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Name: Tumblr
Dates: 2007-
Type: multimedia blogging platform
Fandom: not applicable
URL: http://www.tumblr.com/
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A fannish discussion taking place on Tumblr, with examples of "liking," direct replies, and reblogging.
Tumblr fandom in a nutshell: attractive actors, cats, internet memes, and an argument made with compelling visuals instead of text

Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform with social networking features that allows users to post text, images, audio, and video. It is a popular tool for fannish picspams and gif sets. Tumblr users interact by replying directly to posts, "liking," and reblogging with optional commentary. Users can also DM each other via the "ask" feature, though the receiver then has the power to choose whether to answer privately, directly to the asker, or publicly on their blog, revealing the original question to all and sundry. Lengthy discussions do take place on Tumblr, although they are less structured than on journaling platforms such as LiveJournal and Dreamwidth.

In May 2013, Yahoo! bought Tumblr for $1.1 billion,[1] leading some fans to predict a slow and gradual demise of the platform as a fandom community.[2]

Fan Use

Two more things that are popular on Tumblr: otters and Benedict Cumberbatch. Graphic created by Redscharlach.
anonymous ask as a fanart prompt, posted with the fill

Tumblr is extremely diverse both in terms of the type of fandom, and the type of fanac hosted there. Gifs, filk, vids, fanart, fanfiction, screencaps, image macros, podfic, recs, RPing and meta can all be found there. A quick search for the tag "fanfic" produced results on the first page ranging from Dragonball Z to Glee, as well as Harry Potter, NCIS, Tiger and Bunny, Doctor Who, Sherlock (BBC) and Justin Bieber RPF.

Fanfiction posting on Tumblr can take unique forms. Ficlets or drabbles can be built up collaboratively in the Tumblr equivalent of an impromptu round robin, entirely in the hashtags.[3][4] Single-author ficlets may also appear as replies to a photo post.[5]

Asks are sometimes used to submit prompts for fanfic or fanart.

Fuckyeah is a popular prefix for many Tumblrs devoted to a one specific topic; this is not just limited to media fandom tumblrs. [6]

Fanfic Flamingo is a Tumblr blog that has gained many off-Tumblr fans.

Many Texts From Last Night Meme blogs are hosted on Tumblr.

Askblogs are a popular form of RP for fan artists.

One Tumblr-specific meme is for a user to post a picture of an arrow pointing up or down with a caption along the lines of "Your soulmate," "Your future," or "What you'll dream about tonight." When this appears on another Tumblr user's dashboard, it will (usually) be pointing at a picture randomly displayed in a third user's post; if the resulting combination is amusing or apt, it can be screencapped and shared. [7]

"Liking" on Tumblr can be confusing. A fan in 2014 wrote: "It is a weird thing about tumblr that it keeps telling you that someone “liked your post” when in fact they don’t like your post, they like something else that someone said in response to it, and that thing may be the complete opposite of what you posted." [8]


Conflict sometimes arises when one user reblogs a post with commentary that the OP doesn't like. For instance, someone may post a shippy picspam, and the person who reblogs the image may complain about the problematic representation of that ship in the canon. Other times, someone may post about the reasons why they hate a specific show, pairing or character, and then tag their post so that it appears on the tracked tags page for that topic; this practice has led to the admonishment "Don't tag your hate". For one example see the Kurtofsky Wanks in Glee fandom.

Some people are also annoyed when two or more series share the same tag, for example the American TV series and Kdrama Lie To Me, or the animated TV series and the movie Avatar. [9]

Other etiquettes: "The single biggest piece of etiquette would be not to strip out your sources. Reblogs with the automatic links back to the Tumblr where you found it are cool, stripping out those links is uncool. If you're posting something cool you found on Pixiv or DA or whatever, link back to the original source. Trigger warnings, cuts for graphic content, putting in text descriptions for images (since Tumblr doesn't make it easy for you to put in alt text properly)...etiquette there varies depending on the circles you run in. Some people are strict about putting in the descriptions to the point where it almost gets ridiculous, some don't give a fuck. Some warn and cut things, some will just throw all sorts of porn gifs and guro and all sorts of NWS shit right out there." [10]

Some fans ask not to be followed: "What I (generally) don’t post here: Social justice stuff, isms, and similar serious matters. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I come to Tumblr for fannish squee and relaxation, not to get angry and worked up over world politics/injustice, and all of that everything. So no, I’m not going to reblog that shit, sorry. If that offends you please don’t follow me." [11]


"Fandom is leaving me behind" by moving to Tumblr. [12]

Some journal-based fans have expressed concerns about fandom migrating to Tumblr.

