If you’ve been on social media the past day or so, you may well have seen people complaining about changes to a platform called Tumblr. I, myself, was a site user and I myself have been tweeting about it.
Before I get into my thoughts (and feelings) about what’s going on, though, I should probably explain what Tumblr is and what actually is going on with it. So. Tumblr is a social network alongside all the others — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc..
As a site, it was very visual but was not just limited to photo sharing (as Instagram is). Tumblr has its own culture. It’s own inside jokes. And until yesterday, when they announced some pretty big changes to how they operate, they had a big, thriving community.
Now people are leaving in a mass exodus, myself included.
The changes sound mostly reasonable on the surface. They claim to be about making the site safer, which I’m all for, if that’s what the new policy actually achieved.
I could go into detail about the policy and the reasons for it, but there’s already a hundred news articles out there, stating the nitty-gritty of it; alongside thousands of posts by past and present users giving nuanced reasoning for how the changes will make things worse, not better. What I want to talk about instead is what the site meant to me, personally, and what implications deleting it has had on my life.
To that end, let me say that I was on Tumblr for the best part of ten years. I had eleven of my own blogs on there and was part of a 12th one alongside my husband. In fact, when I had my very first date with my now husband, I could tell that we had a lot in common from the subtle references he made to the aforementioned Tumblr culture and inside jokes. It turned out we were already following some of the same blogs.
We were on the same (web)page, so to speak.
What I’m saying is that Tumblr meant a lot to me. Many times, I referred to it as my happy place. Because it was somewhere I could go when I felt awful and alone, and I could feel better, and connected.
I met friends through it. I was educated by it to become a better person. It taught me what social justice is and why it matters. It helped me to accept a part of myself that I didn’t even know was there. And it did that for a long time, because ten years is a long time generally, but it’s a lifetime in internet years.
Tumblr has been with me through very difficult periods in my life, when I really needed the safe space it offered. Don’t let people (/news sites) tell you it was just a place for porn. It did have that, and it did have its issues with that, but it was more than that. It was more than just a website.
My usage did decline in the last couple of those near ten years as other changes were made and functionality was lost, I’ll admit. But I still fiercely loved Tumblr for what it was and what it did for me. I suspect that fierce emotion is clear in me writing this.
As I said on Twitter last night, I was really upset about deleting it and I did not do so lightly.
I was angry. I legitimately wanted to cry. For all the reasons I’ve already explained and everything else I’m still struggling to put into words.
I’m left not just lamenting Tumblr, but thinking about what it is to lose an online space in general.
After I deleted my account, I had the serious urge to continue on and delete the rest of my social networks as well.
That urge is not a new one, and this is coming from someone who has social media integrated into every area of their life and work — someone who defends Facebook and Twitter when people criticise it, someone who manages accounts for others, and has taught social media in the past.
I genuinely wanted to walk away from it all. Not because I didn’t care anymore, but because I care too much. It hurt to have ten years of my life be gone in a click. Part of me doesn’t want to keep contributing to — pouring my time and energy into — online spaces that can be ruined or gone altogether so quickly. Another part of me actively wants a clean slate on certain sites, but the key difference is that I wanted to be the one making the decisions about what that clean slate looked like and when it happened.
I suppose that’s the danger in having a blog (or a page, or a profile) on a site you don’t own: you’re never fully in control.
What is my conclusion to all this? That I’m sad. A little part of me actually feels like I’m grieving something, and I guess I am. Some people might think that’s ridiculous or that I’m pathetic but whatever, I’m not going to suppress my feelings so those hypothetical people can think better of me.
I am sad and I have a right to be. There was something great and it’s now gone from the world.
Rest in peace, Tumblr.
And fuck you to the people who ruined you.
2 thoughts on “On Deleting the Internet”
I’m a fan of yours over on Facebook, but I believe this is the first time I have commented on your blog. I am not personally affected by the ‘demise’ of Tumblr, but a forum that I was involved with for fans of George Harrison suddenly disappeared overnight in 2013. They put up a maintenance notice, and when I went back the whole thing had gone.
That forum became a space where I could be in community with those who had also known my dear friend Chris, a fellow Beatlemaniac who lived in Argentina and unfortunately lost her life to metastatic breast cancer in 2007. I know what you mean about wanting to be in control of these spaces. It really is a kind of grief.
For individuals with disabilities in particular, online spaces offer a lifeline of sorts, social involvement in a readily accessible way.
It’s a sign of the pace of modern life that these decisions are taken without thought for the impact on the users.
Thank you for your informative post.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Casey. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. You’re so right.