On December 17th, 2018, Tumblr will implement a site wide ban of all adult content on its platform. This isn’t necessary.
While at first glance, this may seem obvious or even relieving (if one is a parent), this policy doesn’t take into account the close-knit community of people that have come to define the platform, and to a larger degree, internet culture as a whole.
I, personally, used Tumblr as a writer to blog my thoughts (for better or worse) and left as Twitter gained popularity and indirectly spawned another blogging site called Medium.
The thing about social media platforms is that there seems to be a particular one just for you.
And right as these platforms seemed to establish themselves, they began to lose our trust. Facebook has sold our data and Twitter has only recently updated its “hateful conduct” policy. Now, Tumblr’s adult content ban has alienated its user base by flagging many posts (some incorrectly) as inappropriate.
I have nothing against banning adult content if it’s to shield children from anything explicit, but that would assume that Tumblr is for children. As access to smartphones and social media proliferates, it’s necessary to regulate content, but to make a blanket policy without understanding the reverberating impact would be short sighted at best.
It’s because of its user bases that Facebook and Twitter are implementing changes. With Tumblr, it appears that it’s making these changes despite its users’ protests and more so because of Apple’s influence over which apps it allows in its iOS store.
The fact is Tumblr only has a fraction of the users that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have. It’s natural for Tumblr to want to be like the others and appeal to the masses. But the relative low number of users isn’t because Tumblr is inferior to other social media platforms or has become irrelevant.
It’s because Tumblr is for someone else.
It’s for the LGBTQIA+ community who have been marginalized and need a safe space to explore their identity and be themselves.
It’s for feminists who want to educate others.
It’s for artists and writers who want to collaborate on projects, which may or may not include erotica.
And sometimes, it’s for people who want to look at porn. But with the accessibility of porn on other platforms like PornHub, or even Twitter and Snapchat, Tumblr seems like the last place for it.
If Tumblr’s concern was financial, they could’ve been transparent and asked their users for a small fee. A paid subscription for content is nothing but ordinary these days. Or better yet, perhaps they could’ve realized what they had wasn’t a platform for everyone and that that was their strength.
Tumblr could’ve embraced themselves as the deviant social media platform that was a safe haven and communal space for marginalized groups. Perhaps, that would’ve gotten Apple’s attention and enough respect for a spot in the iOS store.
But now it seems that there will be a mass exodus of Tumblr users to another platform and both parties will suffer a high cost.
A barren platform and a community of people both looking for a place to belong.
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Written in VA. An MFA graduate in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.