Delving into the shattered remains of the internet’s greatest experiment on whether millennials deserve rights, Lachlan Mitchell remembers Tumblr as it once was.
To speak of Tumblr today almost feels like commencing a eulogy, reflecting on a powerhouse that collapsed under its own weight, and we’ve simply forgotten to bury the body. Though it would be a mistake to think that, in its seemingly everlasting twilight years, that Tumblr is dead; it is simply in slumber, though even the servants that remain to check for bed sores under the sleeping eldritch god do not particularly want it to wake up. It still exists, despite how it was sold for spare change after Yahoo’s own collapse, an Albanian serf pawning the only remaining gift from her dead husband in order to buy scraps of bread for her wee little children. And yet, few are weeping, for it will always be with us. While the body of Tumblr may be in the stages of rigor mortis, its influence is equivalent to a neutron star – long ago it went supernova, and while it continues on as an unshakeable core of impossibly dense remains, its energies burst out across the universe, and now we bask in its searing rays of light and mutagenic radiation. For proof of its lasting changes to how much of the internet frames ‘social justice discourse’, all you have to do is look at Twitter.
Even now, I swear I can feel it in the air, whispering sweet echoes of the past in its winds. Walking barefoot in the grass, the sun blinds me for a moment; in my brief delirium, I am reminded of the phrase “HIV Hamilton fanfiction”, reminding me that all words can indeed exist in any combination. In its prime, it was a website to behold – though its infrastructure was made of sulfur, its mortar mixed with semen, only Hieronymous Bosch could capture its perverse beauty. The first social media hub on the internet to misunderstand the word gaslighting and thoroughly beat it to death, there was rarely a dull day if you knew where to look, assuming you were there for something other than omnipresent porn blogs. It was a place where Famed Permanently Online Supervillain communismkills roamed freely, like a Zionist bison, forever providing fresh meat even in the coldest winters. Above all, it was organic – lacking any viable profit mechanism, lacking any measure of transferring their audience towards a career, the beings of Tumblr lived a life of honesty that other social media hubs still cannot fathom.
But by 2014, the decline of Tumblr could not be ignored – ever since the infamous year of not being able to reply to posts, during which users had to rely on third party extensions to use one of the fundamental features of the hellsite, it just seemed to falter in perpetuity. However, its summary execution only arrived in the banning of ‘adult material’ in all forms in 2018. While it had a legal obligation to stop ignoring the proliferation of child porn that had become a silent mainstay of the site’s financial revenues, it was more motivated by its desire to repackage the site’s content and identity for resale – Yahoo had debilitating Crohn’s and quite literally couldn’t stop shitting the bed, so the choice was made to try buy time by selling off its formerly multibillion dollar asset by removing all sexual content whatsoever. It hoped to save itself by removing its own heart – looping gifs of Aubrey-Plaza-styled-Latinas receiving loads of cum in their eyes. However, its decision to use a thermic lance to excise all possible objectionable material hosted on its servers did not save it; instead, by disallowing the ability for users to post anything remotely more adult than an episode of Suzy’s World, it shot its dick off with a sawn-off shotgun.
Within days, the mass exodus of its users was apparent. The grifters simply made a Substack profile and moved on. The days of Homestuck’s prime had long since passed, and many eons ago the gremlins of that fanbase had taken their arks to brand new horizons – Twitter, as we all pass on to when our homes die. Resentful Middle Class Art Twink Tumblr was too busy having Fashion Nova ethics discourse to notice any change, and they had Pornhub to begin with. Tumblr’s algorithm, a true standard bearer for the idea that we really don’t have to worry about AI implementing the Matrix on us anytime soon, could not decide what was objectionable material. Female-presenting titty bad. But male-presenting titty good. Small female titty good. Big male titty = ???????. Faced with such unanswerable questions, censor.exe’s scorched earth policy made it impossible for advertisers to take the slightest bit of interest in the remains of the bombed out utopia that once stood so proudly. Worth a cool billion in 2013, Tumblr was sold for $3.3 million in 2019. Requiescat in pace.
Now all we have are our memories. Put on ‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia, sit by a foggy window, and remember the good times.
Okay, this one is too easy. But I mean… the ballpit of piss is practically shorthand for Tumblr at this point. American bloggers went to a convention ostensibly celebrating the best of Tumblr Culture (i.e. Doctor Who slashfics) that was meant to cater to thousands, and it instead resulted in an unprecedented collapse of structure upon the reveal that it was a massive scam – tens of thousands of dollars stolen from ticket holders, no less. Guests flooded the toilets with their shit and took apart much of the facility BEFORE the reveal happened – this was just their natural state of being. The entertainment, purportedly panels of celebrities and ‘big name’ bloggers, was instead a bouncy castle and a ball pit, the latter of which was doused in piss after the guests were locked in by security overnight while the fraud was being investigated. Just incomparable.
This was a #creepy aesthetic blog that gained popularity for reposting #weird and #chilling pics, like the skulls of toddlers that revealed their adult teeth, or albino goats or what not. Also, they had an eight year labour slave that their family wouldn’t let leave the house, and justified its enslavement with ‘everyone does it here!’, so… yeah.
I’m not talking about the zettabytes of porn vids catalogued on the Tumblr servers here. Rather, when I think of Tumblr as a sexual entity, I am reminded of the utterly morbid manifestations of fandom sexuality that were directed at only the most asymmetrically confusing of beings. Case in point, Benedict Cumberbatch – the amount of gifsets filled with all-encompassing diseased lust towards something like his eyebrow just boggles the mind. These people hold jobs now.
A novel concept only ever adopted by Tumblr was the ability for users to edit posts they reblogged – and immediately upon his arrival, each and every post from the Quirky Yet Compliant Dream Girl degenerate John Green was edited at his expense. Always erasing his weirdass ‘hey teens 🙂 I’m one of you :)’ mannerisms, he was given a new kind of success as the author of thousands of scat fetish posts that surpassed any of the shit he signed with his legal name.
Oh, and there were entire hashtags, communities within a community, run by teenagers showcasing all the material they had shoplifted from Walmart and what not, some scoring a few grand of items in one go. With their names and faces attached to the blogs. A few of them went to prison, but they did nothing wrong!
We just won’t have anything like it ever again.