The media is everywhere, dictating what we should do, buy, eat, and think. It’s also dictating, subtly and not-so-subtly, how we should look in order to be appreciated and desired. Because we live in a media-heavy world that (overall) uses racist, ableist, sizeist, sexist, homophobic, distorted images in marketing, many people don’t see themselves as represented (or at least not fully). Certain bodies and communities don’t get attention, and if they do, it’s usually negative on some level. Furthermore, based on what’s perpetuated, many people see themselves as flawed and unattractive, creating a barrier to establishing loving, intimate relationships with others and with oneself.
So how can we disrupt the constant signal from mainstream media and learn to love ourselves more? How can we undo some of the damage that has already been caused? Smashing the entire advertising industry and all forms of media is not the immediate solution. There are steps we can take, smaller but meaningful, that involve our media more carefully and surrounding ourselves with positive images and empowering messages.
There are havens for different types of bodies and niches for all sorts of desires and communities out there, and one of those places can be Tumblr.
So what’s Tumblr?
Tumblr is a blogging platform where users can post text, videos, audio, links, images, and quotations to their “tumblelog” and other users can “follow” them. Every member has a “dashboard” where all the posts from the people they follow are aggregated, making staying up to date with other users quick and easy. Its focus isn’t on personal, “journal-like” entries (though those certainly exist in great numbers), but instead on “microblogging” and sharing interesting content. Essentially, Tumblr is both a place and the medium for collage-creation; Tumblr provides the cyber-territory as well as the content that people can use to paste information and build networks.
What makes this different from Livejournal, WordPress, Blogger…?
Unlike other platforms that focus more on the individual’s story (e.g. Livejournal), Tumblr focuses on sharing and dialogue. Due to Tumblr’s structure, it functions as a big social hub for people all over the globe. I think the key is its “reblogging” feature, which allows users to put someone else’s content on their own tumblelog. This, in turn, not only spreads content rapidly (making certain things go viral immediately), but also allows for dialogue between users (when people reblog others’ content and then add on comments and/or more information) that spreads commentary beyond the place where it originated.
And how does this relate to self-esteem?
By making conscious choices about which blogs to follow, people can essentially curate their own little empowerment stream. By providing people with a constant flow of content on their dashboard, Tumblr can help people grow more comfortable with and/or accepting of certain bodies and communities. Like I mentioned earlier, Tumblr can also open up dialogue and facilitate community-building/networking, so people can discuss and come together via this platform. The “dark” side of this is that people can isolate themselves and create a “bubble” that some say excludes and marginalizes as well. However, I’m not advocating for Tumblr to become the one and only tool for consciousness-raising that’s supposed to build community and expand minds and achieve world peace…I’m saying that people can use Tumblr as productive tool to help them in a larger project of self-loving and appreciation.
So where do I go from here? How can I use this tool?
Join Tumblr and follow blogs that you find empowering–blogs that show people like you and/or those that you find attractive. By surrounding yourself with self-selected, positive content, you’ll be able to undo some of the damage that mainstream media has potentially caused, see bodies and opinions that are otherwise invisible, and get in touch with like-minded individuals. Be warned, though, that like any other place where people can post content, you may find certain things offensive and/or triggering, so practice self-care and be aware of what you’re clicking (or what to do in the event that you click something unpleasant). Take the opportunity to also step outside yourself and beyond your comfort zone. Because we all have multiple identities, it’s likely that by following even like-minded individuals, you’ll be exposed to new things that might push your boundaries and/or expand your horizons.
Now that I have Tumblr, how do I start building an empowering dashboard?
- Take advantage of the fuckyeah[insert noun].tumblr.com phenomenon. Basically, these Tumblrs are repositories for the things they advertise on their URLs (so fuckyeahfreckles would have tons of content related to freckles). There are many useful ones that relate to body image, self-esteem, appearance, sex, erotica, and more! If you want to check for FYs, search for them here: http://isitafyeah.com/. If your desired FY blog doesn’t exist, create and curate it!
- Look at the Followers Lists for small blogs you find empowering. You can do this with bigger blogs, too, but the more well-known the blog, the harder it will be to sift through followers to find ones that directly appeal to you. Another variant of this is to look at the people who have liked or reblogged certain posts you find empowering and inspiring.
- Explore Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com/explore) by clicking on categories or by searching for specific tags (e.g. lace, empowerment, sexy, food, etc.).