In a desperate attempt to give the old, tired internet server Yahoo! a facelift, CEO Marissa Mayer made a bold move and purchased the online blogging platform Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Although some commentators have speculated that Yahoo will have a difficult time making a profit from its latest acquisition, the purchase indicates Mayer's awareness of the importance of the latest trend taking over the internet, blogging! Young people are increasingly turning to blogging over other forms of social media in their search for virtual self-expression, and among teenagers, online platforms such as Tumblr are beating Facebook in many a popularity contest.
When Facebook was first developed in 2004, a lot of people (including myself) were skeptical. Many viewed the online platform as a way for teenage girls to keep tabs on their friends and potential boyfriends, send pictures of themselves posing in front of the mirror in the latest fashion, and share an endless stream of useless information about their daily lives. Facebook was seen as a toy for the under 25s to develop their voyeuristic and narcissistic tendencies. However, if there is one thing capable of changing its stripes in record time, it's the internet. While in 2004 Facebook was primarily a tool for youth, it quickly transformed into a mutigenerational platform used for everything from keeping in touch with far-away relatives to career oriented self-promotion. It also revolutionized the way people communicate and made us excruciatingly aware of two very important phenomena: people love to observe other people, and they love to be observed.
Through Facebook, the internet became a center for the construction and development of multifaceted identities. Self-perception became increasingly intertwined with self-representation online. The comments you make, the pictures you post, and the articles you share become an essential part of your identity and affect both how you view yourself and the way others perceive you. Additionally, studies have shown that social media (Facebook in particular) triggers the release of dopamine in the brain. So when we joke that so-and-so is addicted to Facebook, we aren't entirely joking. However, the same phenomena that made Facebook so popular will also be its downfall. Just like with any addiction, one eventually needs more of the desired product in order to find satisfaction. In the case of the internet, people need better and updated versions of the same type of product. This is where Tumblr steps in.
Just as teenagers led the way with Facebook, they are now dominating the use of Tumblr. A lot has changed since Facebook first hit the internet. Teenagers are maturing both physically and emotionally at a younger age, and their use of the internet is maturing with them. As youth become more politically aware and get involved in projects that aim to change their local communities and society at large, they also want more people to know about their activities. This has created a need for a tool that allows them to reach people other than just their close friends and family. Tumbler gives teenagers the ability to reach more people, share more pictures (and GIFs), and create their own online content. This means that they get a lot more visibility, and consequently, more dopamine. As one online blog so aptly pointed out, "Tumblr beats Facebook in everything. People spill their hearts out on Facebook and no one gives a s*it I spill my heart out on here and get props for it. You post something on Facebook, zero likes. Post it on Tumblr, 2,000 reblogs."
There are still a lot of questions looming about the future of Tumblr now that Yahoo has managed to buy it up. However, what seems certain is that the popularity of Tumblr and platforms like it will continue to grow as they meet the need for increased visibility and interconnectedness that young people desire more and more everyday.