Many fans post fanart taken from sites such as Pixiv or deviantART without proper credit to the original artist. This is often because the tools one uses to post to Tumblr through one's web-browser do not adequately 'scrape' the link of an image you are blogging, as a result of Tumblr's rules about its API.[citation needed] Users must manually enter the URL of the fanartist's page in the "content source" field when uploading an image. See Sharing Fanart.

According to some, the problem of unattributed fanart has lessened as more fanartists join Tumblr.[13]

[We need to have info on the recent (spring 2015) take-downs of fan tumblrs re: "copyright"]

Fan Comments About Tumblr


Tumblr culture is very exuberant. Which is fine if you like that, but it can be a bit of a culture shock if you're not ready. [14]
The SJWs are both awful and constantly on patrol. It's actually pretty funny from an outsider's viewpoint. People will send anonymous (always anonymous) asks saying things like "So you said you liked Lady Gaga DON'T YOU KNOW HOW *IST SHE IS I thought you were cool if you continue to like her I'll lose all respect for you because you will be a horrible person no exceptions" (that is like nearly verbatim from something I saw on an artist's tumblr) or whatever the de jour judgey topic of the day is, with the ultimatum always being "IF YOU DO NOT RECANT AND APOLOGIZE YOU ARE EVIL FOREVER" on a scale of annoying passive-aggressive :) to straight out aggressive insulting ... unless you try to make things better in the exact specific ways your anonymous stalkers tell you to do it, you're irredeemable. I really don't get the appeal behind the eat-your-own dynamic that thrives there - part of me suspects it might be just another co-optment of SJ as a unassailable cover for bullshit fandom drama because I see it most often in the tumblrs of people producing popular content in fandom. A sort of "I'll expose you as *ist! That'll teach you for being popular" mentality, maybe. [15]
A Sorting Hat Song For Tumblr
Ere all of YouTube's pretties
Twas early times on internets—
We lived in GeoCities.
United by our goal to share
Our favorites with the world
Garish backdrops and auto-play
Beneath our keyboards unfurled.
But the Cites, they went public
And Yahoo gobbled them up
Changed all the Terms of Service
and fandom users felt the snub.
But! LJ launched in ‘99
Was it a new safe haven?
Alas, it wasn’t ever to be
Eternally fandom-laden.
Some fled to DreamWidth, or to-
AO3. Some moved to DeviantArt.
MySpace, Facebook, FFN
Gave others their new(ish) start.
But then in 2007,
A newcomer hit the web
Just in time to inherit
LiveJournal’s discontented ebb.
“Our apps are great,” said Tumblr,
“Even Spotify’s supported!
Obama’s got a blog here,
Adidas have we courted!
So fandom come and make your home
(and reserve your backup names)
Post gifs and fic and playlists
We can format ALL your aims!”


(To read the entire song go here).[16]
Tumblr is for porn. And for interacting with fans without really having to interact. [17]
If you are after serious discussion and conversation, you won't find it on tumblr. However, if you just want a place where you can zone out for a bit, scroll through millions of pretty things, flashing gifs and silly humor, without having to emotionally or intellectually commit, then go ahead. For me it's not a replacement for lj, where talk and fic and discussions happen - it's an additional space about squee and prettiness. Unlike lj, I don't feel guilty if I fall behind in tumblr. Most times I just keep scrolling through my dash until I get bored and then close the tab. [18]
You can actually have comment discussions in a post if you/the person whose post you're commenting on has set it up to use Disqus. It's not available in all layouts, though, and not many of the people I follow seem to use it, nor do many people use it to leave me comments even though I have it set up on all my Tumblrs....Other than that, a lot of the communication is more indirect. Likes are, well, about the same as FB [Facebook] likes or AO3 kudos or whatever -- someone enjoys what you posted! Someone you don't know subscribes to you? They like what you're posting! Reblogs can either mean someone liked something and wanted to share it, or disliked it and wanted to tell everyone about it -- you'd need to look at them individually and see if they added any comments about your post, if not assume it's positive ..... There is some fanfic there, but in the fandoms I follow it's pretty uncommon, and nothing I haven't already seen cross-posted to LJ/DW and/or AO3...things may be different in other fandoms, of course. [19]


tumblr is primarily an amplification tool, not a discussion tool. [20]
Right now, we’re in the Tumblr generation because we’ve got a LOT of new fans finding fandom via Tumblr, and the thing about tumblr is that it lacks the structure that a lot of the other mediums of fandom had in which accessing our collective history was a lot easier. That’s a whole aside in my fandom theory in which I think it’s going to and already IS causing a dramatic shift in fandom culture.

