I met Jim online last summer. I met him when I was about to transition into college and was thrown into a pool of other accepted students under the veil of a Facebook group. I’d never known anyone without having had a physical conversation, so the online chatting and the image I depicted of him was a fresh experience. As time progressed and I got to know him further, he introduced me to an even newer phenomenon: Tumblr. Yet, he wasn’t just another fan of the relatively new blogging site. Tumblr had introduced him to his girlfriend.
Jim’s relationship status was a form of internet Inception. Facebook had notified me of his girlfriend, but his girlfriend was from Tumblr, two different online mediums overlapping to create a real-life romance. How could he have met a girl from an online site that didn’t even coordinate dating? The site only promised me a few laughs and some quotes I found amusing. We are predisposed to wariness about online communication, whether due to stranger danger instilled in childhood or from the inherent oddity surrounding only knowing someone superficially. It warrants the question as to how genuine it can be through the lens of a computer, a place synonymous with cyber-bullying and false personas by use of an online profile. How do people find love on an illuminated screen?
Well, lately the transition into online dating has started making sense. Seeing as how our generation is constantly connected to social media, whether online, by phone, or by television, dating doesn’t seem too astray from constantly changing social norms. Although the mindset of meeting online used to include a negative connotation, complete with awkward conversation trailing from “how did you two meet?” and a condescending smile, it has hit its stride to become one of the leading ways to find love through heavily publicized sites like Match.com, Zoosk, or even Facebook.
Facebook has become synonymous with friends, photos, and pretty much anything from relationship statuses to the newly added timeline that traces a person’s life in a variety of recordable aspects. This is why I could see it understandable for someone to form an attraction to someone through a profile, a way to fully develop an opinion without even having physically met. Tumblr, in opposition, demonstrates anonymity at its finest. With usernames based on particular likes and never having to admit one’s identity, how then could someone be attracted to a faceless, nameless person?
Over time, however, the site convinced me otherwise. What I didn’t comprehend at first was that, unlike Facebook, Tumblr made it so that the likes held by a person were personalized to the extent that not only was identity achieved, but a personality was associated to the inherently nameless. David Karp, Tumblr’s founder, developed both a platform maintaining the allure of privacy with the ability to appear anonymous and united people through the culture that streams effortlessly through their dashboards. Jim met his girlfriend through her fan blog of their favorite band. Even though he messaged her, Jim didn’t even know upon early conversations that she was a girl, yet the two came to know each other through their dual love for the particular music her blog contained. From there, she introduced herself and directed him to her personal blog, where Jim commented that they grew even closer. He told me that it was nice to meet someone first by a mutual love and then realize that their connection didn’t just end there.
Before Jim’s speculation, I’d never seen Tumblr as more than a place to vent without followers knowing your identity. It was the same as Twitter to me, a free space to post about ideas and topics yet unrestricted to a character limit. After his input, I saw that Tumblr had the potential of being one of the superior methods of social networking even when remaining essentially anonymous. People overuse the trite expression “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but with Tumblr, the personalization of reblogging pictures has often made it easier to connect with someone than through the methods of Facebook. If Facebook shows the outward portrait of a person, complete with simple demographics like a standardized survey, then Tumblr is its imagination. “Reblogs” are formatted according to someone’s personality, complete with comments and observations. “Read more” posts provide glimpses into someone’s life, sometimes revealing truths that he or she just wouldn’t reveal on Facebook. Fandoms serve to unite people, like Jim and his girlfriend, through dual interests and commentaries on popular culture. Everything, from the formatting, webpage, posts, and usernames, accumulate to form a human being, void of any false pretension that Facebook may allow for to create the bare bones of pure personality.
Tumblr will never surpass Facebook, as the two are almost completely different. Facebook is about reconnecting with old friends or maintaining bonds with current ones while Tumblr is about new connections and discoveries. It’s about following people of interest and learning about communities. Facebook is like the popular group at school, the people that everyone knows about and is exposed to daily. Tumblr is comprised of the lesser known, the authentic people that it takes a little more digging to understand. Underneath the façades people put up, truly unique identities are created that mass media like Facebook simply can’t account for.
Juliana LaVita is a honors student at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, where she studies in the field of Writing, Literature, and Publishing. Juliana is an avid blogger, writer, and Dunkin’ Donuts employee who gives Barbara Ehrenreich from Nickel and Dimed a run for her money. Juliana’s inspiration comes from writer Amy Bender, screenwriter Woody Allen, fictional TV character Daria Morgendorffer, and the multi-talented celebrity Zooey Deschanel. She dreams to be as enthralling as Sylvia Plath, without the ultimate demise.