There’s another side of Tumblr that I hate and that’s what I’m going to talk about here.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that I heard on the radio a parent talking about how their child had taken their own life because of pressures that had come from Tumblr. Tumblr, for those who don’t know, is a blogging website but not in the traditional way like the one you’re reading, a new age blogging site where people and their blogs slot into distinct categories. There are ridiculous blogs where people share funny clips, high fashion blogs full of black and white pictures of unthinkably expensive clothes, cat blogs, food blogs, sport blogs, and then the dark side where teenagers share pictures of self-harm and distress; a place where anorexia and depression are glamorised.
The mother that was speaking on the radio expressed her horror at finding out about her daughter’s Tumblr page which was splashed with images of self-harm and a glorified view of suicide. Sadly on Tumblr, blogs on suicide, self-harm and mental health problems are not uncommon and often the people behind the keyboards are very young teens.
Girls, I feel, are at a greater risk of being affected by this side of Tumblr because, in general, labels are more important to girls. Every teenage girl wants to fit into a defined group and know what their tag is, be it sporty, popular or anything else. For those who struggle to find a group at school, the internet, more specifically Tumblr, is sometimes where they turn.
Following a trend is equally important to teenage girls. When Cheryl Cole appeared on the X-Factor with red hair, school was filled with red haired teens the following Monday. The same goes for Tumblr. If someone associates themselves with a particular group on Tumblr, they will do the necessary things to stay a part of that group. With so many blogs dedicated to self-harm and depression, a teenager that was unhappy and wanted to be a part of a group can, over time, genuinely become depressed and see self-harm as a solution.
It’s scary to see 12, 13, 14 year olds sharing quotes about depression, self-harm and eating disorders. Children suffering on the internet. In a different setting this would be outrageous; if young teenagers were discussing the best way to self-harm in the playground they would be offered help straight away yet on the internet, secrets can be hidden from the real world.
It’s not only self-harm and depression that are glamorised on Tumblr as ‘thinspiration’ is now a part of every teenager’s vocabulary. ‘Thinspiration’ is where people share a picture of someone that they consider to have a perfect thin body. Often those in the pictures are vastly underweight and entirely unattainable, provoking feelings of inadequacy about not having a thigh-gap or not being a size 6 in people barely into their teens.
So often I hear about the Tumblr community being supportive but it’s supporting the wrong things. Teenagers should not be spurring each other on to self-harm or telling others that ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’. It’s desperately sad and it’s many people’s reality.
After hearing the devastated parent on the radio, there is no one who can claim that Tumblr is fine as it is. Her daughter’s case was not a lone case and suicide is not the only issue surrounding Tumblr. There are teenagers all over living seemingly happy lives but with a dark online blog and that needs to change because whether or not it is affecting them, their blog could be affecting others who are trying to follow in their footsteps and fit in.
I will continue to use Tumblr because a quick browse of funny clips and hilarious pictures never fails to cheer me up or leave me with a sore side from laughing. Despite this, I will never venture to the other side because I know the dangers and I’m not willing to become another broken teen whose life was destroyed by a website.