Tumblr: They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but can it replace words?

Megan Hesketh

Contributing writer

Tumblr, a micro-blogging website launched in 2007, has eschewed text in the favor of images. In doing so, the site has become the go-to place for this generation of college students.

Much of Tumblr’s success has come from its highly visual focus. Although users can post with a variety of different outlets – text, video, audio – the site is arguably most popular for its photo posts. The visual nature of Tumblr is one reason why 50 percent of the site’s users (on nearly 48 million blogs) are under the age of 25.

Rachael Belisle, a student and writing consultant at Pierce College, believes that Tumblr is popular with today’s students for specific reasons.

“One, we want to share everything with everyone else,” Belisle said. “And two, we’ve become so much more visual than we ever were before.”

The visual aspect has helped to propel movements such as “Occupy Wall Street” and many celebrities use Tumblr. Entertainers Beyonce and Jay-Z posted the first photos of their newborn baby onto the site. Even President Obama has created a “Tumblelog” in preparation for his bid for reelection. Some see the image-heavy focus of Tumblr as being indicative of this generation.

“Our attention spans are so short, that it’s easier to represent our thoughts and feelings with a photo instead of an essay or blog post,” Belisle said.

Although the site is quickly growing, not all Pierce students want to join Tumblr. Some had never heard of the site, some negatively viewed the concentration of photos and some were simply underwhelmed.

“Honestly, I looked at it and was completely confused and had no idea what was going on or what to do to begin,” Pierce student Bethany Atwood said.

Student Grace Nagy agreed with her.

“It didn’t make any sense,” Nagy said.

Courtney Garinger, also a Pierce student, concurred that the website was difficult to navigate, but she still voiced her support and partiality for the site.

“I have a few friends who are big Tumblr fans, and I love blogs,” Nagy said. “I spend a good amount of time reading blogs – mostly for personal enjoyment.”

The personal enjoyment aspect of Tumblr is a reason for its reputation with students. The site is a place to take a break from classes and studying – a place to meet up with friends who enjoy similar topics, movies, places and music.

“It actually helps me to focus on school because I need the time to think about things other than school,” Garinger said. “Breaks are very effective to help refocus.”

Some Pierce Tumblr users enjoy utilizing the site on campus. Student Colin Briskey said that although he doesn’t often get on Tumblr at Pierce, it is a good place to take a quick break from class.

“I sometimes go on Tumblr during my music theory class. We have nice new Macs at our desks and I sometimes Tumble around during class, usually after finishing classwork or in the last few minutes before class,” Briskey said.

Tumblr’s reputation as a great place to procrastinate from studying is not the only reason for its popularity with students. With 60 million posts a day, the site is a constant flow of information and ideas on every imaginable topic. The tag function allows users to easily search for posts on any specific person, place, or subject.

Tumblr has become a place for students to study as well procrastinate. The millions of users, coming from many different backgrounds, offer unique and instant perspectives on every idea.

“I’ll have friends post about topics I’m learning in school,” Garinger said. “It’s interesting to read their opinions.”

For many students, Tumblr is invaluable in their studies. They can explore the ideas and issues presented in class from an interesting and distinctive angle, using a medium they understand perfectly.

“Sometimes classes inspire what I look at on Tumblr and sometimes Tumblr inspires what I look for in classes,” writing consultant and former Pierce student Shinel Sands said.

At its core, Tumblr is a community. It’s a place for users to connect with others and to share their ideas. The emphasis on sharing one’s ideas and personality is what has spurred Tumblr’s growth and recognition.

Not just a location to deepen one’s learning or social life, Tumblr has become the place for users to present themselves – their ideas, skills, thoughts and opinions – to an interested audience.

“Our mission is to build the perfect platform for self-expression,” wrote Product Director Joshua Nguyen on Tumblr’s main page.

Tumblr’s mission statement of self-expression has aligned remarkably well with the type of social networking this current generation’s students are craving.

“I think Tumblr is popular with a younger crowd because it’s another forum in which you can creatively express yourself to others,” Briskey said. “It allows people to express their likes and dislikes, share ideas and communicate in a new and exciting way.”

Self-expression has driven the site’s popularity and also created its visual focus.

On Twitter, a user is limited to 140 characters. On Tumblr, a user is not limited by words. But, the focus on images suggests a different reason for Tumblr’s importance to today’s student.

“In a world so filled with words, sometimes it’s nice to have a picture represent what you mean,” Belisle said.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost

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Tumblr: They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but can it replace words?

by Contributing Writer time to read: 4 min
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