But part of what I see going on in tumblr is that a lot of new fans just… don’t give a fuck about fandom’s heritage and where we came from and how we developed this culture with our own mores and standards. And that’s FINE. It really is. I may have leveled up to BOFQ sometime in the past few years, but I’m not one for shaking my broom at the new kids and shouting about the way things used to be.

There are certainly things I miss, like the sense of community and we’re all in this together that I feel like used to be a lot stronger? But I’m sure some would disagree with me that the community aspect of fandom is still very strong.[21]
I'm not sure that the majority of [Livejournal media] fandom moved there. A few did, but for the most part it seems to be that LJ-based fandom sort of died off on its own, as its participants graduated/had kids/lost interest/ actually died, and tumblr became a platform that was popular among teens and college students who then discovered fandom and adapted it to their already-preferred platform. [22]
*The core of Tumblr is reblogs, or something I call 'memetic blogging'.
  • This is magnified by the super quick and easy way of posting content, as opposed to having to upload photos somewhere else and mess with HTML tags, etc.
  • It lends itself to fandom because it amplifies and propagates 'squee' or 'feels' until you feel like you're all in a room together going 'omg i love this?!?', but doesn't go deep into analysis or content
  • It doesn't actually focus on social connections, it focuses on propagating content --> memetic
  • The added value is 'we experience this together' factor, in-crowd, in-jokes, emerging of 'Tumblrese'/'Tumblrspeak'
  • Tumblr as a whole feels like one giant community with many fandoms crossing over rather than being on their own island communities [equals] main fandom appeal?
  • Is used for long-winded discussions, but poorly suited for it --> posts and reblogs branch out into threads and don't come together, so information is lost all over. [23]
I find that with tumblr it's easier to randomly spot things that might interest me, because people are more likely to reblog a gif than to make an actual post recommending something, and I'm probably more likely to check something out if I'm just intrigued by a gif than if somebody oversells it in a big explanatory post. But at the same time, if I don't jump on it and look into something right away, it's really hard to ever find it again because tumblr is hard to look back through and fandoms have such a short half-life on there. Plus the ease of reblogging often means there's such a glut of posts about the shiny new thing that I never, ever want to look at that thing again, even if it might be totally relevant to my interests. [24]
I'm not sure if I find things easier because I find tumblr complicated and confusing sometimes and also a terrible archive, but I do think it's provided a way to open people's interests up, as it's easier to find someone who loves the sane minor character you do because they're the only one posting in the character's tag. I think I got lucky in my corner -- I fell in with the gen and het folks first, and then expanded my bubble out to find fans who were closer to my particular brand of reading. But I do remember how sometimes it could get really dude-heavy, and that several times we did a few ficathons to offset it. Slash is still huge, but the new ways of engaging give us more ways to see women in their media (tumblr gifs!). It's not so much than slash has gone away (what's that tag I keep seeing on tumblr, slash is the sound of white dudes fucking...?) but that we actually SEE more women, actually SEE them, in gifs and vids and art that's rebloggable and spreadable and findable in a way MLs and journal posts weren't. [25]


For those of us who aren’t widely followed, it’s kind of hard to call it a community. (I’m nearly at 200 followers, but what does that mean?) Sure we are steeped in the common cultural context, but we aren’t necessarily forming groups. Liking is not analogues to eye contact and reblogging isn’t a equivalent to sitting side by side because it is so much harder to reciprocate in this medium.

I’d hate to call tumblr a popularity contest. That is not a goal for the many well respected voices sharing talent and insight and passion. But the format of tumblr, with content flowing pass us all the time, makes it so much harder to be heard. Charismatic (+ derisive) voices always have relatively more impact in social forums, and the structure of tumblr exaggerates this via reblogging and by adding a point system via notes. When is it worth the work of sharing a moderate opinion (the lack of which has been lamented by emmagrant01 and many others) if no-one is going to see it? Original content takes effort, and that effort has little chance to be appreciate, particularly not on par with the material reappearing on our respective dashes. Is it a community when no one notices whether you showed up?

