Tumblr: Lowering the self-esteem of girls everywhere since 2007

It is common knowledge that pressure on young people to look a certain way often comes from the media; we are fed a constant stream of images that make some people feel as if they have to matc

It is common knowledge that pressure on young people to look a certain way often comes from the media; we are fed a constant stream of images that make some people feel as if they have to match the level of airbrushed perfection that is being projected in society. Most people are familiar with the harmful effects of television, magazines and advertising, but there are some areas of the media that one may not necessarily assume would promote negative body image.
Tumblr: a young woman’s diary
Tumblr is a social blogging network through which one can create their own personal page and ‘follow’ others who have similar or otherwise interesting blogs. While Facebook and Twitter are much more public, Tumblr allows you to pretty much remain anonymous if you so choose, and although it is perhaps lesser known than other social networks, it still sees a staggering 15 billion page views a month. What’s more, its main user demographic is females aged 16-24, meaning that most Tumblr bloggers are impressionable young women.
For many teens in this digital culture, a Tumblr blog will be their main outlet, and it therefore plays a significant role in allowing users to express their identity and personality to other like-minded teens. Tumblr news feeds are filled with hundreds of photos and thoughts posted by young people. Those with many followers are labelled ‘Tumblr famous’ and therefore gain respect from other users; however, with this respect comes responsibility for what it posted, and this is when problems can occur. 
Brewing negativity
I joined Tumblr last year and currently have a laughably unsuccessful blog. After creating the basis of my page, I ran a quick search of my interests in order to find similar blogs to follow. My searches were things like travel and fashion, and I found images and links that interested me enough to follow whoever it was that posted them. The problem with this is, while I may like one post by a certain user, I’ve no idea what their next will be. Over a few weeks, I noticed my ‘dashboard’ was filled with images that we really unrelated to anything I was interested in. After some quick research, scrolling through the supposed ”fashion” blogs I’d followed, I stumbled upon pictures of really skinny girls, with quotes such as “It’s easy for you, you’re pretty”. I was shocked, considering these images were on my dashboard without me actively searching for them, and with posts from the most popular blogs often ‘re-blogged’ some thousands of times, other Tumblr users’ dashboards must be filled with these kind of negative images and ideas.
After looking through some more pages, it became clear that the trendy, female-oriented blogs all project a common ideology – being pretty and skinny means you will succeed, with the main focus being on one’s social popularity and love life. Many young girls who feel they do not fit this ‘ideal’ type post images with quotes like “no-one will ever love me”, with one even going as far as to post a photo with a paper bag over her head, entitled “I’m pretty”. The most shocking image was a drawing of a skinny girl, with the words “pretty girls don’t eat” written over the top – it had been re-blogged over 2000 times.
Popularity competition
The issue with Tumblr is that users are beginning to look up to the ‘popular kids’ of the site, and consequently whatever these ‘Tumblr celebrities’ post will have a considerable effect on their followers. Arguably, it is more dangerous for young girls to idolise their online peers as opposed to celebrities; while the realm of ‘celebrity’ can seem untouchable, getting the same look or behaving the same way as a teenage blogger may be considered more attainable. This is why the nature of some of the most popular blogs is so worrying.
Unrealistic standards of ‘beauty’
Worst of all, in my opinion, was the above photograph, discouraging girls from eating certain foods in order to gain various physical features such as protruding hipbones or a gap between the thighs. These sort of images can be seen by anyone who enters the site – that could mean girls of any age – and to actively put teenagers off eating all the foods that normal teenagers should eat (in moderation!) just seems morally wrong.
Setting unrealistic standards of beauty used to just be the speciality of trashy magazines, and I think it’s a shame that it is now happening amongst young women, actually convincing one another that ”skinny is better”. Seeing these kind of images must be horrible for all young girls, but particularly those who aren’t stick thin and are within the age range of Tumblr’s key demographic, as they will be easily influenced and most likely to feel the pressure to conform. I hope Tumblr recognises the problem that is emerging and does something about it soon – the last thing women need is another media outlet telling us to lose weight.
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