Daily Dot: The Pros and Cons of Fandom on Tumblr
Actually… while I understand this in a way I also think that the article in general is… hmm, how to say this.
I think there was a huge contingent on LJ who…
As someone who was passively involved in fandom since I was 13, I have to say that I didn’t much care for the LJ way of doing things. It seemed so inaccessible to me. I’m not someone who makes friends easily, because I am very shy and anxiety prone. So, basically on LJ, if I didn’t know you, I didn’t talk to you. And I didn’t know anyone. It was also very difficult to find new content, if you didn’t know where to look, and weren’t very well connected.
I still have an LJ account. I don’t ever use it. I honestly think that Tumblr is more suited to my personality and brain type. I am very acclimated to hivemind, (oh my gosh, I was just thinking that) even with people I’ve never met, while also being very random and interested in multiple things at the same time. LJ for me, is very good for people who want to make their own content, but for me, who constantly needs inspiration or stimulation for them to be very interesting at all, Tumblr is great. I don’t have to produce my own content, written or graphically, I can reblog (I don’t like things, as a general rule. I use them as a way of bookmarking things I want to use for later) whatever I want with any kind of commentary I want, and I can be shy about it and use tags to do it with. I can still analyze to my heart’s content, but I don’t have to be responsible for making the graphic (because I am not capable of using photoshop, let me tell you).
Also, for someone as shy as me, Tumblr is also great, because you can follow someone and see their personal posts and their fandom squee and maybe they’ll follow you back, but maybe they won’t and it’ll feel like you get to know that person. And then, one day, you’ll talk to them and then you’ll be friends, and BAM. Soon, you’re part of a group and there was very little awkward “i feel like i’m intruding” phase, because it’s very inclusive. It’s easy to look at someone’s blog and see what they like, and what they’re thinking and how they’ll react to specific things. It’s kind of hard to look at someone’s LJ, no matter how often they post, or how drunk!zuckerberg honest they are and be friends with them. I am not comfortable on LJ, because I’m a lurker, and lurkers aren’t well though of on LJ. There’s no way to tell who’s on your blog, or who reads your fics without them commenting (and lurkers rarely comment, and if they do, the writer brushes them off with a ‘thanks!’ because they don’t know you). LJ felt very much the clique-y group in high school or college that ignores everyone else around them, even if they’re being paid attention to.
At least, that’s how it felt to me.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still people like that on Tumblr. But am I friends with them? Probably not. I am friends with the people who talk to me, which seems easier on Tumblr than on LJ. Mostly because there is a way to send private messages, or anon messages (if the user has that enabled). I stalked cherrybina’s LJ every day for 9 months, but I never spoke to her.
I first saw Emily (nighimpossible)’s blog two weeks ago (if that) and I think I’ve talked to her at least once every two days (though the average is MUCH higher, because we’ll talk until the ask limit is up). It’s not that Meta isn’t happening, or that one on one interaction is happening on Tumblr. It’s just that sometimes you don’t see it because you don’t follow that person, or it’s happening behind the scenes.
I’m not advocating Tumblr for everyone, because it’s really not, I’m just saying that Tumblr has been a great fandom experience for me. I have talked about more things, learned more things, read more fics, gotten into things that I never even dreamed I would like (I’m looking at you, HBO war fandom), and been more active in fandom meta, fic, and graphic-wise because I followed someone on Tumblr who influenced or introduced me to something new.
I’m probably not the best to comment on this but i TRIED LJ after using Tumblr, because so many of my Tumblr friends had one, and i just found the interface so User Unfriendly and counter-intuitive that i just…..don’t use it anymore. I have it, but i don’t use it. Tumblr really DOES need to do something about it’s messaging system though. Fan mail is a lot of better, because you can actually respond to messages WITHOUT THE ORIGINAL GOING AWAY, which causes you to lose track of your conversation. And i don’t think that you can really call Tumblr and image heavy place. I mean yeah it IS but……..the first button is TEXT POST for a reason, you know?
I’m consolidating both responses here, and bouncing off with the fact that LJ (as it is now) seems to have a higher learning-curve/bar to fandom participation than it has in the age of LJ-fandom’s heyday, which was, what, maybe 5~7 years ago? The functionality of LJ as fandom space has decreased with its acquisition by the russian owners who seem to have been trying to move the userbase away from fandom with various means. There’s an article about it somewhere in the Daily Dot if you’re curious about it.
However, even so, a ‘good and lively’ conversation post had maybe at most 20 participants in various threads, and they were mostly talking about different aspects of the show or vidding or whatever. The really good in-depth threads still had, at most maybe 5 active participants, and an unknown number of lurkers. Usually it’s more like 10 participants in a post with 2 people in an active thread, with thread-hopping subtextually discouraged.
Tumblr? All you need is the right tags, a bit of luck with timing and a fortuitous reblog from a ‘hub’ person and boom, you’re instantly having a conversation with over 1k people, with the best bits being reblogged and passed around further, with tags if you’re feeling shy, and some of the most collaborative and multi-format conversations/meta I’ve ever seen in this mutant lovechild of LJ’s journaling and twitter’s viral capabilities.
To be honest though, I’m not surprised by the comments from the fandom arriving from LJ. Because I can still remember going to conventions and people trying to pimp LJ to fans who’d only used mailing lists before, who’ve only read zines before.
Come to LJ! It’s like a whole new world’s opened! There’s so much fic! So much conversation! Come!
And for fans who’ve only participated in mailing lists that had maybe 400 members but only 4 of them posted fic, or fans who’ve only talked to fans in person, it was like this whole new bewildering world of tens or hundreds of people talking and producing fic. There was so much possibility.
Now there’s another leap, and it’s to Tumblr; because I remember LJ-fandom’s active years and now it’s just BARREN in comparison. But Tumblr, oh Tumblr… we’ve increased the order of magnitude, because we’re talking in the thousands and ten thousands now. All you have to do is to look at the notes of those no-fandom viral-reblog posts (ie. “introducing my friends to a new fandom is like…”), they average about 50k.
Think about that for a moment.
50 THOUSAND. And while some people may have liked and reblogged and then reblogged again, you know there’s lurkers who still haven’t liked or reblogged or gotten a tumblr yet. I was one for about a year before I actually started using my tumblr.
So for me, to hear that there has been less quality one-on-one conversations? Less meta and discussions? That seems… well, wrong. Because more people are participating in deeper conversations, and more people are willing to be counted instead of simply lurking.
It reminds me of how some people still think that humanity in general has gotten stupider since the victorian era; because we don’t have perfect grammar and penmanship in our letters to each other. Well you know what? More people can read and write. So of course the ‘average’ exchange looks different, of course grammar’s evolved, because grammar only exists so that we have common rules of communication. That’s the end goal, communication.
With Tumblr I feel that the bar has been lowered yet more and the door has been opened and only good things can come out of so many new voices added to the mix. Only good things can come out of more acceptance of fandom, because I’ve heard so many new stories of people falling into fandom due to Tumblr since I’ve started using it, and of more and more people being brave enough to try and create. And yeah, these creations probably isn’t the long metas and discussions of LJ (if only at first, and the experienced fans will keep producing their long metas because that’s how they roll), but these snippets and comment fic, they’re the thoughts and feelings of all these new people, young fans and new fans, coming into fandom for the first time. Or lurkers, writing for the first time, artists finally having a forum for their gifs.
Participating in fandom, for the first time, instead of only consuming media. And I can only be thrilled with watching it happen.