One problem with the cafeteria analogue is that most of “the noise” is actually quite lovely and thought provoking, but it comes to us in a rush to be absorbed quickly rather than picked up and explored and responded to. As a place to consume (rather than contribute) tumblr is very satisfying. And at worst, we can approximate our positions and ideas with reblogs and continue on as consumers of the work of others, both professional/big scale media and amateur. [26]
.... gone are the days of [Livejournal's] "super sekrit screencap" communities, and fans not getting the latest new because of being locked out of a comm. [27]


I want to write an enormous comment about how the Tumblr-ization of fandom has lead to a shift away from (fanfic)creator-lead communities to consumer-lead communities, and the various arguments about whether or not the invention of "I like this" buttons have contributed to the death of comment culture, and how the move away from Livejournal has destroyed the old feelings of fandom existing in a finite space where you generally knew who your audience was..... Except that would all just boil down to "I'm old and I'm sad that I no longer feel welcome in fannish spaces" and that's....not actually all that interesting. [28]
... fandom just feels different for me now, with the evaporation of fandom communities on platforms like LiveJournal. I have a tumblr now, but I don't know many people there, and I don't feel like I have much to offer. I was never a big fanfic author because I preferred to write original works. I participated as mostly a reader. I enjoyed discussions about interpretations of shows, about writing, etc--and those are much rarer now. They still happen--people still make them work--but I feel like a lot of the socialization is moving to a different model that is ... less geared toward creating communities, finding friends, etc. [29]
I was never a fanfiction writer, but I was part of the Gargoyles fandom back in the Station8 days (1997-2002 or so), when the community was a few hundred outspoken people and who-knows-how-many lurkers. Most of us knew each other at least socially in online circles, and many of us actually met in person (turns out I went to jr. high with two other very active members of that community, ha). At least one of the creatives behind the thing we were fans of was aware of / participating in the community. The idea of a community that tightly-knit on the modern net is more or less impossible just due to scale -- a couple of hundred people is maybe a niche in a niche in a niche, and who-knows-how-many of these communities are running in parallel. It's open to a larger world, but it also feels larger and more impersonal. [30]
Rue72: Mostly I feel like nothing that I have to say or create is of any interest to current fandom communities; that we've moved even more completely into an "OOOH SHINEY!" instant-gratification kind of place, and that the smaller little weirdo pockets have been squeezed out by whatever the dominant conversation/ship/joke/etc happens to be.

Like back in the old HP fandom days, the community was SO enormous that even relatively tiny ships still felt vibrant and active; and even when I was like one of twenty people to be hardcore invested in an odd slash pairing in the ATLA fandom, we had our own little LJ community and fic challenges and most of us had each others' personal journals friended, and it felt like a cozy and fun and supportive little corner that was sheltered and separated from whatever batshit nonsense was going on in the big "common areas" of the fandom.

Tumblr tags serve that same purpose superficially, but it all feels so fluid and impermanent -- a community assembled by search instead of something deliberately created. It's harder to talk to people on Tumblr. It's harder to have what feels like a permanent history that can be revisited.

But! It's like I said. Probably I'm just old! [31]
I think the general mindset and culture of Tumblr is effecting what people choose to write about in fic, and how they approach the characters and relationships, and gradually I'm not being able to find anything to read that hasn't been influenced by it. I think fandom really was better on a different platform, but not just for the usual reasons of Tumblr being useless for communication, I think the way it's organized somehow shapes the culture that's arisen, or encourages it. [32]
Tumblr culture has a LOT of serious problems and I'm pretty sure it's self-destructing--but we can't talk, LJ self-destructed too, and we tore each other apart bloody before we did it. I loved LJ fandom like my own family, but I remember a lot of the same culture of ruling fear and mass bullying that goes on on tumblr from there too--that goes back at least to the 80s and 'zine culture, where you even had to be "sponsored" by someone at a con to be taken seriously. We started SJ on LJ, not tumblr--I remember early iterations going back to around 2002-03, it got serious in around 2007, and became impossible to ignore in 2009. So it had been steadily building up until tumblr got started, and many initially went to tumblr to get AWAY from the constant guiltmongering and finger-pointing. If you recall, DREAMWIDTH was originally considered the "special snowflake" haven! My old flist on LJ was all, "Oh, we'll never move to Dreamwidth, all they care about is talking about disability and alternate sexualities there." Then they all did...or went to tumblr, or focused on their offline lives. My point is, the culture's always had issues, it's always been in flux, it's always cannibalized one community after another because it's never been stable, fandom always aspires to goodness while the means we attempt to reach this end is mostly bullying each other like the mean girls in high school, and we always claim the moral high ground while doing this--hell, the Godawful Fanfic archive in 1998 claimed it was helping the authors it mocked behind their backs with "useful crit." Everything people are whining about with tumblr is nothing new, but an evolution of the culture we already had, that was already poisoning itself but we were too young and naive and happy to find our tribe to see it. [33]

