20 October 2013

Tumblr: my toxic frenemy

First things first - I'd like to thank Chelsea Birkby, my oldest friend, and one of my best friends in the world. If it wasn't for her, this post wouldn't be happening. And for that, I owe her a lot. Firstly, because without her I'd still be stuck in a toxic cycle, and secondly, for making me feel a whole lot better about everything. She has inspired this post. So Chelsea, this one's for you (and for Katie, who kindly said "You're fit babes, don't worry about it")...

Lately, I've been on a downward spiral. Initially it started with self-doubt, which I blamed on starting a new job, and the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with new ventures. But then I started to dislike myself, dislike how I looked, dislike my size, my hair... just about everything. I mean, it started to veer on self-loathing.

Only now do I realise that this is bad, and it needs to stop.

And if my job wasn't to blame, what was? The simple answer: Tumblr.

Now, for those who aren't familiar with Tumblr, it's a social platform like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, but it's different in that its main focus is photography (although you can share links, videos, quotes, text, and more).

At first, Tumblr was a bit of a novelty to me. It was a place to share things that I couldn't on Twitter. You know the drill: things you wouldn't post on Facebook, you tend to post on Twitter... And Tumblr was a place I could post things that I felt were too angsty for Twitter. 

It was a place I could rant, complain, moan about anything I wanted, and no one would say anything.

Which was liberating for a while, but then kind of sad, when you think about it. Can you imagine a place where people speak about things that bother them, and they disappear into the internet, with no one to console them? Well, that's Tumblr.

But it gets worse. Because Tumblr is more than that, worse than that. Not only does it allow a place for people to complain, but it allows for people to indulge in sadness. Almost until indulging becomes normal, and expected.

My "dashboard" (the equivalent of a facebook wall, or a twitter feed) was full of quotes and photography reblogged by people saying things like "When will things get better?", "I wonder if anyone knows how lonely I am", "It's 1am and all I can think about is you, and where things went wrong", "It sucks to be the ugly, fat and boring friend"... and so on. These posts have notes (likes & shares) in the 6 figure range. It's not right. And when you see things like this all the time - I'm guilty of scrolling through my dashboard first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening - it starts to affect you. And in my case, I found myself starting to feel this way, reblogging sad things, and feeling sad.

If that wasn't bad enough, Tumblr is guilty of promoting an unrealistic body image and unrealistic role models. I became attuned to seeing picture after picture of flawless models, Emma Watson, Lily Collins, Cara Delevigne, until I became numb. I knew I couldn't look like them, but I wanted to. It made me feel utterly crap. And the "typical Tumblr girl" was laughable - long, long dirty blonde hair, button nose, thigh gap, flat stomach, often donning a bikini (they always have pert, cellulite-less bottoms) or cut off shorts which on anyone above a size 6, would be considered indecent.

Again, if you see this all the time, it becomes the norm, and something to aspire to. Tumblr was my guilty pleasure, but it also became completely toxic. I felt like if I was down, I could always find solace in an angsty marker pen-covered paint sample (look it up, it's a total tumblr stereotype). Whenever I felt like I wasn't looking my best, seeing those  "perfect" girls was painful. It wasn't fitspo, it was just ridiculous. It was as if Tumblr was simultaneously encouraging indulgence in self-hatred and adoration of the unattainable, yet I couldn't get away. For every "sad" quote, there was a beautiful picture of the beach, offering a little escapism and aesthetic pleasure. For every ridiculously toned stomach, there was an adorable cat gif. But the negative always out-weighed the positive.

This might sound quite dramatic, but it's pretty amazing (disturbing?) the effect images and words can have on a person. Needless to say, if you've ever been moved by a book or a painting, you can begin to understand what I mean. Tumblr is just a digital version of this.

So, what was the point in this post? Yesterday I posted a particularly negative rant, and I woke up to my friend Chelsea saying "I saw your post, and I'm worried about you". It took a friend telling me to stop, and consider what the site was doing to me, to realise that I had to draw a line. Tumblr, if it was a friend, would be the type that gives you a back-handed compliment, lets you think they are reliable and trust-worthy, then completely betrays you, wishing you'd never met them in the first place.

I didn't need a "note" on a rant I'd written to make it feel like someone understood me; I needed a friend to tell me that I had a lot of things going for me, and that I was lovely, and beautiful, and had to stop being so negative.

Since this text, I have deleted the Tumblr app on my phone and iPad. I'm going cold turkey and avoiding the site until further notice. If I have a craving for pretty photography, I'll go on flickr or something. If I want a nice quote, I'll Google one. I thought Tumblr was the perfect combination of guilty pleasures rolled into a social media site, but it's only served for me to feel awful about myself, and it's time to cut it off.

Has anyone else felt the toxicity of Tumblr, or is it just me?

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