Whenever the beginning notes of “Robbers” by The 1975 plays, it feels like time pauses for a second. The chords bring people back to the time of the Tumblr era. However, the website started in 2007 and is still alive. In my opinion, the iconic Tumblr heyday, while debated, is roughly from 2012-2016. Although I have a Tumblr account, I only had scraps of the Tumblr era. I was too young for the era and refused to get any social media except for Pinterest until I was 13 in 2016. While I feel it was partly my age that prevented me from being part of the Tumblr era, my best friend—my same age and grade—was more into the era despite our age, listening to Panic! at The Disco, Marina and the Diamonds, etc. Although I was not active during this time, it fascinates me. I have watched countless YouTube videos, from analyzing the fashion and discussing fandom arguments, to laughing at old “I’m not like other girls” Tumblr memes that have not aged well. I feel like an anthropologist researching a time before me.
However, some issues have been brought up in my research. Tumblr was remarkably able to form communities, but some were harmful, revolving around people with eating disorders and romanizing characters like Cassie from Skins. There was also the romanticization of mental health, with a popular character being Effie from Skins. People would write a sad quote about being depressed and put it on the pretty background or over the face of a young, pretty girl. These girls are often skinny and white. There were influencers on a smaller scale than TikTok, and aesthetics, where being pale and skinny was upheld as the ideal beauty type. The beauty standard was harmful and enforced by many aspects of the website, from aesthetic posts to popular music. While on the website, I also remember wanting to smoke cigarettes badly because Tumblr made it look cool. This beauty standard and romanticization had a very harmful effect on young girls using the website.
The harmful parts of the Tumblr era should not be forgotten because they are still impacting social media today, with TikTok communities romanticizing mental illness and drug use, intensifying eating disorders, and the pattern of popular white influencers copying dances made by BIPOC creators. Although trends often come from years prior, the new generation gets to put a fresh spin on them. If the Tumblr aesthetic comes back, it could be an excellent way to recognize the harmful parts of the past and reintroduce an inclusive and supportive community, with less focus on the harmful communities that previously thrived on the site.