Common Tumblr Terms

  • Askblog - an RP tumblr
  • dash - dashboard, where you can see the latest posts by every tumblr you follow; similar to a journal friendslist
  • feels - intense feelings, often caused by viewing reblogs of Tom Hiddleston
  • gpoy - common saying on Tumblr that stands for Gratuitous Picture Of Yourself; often used as a tag on a reblog of something you identify with/that inadvertently describes you
  • notes - all tracked responses to a post, including "likes" and "reblogs"
  • reblog - a standard site function that lets you repost a post made by someone else, retaining the link back to the original post; many tumblrs consist primarily of reblogged content. Reblogged images display on all the users' blogs, but the image itself is not reuploaded and has the same URL.
  • repost - to post someone else's art or gifsets, especially when the original creator has already posted them to Tumblr. A lot of fanart is downloaded from other sites and posted by someone other than the artist to Tumblr, but even works that are available on Tumblr can receive the same treatment. For example, a Tumblr gifset can be reposted by downloading the individual gifs and then reassembling them in a new post instead of reblogging the existing post; many consider this plagiarism.[34] Also, Tumblr images can be incorporated into new text posts by copying the URL, which does not show who originally uploaded it (e.g. http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_me5zjnBUNB1rzhnr4.gif)

Resources and Further Reading


  1. Yahoo to Buy Tumblr for $1.1 Billion dated May 19, 2013; [Yahoo to Buy Tumblr for $1.1 Billion reference link].
  2. Tumblr sponsors post about advertising on Tumblr dated June 3, 2013;reference link.
  3. wallmakerrelict in fanficrants. Tumblr etiquette? Or plagiarism?, 18 February 2012. (Accessed 21 February 2012)
  4. XMFC hashtag fic example (Accessed 21 February 2012)
  5. XMFC photofic example by zimothy (Accessed 21 February 2012)
  6. For instance, "fuckyeahsharks" or "fuckyeahtattoos," both actual Tumblrs.
  7. A few examples of 'arrow' posts should show up here
  8. The Chris Carter Effect, Or, How The X-Files Changed How I Watch Television, October 27, 2014
  9. http://plazmah.tumblr.com/post/9648185709/when-i-search-avatar-i-want-the-movie-with-the-blue (Accessed Sept. 1, 2011)
  10. comment in a fail-fandomanon post about Tumblr etiquette, dated March 4, 2012.
  11. hawkland, accessed January 27, 2015
  12. http://fandomsecrets.livejournal.com/749851.html?thread=474966043#t474966043 (Accessed Sept. 1, 2011)
  13. fanficrants. Tumblr etiquette? Or plagiarism?, comment thread started by etacanis, 18 February 2012. (Accessed 21 February 2012)
  14. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated March 4, 2012.
  15. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated March 4, 2012.
  16. reference link, September 24, 2012
  17. comment overheard at the 2012 Escapade] convention panel on Tumblr.
  18. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated March 4, 2012.
  19. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated March 4, 2012.
  20. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated October 31, 2013; reference link.
  21. So like, today on my flist I Saw dated Feb 13, 2013; reference link.
  22. Tumblr sponsors post about advertising on tumblr dated June 3, 2013;reference link.
  23. comment in Tumblr. Please explain its advantages to me? dated Aug. 29th, 2013; reference link.
  24. Remix and Transformation: An introduction to fanfiction by Renay - Pornokitsch, comment by Baco, November 27, 2013, Archived version
  25. Remix and Transformation: An introduction to fanfiction by Renay - Pornokitsch, comment by Renay, November 27, 2013, Archived version
  26. from Limits on tumblr Fandom Communities; WebCite by fffinnagain, September 13, 2014
  27. fail_fandomanon FFA DW Post #90 - Re: The "mean girls" of fandom dated Oct 21, 2014, Archived version
  28. It's a Fanmade World; Archive, comment at MetaFilter by Narrative Priorities, March 2015
  29. It's a Fanmade World; Archive, comment at MetaFilter by Kutsuwamushi , March 2015
  30. It's a Fanmade World; Archive, comment at MetaFilter by Alterscape, March 2015
  31. It's a Fanmade World; Archive, comment at MetaFilter by Narrative Priorities, March 2015
  32. fail_fandomanon; archive link, April 2015
  33. fail_fandomanon; archive link, April 2015
  34. See this post by codenamecesare for a discussion of the issues.
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