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  • Nassima Alloueche

The Resurface of the Tumblr Aesthetic

Bad Habits Die Hard: Tumblr is Alive and Breathing

[Trigger Warning: Self-Harm/ Eating Disorders]

Despite the changing times and apps, the trends have remained constant. The impact of Tumblr was always present, even though it resurfaced under its original name after being repackaged in various forms. In its golden days, Tumblr appeared as the platform to observe the cultural Zeitgeist of the new digital age. Mostly due to its format as a largely anonymous blog, it took the world of teenagers and young adults by storm. Tumblr expanded the ways in which young people could create and find their own niche communities, sometimes even too niche.

With the advent of smartphones that could capture decent-looking photos and enhance them with a sea of filters, blogs began to come alive with pictures, gifs, screenshots of movie scenes, and collages. This gave rise to the Tumblr aesthetic. Imagine this: it's 2014, and after a long day of school or work, you open your laptop seeking a little escape from reality. You open Tumblr, and just like that, you're swept away in a current of poetic quotes, beaches with the bluest water, seemingly flawless girls flaunting their tanned bodies in Brandy Melville clothing and Triangl bikinis. As you scroll further down, you come across a 'not like other girls' starter pack meme containing a picture of Lana del Rey and Doc Martens, and then you stumble upon a rabbit hole of images featuring pills overlapped with song lyrics, 'thinspiration goals,' self-harm diaries, and pornographic content that takes you by storm. How did you end up there?

The resurfacing of the Tumblr aesthetic on TikTok this past year set off alarm bells everywhere as we believed social media had evolved into a safer and more positive place for young people. However, Tumblr's habits and aesthetics seem to have simply transmuted from one app to another. While trends and fashions have changed, TikTok and Instagram now have more content variety than Tumblr ever did. Nevertheless, the trends and aesthetics simply changed names and formats but never truly died out. For instance, saturated filters became TikTok beauty filters, starter pack memes turned into 'cottage core aesthetic' or 'that girl aesthetic' videos and fashion hauls, movie screenshots became TikTok sound bites, and 'thinspiration' sneaked into misleading 'what I eat in a day' videos. Darker topics that populated Tumblr in the form of blog posts and troubling pictures have turned into trauma-dumping videos and dark humour jokes. The rest of what lived on Tumblr moved to more underground platforms that still value anonymity like Reddit.

So, the resurgence of the Tumblr aesthetic is nothing more than a nostalgic way of looking at the present state of social media. Should it alarm us? Yes, but not for the obvious reasons surrounding the toxicity of Tumblr back in the day. Rather, it should alarm us in the ways it never left. As much as social media has evolved in terms of guidelines and content, its dangers have evolved too, and they may not be as glaring as they were on Tumblr, but their effects are still strong. Perhaps this Tumblr renaissance is indicative of a heightened awareness of the toxicity of our social media platforms, which blind us with beautiful aesthetics and enviable goods to keep us coming back and staying longer.

We need to keep a pragmatic mind in the midst of this chaotic world of content, dedicating time to studying these trends before deciding what to embrace and what to fight against. After all, social media is the biggest vessel of culture, and there is much to learn from and even embrace within it. A effective way of achieving that is to direct more attention towards

creators like Mina Le and Khadija Mbowe for example, who have taken it upon themselves to analyze and critically comment cultural phenomenons and trends offering a more pragmatic and insightful approach to social media culture, reminding us to stay grounded in reality and in our own beliefs and everything will turn out just fine, possibly.


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