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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]


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. [8]

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." [9]

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." [10]


"Fandom is leaving me behind" by moving to Tumblr. [11]

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.[12]

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


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. [13]
Tumblr is for porn. And for interacting with fans without really having to interact. [14]
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. [15]
tumblr is primarily an amplification tool, not a discussion tool. [16]
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. [17]
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. [18]
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.[19]
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. [20]
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).[21]
*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. [22]
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. [23]
.... 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. [24]

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.[25] 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. http://plazmah.tumblr.com/post/9648185709/when-i-search-avatar-i-want-the-movie-with-the-blue (Accessed Sept. 1, 2011)
  9. comment in a fail-fandomanon post about Tumblr etiquette, dated March 4, 2012.
  10. hawkland, accessed January 27, 2015
  11. http://fandomsecrets.livejournal.com/749851.html?thread=474966043#t474966043 (Accessed Sept. 1, 2011)
  12. fanficrants. Tumblr etiquette? Or plagiarism?, comment thread started by etacanis, 18 February 2012. (Accessed 21 February 2012)
  13. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated March 4, 2012.
  14. comment overheard at the 2012 Escapade] convention panel on Tumblr.
  15. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated March 4, 2012.
  16. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated October 31, 2013; reference link.
  17. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated March 4, 2012.
  18. comment in a fail-fandomanon post discussing Tumblr, dated March 4, 2012.
  19. So like, today on my flist I Saw dated Feb 13, 2013; reference link.
  20. Tumblr sponsors post about advertising on tumblr dated June 3, 2013;reference link.
  21. reference link.
  22. comment in Tumblr. Please explain its advantages to me? dated Aug. 29th, 2013; reference link.
  23. from Limits on tumblr Fandom Communities; WebCite by fffinnagain
  24. fail_fandomanon FFA DW Post #90 - Re: The "mean girls" of fandom dated Oct 21, 2014, Archived version
  25. See this post by codenamecesare for a discussion of the issues.
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