The Scourge of Tumblrinas and Ideological Feebleness

They're not the totality of early Tumblr graduates, but their influence on online public discourse is hard-to-miss.

Think about the most obnoxious group on the internet and you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better answer than Tumblrinas–rivaled only by channers in negative affect, the reason they've become such a source of great affliction for online communities has a lot to do with the conditions of their very inception. 4chan and its analogues curated for a special kind of sinister cynicism that was the result of an ever-polarizing environment supercharged by a let-loose approach to moderation, but the story of Tumblrinas is much more complicated–between discordant theories of social change, then-nascent deference to identity politics, and near-constant sectarian conflict driven by an outsized perception of Tumblr's impact on marginalized communities, those who’ve lived in the platform’s trenches circa 2012-2014 have either escaped with their sanity intact, or have had their political outlook warped and damaged beyond repair.

Making full sense of what Tumblrinas are and what they do isn't the easiest task, but to keep it short and simple, their outings can be characterized by advocacy for ideas that may seem reasonable to the terminally-online among very small niches, but no thought is given to the constricting grander socio-political circumstances at play. Whether it's canceling an online personality for infringing upon their arbitrarily-drawn standards of moral purity, advocating for a return of the Hays Code, declaring kids autonomous since their very infancy as an extension of anarchist political theory—or much else in the same vein—there's no shortage of incredulous demands made by Tumblrinas to bend the fabric of the current social order according to their far-flung quasi-radlib political fantasies. After all, subsiding on a strict diet of media that sees the very presence of problematic elements as reason enough for unequivocal scold, one is compelled to think the world must operate like the perfect fanfiction–a text that draws a great deal of its appeal on implausibility, but it is in this case the blueprint for what can only be described as an undemocratic endeavor of social engineering, with coercion through online mass mobilization as its main mechanism.

To say that Tumblrinas' attempts of bringing about their desired utopia has been a failure would be an understatement–but it has implications for public discourse that simply cannot be ignored. The central thesis of Tumblrism is the assertion that social change can be hastened through forceful action–that’s why so many of them made the seamless jump into fandoms like that of K-pop artists, badgering any and all to stream their favorite artists’ albums on Spotify as to juke their payouts. Those who’ve long pondered questions of social change have concluded that it can only be the result of careful deliberation and ongoing back-and-forth between members of society, counter to the practice of manufacturing consent that think tanks for example have especially become quite fond of.

What this ultimately amounts to is a desire by Tumblrinas to break convention and instill change through collective online action made manifest in massive social media campaigns–this valence of revolutionary thought might look appealing upon first-sight, but it’s safe to say that it’s purely aesthetical. Calling it slacktivism would be giving it too much credit though–it’s enveloping oneself in a Matrix-style delusion in which only your own conception of the world is all-encompassing of its complex machinations, and everyone else is a charlatan their followers must be liberated from. There’s little cohesion between how Tumblrinas operate—owing to the fact that they’re in a state of perpetual conflict—but one wouldn’t be off-the-mark if they described them as a cult. If the Church of Scientology threatens woe to those it views as having deviated from the right path, Tumblrinas are just as willing to exert pressure in order to maintain subordination–dishonest as it may be.

The perverse nature of heavy online interaction in one’s formative years cannot be understated here–anecdotal scouts of Twitter’s viral outings by those who fit the profile of a Tumblrina would place them as a teenager during Tumblr’s tumultuous years. If there’s a most-defining trait of teenagerhood, it is the overwhelming sense of confusion many feel in the thick of it–when subjected to a constant barrage of often-contradictory information on how to conduct oneself best, would-be Tumblrinas couldn’t parse the noise and ended up subsuming all of it into a hodgepodge of ideologies that when treated separately have meaning, but combined together, they sing no song but that of relentless conflict and speak no words other than to rile and agitate.

Compelled as you might be to feel unadulterated hatred for Tumblrinas, consider the bigger picture of their upbringings. Like many who’ve spent much of their childhood online, the internet acted as an escape from the malaise of everyday life–for some, it was a necessary coping mechanism as their real lives didn’t offer much in the way of thrill, or were otherwise rife with adversity. To whose personality Tumblr’s troubled corners or 4chan were instrumental, the urge to assimilate into their communities’ accepted norms has an irresistible allure–difficult as it may be, breaking that will be the only chance that Tumblrinas or channers ever have at re-integrating the public discourse—where they’d be heard and given heed to—with any measure of success.

But ultimately, this isn’t any one’s individual problem to solve–it has to be a group effort, and Tumblrinas will have to self-reflect by popular decree if there is change to be had. What underlies the many branchings of Tumblrina ideology is the distinct feeling that they’re all driven by an emotional pathos, almost one evocative of trauma when its very core is dissected–for that, bringing awareness will simply not cut it. Many of them are under the thumb of systemic injustices that place them in firm need of assistance–a harsh reality check every now and then is necessary for them to take less comfort in willful oblivion, but there’s not much to be gained by raw ridicule.

They say to meet your ideological nemeses where they are, and Tumblrinas and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye–so to put it in their own words, to throw a fit over constructive criticism is putting undue emotional labor on who issues it. As such, this is an open plea for Tumblrinas to reconsider the parameters of their own advocacy–though seemingly inclusive at face-value, their implementation can be described as nothing short of authoritarian in practice. It would also work wonders for their persuasive faculties if the barrel of “accountability”—ever-changing according to no deliberative process—was used more sparingly and judiciously if only to render its invocation less cause for bewilderment; a tool instead better served by the pursuit of truth and justice rather than the primitively-pleasing spectacle of public humiliation.