R’Perspective: Tumbling through romanticized mental illnesses and funny GIFs

Social media is undeniably one of the most powerful resources at our disposal. One of the lesser known, though still quite popular, of these platforms is Tumblr. You can find fan fiction, references to all of your pop culture favorites and some of the funniest GIFs on the Internet.

I’ve been “tumbling” since 2011, which also happened to be my junior year of high school. Yes, the period of endlessly reblogged photos of Nutella. Tumblr became an avenue through which I was able to relax and unwind after a long day. I’d sit and blog for hours, sometimes until I was physically unable to stare at the screen due to exhaustion. While this is another problem in and of itself, one thing I slowly began to notice was the effect Tumblr was having on me emotionally.

Amongst the reblogged photos of pretty, blonde girls at the beach and mouth-watering food, I unknowingly began to find solace in posts that seemingly expressed my feelings of melancholy. I think it’s safe to say that high school isn’t a fun time for anyone. During these years, my self-esteem plummeted and I found myself feeling more alone than ever. I discovered that Tumblr users were more open to expressing their emotions in a way that people on Facebook weren’t. Expressing my grief through Tumblr was also a way to keep my problems hidden from family and friends. Only recently did Tumblr install a chat option and up until then, it was extremely easy to hide behind your blog without giving any true indication of your personal identity.

Unfortunately, the platform became a rabbit hole that proved harder and harder to escape from. Although it was comforting to know that others felt the way I did, many of the posts and images made me feel more than uneasy. I remember seeing a quote along the lines of, “People who commit suicide are just angels who wanted to go home.” I began to notice that Tumblr had a way of romanticizing mental illnesses and making them seem enticing. Reblogging for long periods of time took me out of my world for a few hours, but when I was thrown back, I didn’t feel any better. If anything, I felt more drained and isolated than when I first began.

I developed a love-hate relationship with the site. I stayed away for months after deciding that the community was too toxic, but found myself back soon enough. Not only is blogging somewhat addictive, but where else was I going to see my favorite Harry Potter GIFs? Where was I going to learn about protests taking place around the world?

And herein lies the problem. Tumblr can be an incredibly useful source of knowledge. Users are unafraid to speak on issues such as racism and sexism while also spreading information about social and political events happening worldwide. Understanding the importance of intersectionality within feminism and using the preferred pronouns of others are two of the many things that I was introduced to by the platform. Tumblr forces you to be informed or “stay woke.”

I’ve also discovered some of my favorite poets and artists through Tumblr and as a writer and musician, it’s proven to be a great outlet for my work in terms of exposure and receiving feedback — something I’m unable to get through a short snap to my friends or Instagram post.

Tumblr ignited a conversation about mental health amongst adolescents that was much needed in our society, and although there are kinks that need to be worked out, it’s important to discuss these things rather than completely disregard them. There is the good, the bad and the ugly in almost everything we choose to consume. I still express myself through Tumblr whether I’m happy or sad, but I choose to do so in a way that’s effective. I share my art. I reach out to those who appear to be struggling. I attempt to turn the negatives into positives.

Tumblr, with all of its different aspects, can be a wealthy source of knowledge, creativity and expression — but only if you let it.

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