Tags and Tumblr

This is an example of a gif. Gifs are very popular on Tumblr.

I have a feeling this might make me known as “that weird Tumblr girl,” but the site is like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else on the internet.  If this is the first time you’ve heard of Tumblr or if you don’t really know what it is, here’s a quick explanation: Tumblr is best described as a “micro-blogging” site.  A user can create their own blog, customize it as they see fit, and follow blogs that match their interests.  (For more information, see their About page.)  Tumblr is fascinating to me for the people who use the site on a daily basis.  Bloggers on this site have developed their own miniature culture, complete with in-jokes, jargon, and certain styles of writing.

One of the peculiar modes of speech is the use of tags.  For those completely uninitiated to blogging, a tag is a word or a phrase that the writer can attach to a post in order to make it easier to find.  For example, if you wrote a post critiquing the Harry Potter series, you could tag it as “#Harry Potter” to make it simple to locate.  (When you copy and paste a tag, it will automatically include the hashtag and underlining.  I have decided to keep this convention.)  Furthermore, on Tumblr you can check and follow certain tags so you can see updates as they come.  If anyone tags a post a certain way, it will show up there.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the original post, but someone once called Tumblr tags “like muttering under your breath on the internet.”  People don’t only tag things as “#photo,” “#cat,” or “#nature.”  Quite often, tags are used to express strong emotions without having to insert text in the reblogged post.

For instance, one user wrote, “#WHY MUST YOU DO THIS TO MY FEELINGS” and “#AUAUAUAUAGGGGGHHHHH.”  Emotions can also be positive, such as, “#YOU ADORABLE BABUS,” “#I CAN’T EVEN YOU’RE SO CUTE,” and “#HUGS FOR EVERYONE.”  A post can be filled with up to 30 tags, so on occasion a user may end up writing an entire “essay” in the tags.  Putting long phrases here allows a user to reblog a post without clogging up the actual “text portion” for other users who want to reblog the post.

Interestingly enough, the tag system has influenced how people write in regular text posts.  Popular text posts are often written in the same style as tags – no punctuation and no capitalization.  After being on Tumblr or even the internet as whole for a long time, it’s a quirk you don’t notice until someone points it out.  It should be noted that a user named turnabout-taisa gets the credit for this theory on tags.  He or she writes, “This adaptation is actually pretty cool, I think, as it serves to communicate tone across a very toneless medium.”  Blogger crowleyaziraphale quoted someone else’s tags (appropriately enough): “#we’ve created our own language with its own set of rules and guidelines #based on the environment #that is cool #if you don’t think that’s cool you’re wrong“.  In short, communication on Tumblr is really very sophisticated, even if outside observers and the bloggers themselves don’t realize it.

Though other sites (such as this lovely WordPress blog you’re reading now) include tag systems, as far as I know there is no other site that uses tags in this way.  For those who were in my section of class on Friday morning, this is why I asked about the tags.  For me, tags aren’t just a way of cataloging posts – they are a way to communicate unto themselves.