I have a chequered past with Tumblr. I joined back in 2007, within weeks of the website launching, and dicked around with it endlessly while writing elsewhere. I’ve used it as a personal blog several times, walked away several times, but always come back - so I guess the question for me is “why do you keep coming back?”
I’m going to answer the question by telling you a story - a story about a boy who was writing his thoughts on the internet before “blogging”, or “social networks” existed.
It all started with the purchase of a V32bis modem in 1992. The modem made strange squawking noises, and connected to Bulletin Boards, Compuserve, CiX, and various other dial-up services. A “boy meets world” moment, if you will. The “online” world back then was filled with everything from unimaginably bad poetry groups to shadowy conspiracy theory nerdfests. Who knew that Zeta Reticulans liked strawberry ice cream? (and if you spot the Dark Skies link, you now know where they got it from).
One day Compuserve announced the bundling of a new app with their software called Mosaic. You clicked on a red button in their interface titled “World Wide Web”, and it fired up a clunky looking hypertext system. There was a directory called Yahoo run by two kids at Stanford, a view of the contents of the coke machine at another university, but not much else.
The web changed everything.
People began “publishing” more and more about themselves online. Geocities created virtual neighbourhoods for you to stake a claim in, and make your own - complete with rotating banners, blinking text, and animated GIFs. LiveJournal and Diaryland let you write a public journal for others to read. Pyra Labs arrived with Blogger.
While all this had been happening I was learning to build web sites, and ended up inventing one of the first open source blogging scripts. I originally started it purely for my own use - to publish my own journal on the internet - until a friend convinced me to make it available to everybody else. I never dreamed that everybodywoulddownload it (ok, maybe noteverybody, but a few thousand people is still alotof people…). Then there was the time somebody informed me that it was being bundled with Novell’s webserver software…
One day, a web designer friend in San Francisco mentioned that she was migrating her online writing to a platform that had just been released called WordPress. For the first time in a long time I got back into writing - taking part - sharing with the world.
I’ve never looked back. Over the course of the last nine years I’ve shared something in the region of four thousand posts with the world. Posts filled with idiotic ideas, stupid thoughts, fond memories, and baseless rants. I’ve tried out all the popular platforms - some still exist, some consigned to history. WordPress, LiveJournal, Vox, Yahoo 360, Blogger, Posterous… and now Tumblr.
Over the years I’ve come to realise that the platform isn’t important at all. It’s not about the audience either - although I used to think it was. It’s about the community - the relationships - the far flung friendships, and the connections between us all.
It’s about making friends, sharing the story of our day, speaking up, keeping quiet, being there, not being there…
Why am I on Tumblr? I’m on Tumblr because of you.