls plastered with Nylon magazine ad cut-outs.
Tumblr users rarely come across as arrogant. They usurp the site’s current lack of mainstream attention to express their insecurities. They receive validation from anonymous messages in their “Ask” inbox, new followers that haven’t met in real life, a plethora of instant likes and reblogs on a recent post, or promotion and recommendation from their online fanbase.
Film, literature, and music
The abundance of posts related to Harry Potter, Mean Girls, and 500 Days of Summer further emphasizes that Tumblr culture is oriented around an overwhelmingly limited selection of films, musicians, and books.
If there’s one classic novel every established Tumblr user has read, it’s probably Lolita. The Tumblr music scene is dominated by bands only novice music enthusiasts consider to be ‘indie’ – MGMT, Phoenix, Passion Pit, Vampire Weekend, M.I.A., etc. (That said, one of the more popular music-related memes to circulate is the Joy Division “Unknown Pleasures” album cover. Images of girls and guys alike sporting the iconic symbol on t-shirts and in tattoos go viral nearly instantly. A moving .gif of the cover’s striated lines was and is a Tumblr sensation.)
Black and white stills of captioned Godard films are frequently reblogged. And much like Lookbook, Morrissey’s aesthetic presence maintains a stronghold over the youthful network. Whether or not Tumblr users fanatically or passively listen to the Smiths, if at all, is irrelevant within the cybersphere – it’s almost an obligation. A testament to one’s love for Tumblr’s quintessential memes – to reblog photos, drawings, .gifs, and screen caps of the notorious musician.
Tumblr is predictable. Its purpose is to entertain, but for the self-aware, entertainment only comes from the supreme knowledge that Tumblr users have no idea they are putting themselves up for mockery. Like the wilted content they repeatedly post, Tumblr users are essentially a human ‘reblog’ of every other poster they follow. Yes, the microblogging community can be further specified and inspected; the 14-year-old Estonian who listens to Katy Perry varies greatly from the 18-year-old Tejano who listens to Band of Horses. But at the end of the day, they’re both logging into the same site and extracting their day’s validation from the same genus of people.