Surprisingly, I found my sister’s insights on Tumblr most interesting.
First off, she described Tumblr as a photo service: “It’s photos only.” I mean, she knew that it supported text posts — after I cried, “You know it’s a blogging platform, right?!” — but couldn’t remember a time when she saw anything but a photo in her Dashboard.
Second, despite knowing many active Tumblr users, she said she didn’t know anyone who actually posted on the service. Rather she said the majority of her friends merely consumed content, with a tiny minority reblogging stuff that reflected who they wanted to be (more on that later).
Third, she said most of her friends stopped using the service once they reached high school: “Tumblr is mostly middle schoolers. Especially hipsters. They just reblog stuff.” (Note: we’re from Santa Monica and my sister would be considered “hipster” by Northeast standards.)
Finally, whereas Instagram is a place you follow “celebrities and bands,” she mentioned that on Tumblr her friends follow people who they aspire to be. Cobra Snake was her quintessential example of the type of Tumblr user that is idolized on the service. These “idols” are the ones who post most of the content (photos) on Tumblr, content that is then reblogged by kids who aspire to be what the photos represent.
My takeaway: I can’t get over the “middle schoolers use it” comment, especially since they use Tumblr as an identity tool. That’s exactly how my friends and I used Myspace in middle school, and we too abandoned it (for Facebook) once we reached high school. So in middle school you care a lot about your personal presentation (themes and cultural images on your Myspace or Tumblr page), but once you reach high school you care more about the people you present yourself with (photos on Facebook and Instagram)? Maybe I’m reading into this too much. Maybe not."