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Tumblr, fandom, and setting expectations

So remember the old days, when we used to write about other people's posts in our own spaces rather than just reblogging everything, maybe with commentary, maybe with a few thoughts hidden in the tags? I miss those days, so here I am, being the change I want to see.

This post about Tumblr and people's issues* with it was making the rounds a little while ago, and it struck a nerve with me. I don't disagree with the original poster's complaint, exactly -- there often is something dysfunctional about the way people interact on Tumblr, and that detracts from my enjoyment of both the site and of fandom as a whole. But it seems to me that the OP has cause and effect exactly backwards. Tumblr isn't a personal journaling site that people are treating like a public forum. Tumblr is a public forum that people are treating like a personal journaling site. Tumblr is a broadcast medium, specifically designed to promote the sharing of content as quickly as possible to as many people as possible. It is not meant for private conversation or personal journaling, so folks shouldn't be surprised when trying to use it that way is a disappointing experience.

I feel like I've been beating this drum a lot, especially since the end of Tumblr comments (and was there ever a more clear sign that Tumblr doesn't want to be a conversation platform than their decision to take away commenting?), and you might fairly ask why I care. It's purely selfish in the end -- I think fandom would be a better place if we would accept Tumblr's limitations and use it for the type of content and interaction that does work well there -- sharing multimedia, links, memes, and other short-form content. As far as I'm concerned, Tumblr works best when you treat it like Twitter writ large. No one expects Twitter to host personal conversations. No one expects an unlocked Tweet to be private. No one expects to avoid spoilers or negative commentary about characters they like. No one expects Twitter to serve as a long-form archive. And yet these are all complains that I hear about Tumblr on a regular basis. The secret to happiness is setting proper expectations, and the way to do that as a Tumblr user is to embrace the site for what it is, rather than fighting the interface to make it into something that it isn't, and was never meant to be.

I get the desire to have your entire community living on a single site. But the days of One Platform to Rule Them All are long behind us, if that particular beast ever even existed. Is it more trouble to go to Twitter for news and links, Tumblr for images and memes, Dreamwidth for meta and discussion, AO3 for fic? Maybe so, but I find that playing to the strengths of each site is making me happier overall. If that means I drift away from some elements of my fandom community, so be it -- I miss some people who I don't see nearly as much as I used to, but I hope to enjoy the time I do spend interacting with them all the more.

*Linking to a reblog because the OP deleted the post. The respondent here words things more strongly than I would have, but as you might guess I largely agree. The fact that the OP can delete but the reblogs live on forever is a whole other can of worms with Tumblr's design, but getting into that would be a different post.

This entry is also posted at http://owlmoose.dreamwidth.org/733808.html. There are currently comment count unavailable comments on DW.

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