Originally published on Medium.com at this link
I suppose it’s just my nature to beat a dead horse, which, before I get started, easily has to be in the top ten of the worst phrases ever to somehow make its way into the lexicon, along with maybe “cray cray”, “sorry not sorry”, and “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there”, but I digress. On with the Tumblr bashing…
As the Tumblr countdown clock ticks forward to within a few days now, effectively banning all visual nudity and sexual imagery on December 17th, it really is eating at me that I am having a hard time finding any mainstream media articles on what really is happening here to a very large subculture of adults.
So bear with me as I dive deep today into Tumblr, it’s user community, what is happening, and what is not being written.
Tumblr and Its Reach.
Tumblr isn’t what it once was in terms of reach but it’s not that far off either. Don’t kid yourself — it’s a behemoth social media platform with a captive audience of millions of people every day — who even though it may be declining in relevance to Instagram and Twitter as far as total daily users, it is totally different in a very very important way.
That is this: people who use it, spend far more time using it than that of Twitter or Instagram.
For a microblogging platform, it really is more like Facebook in that regard. You have millions using your platform, sometimes for hours each day. Twitter and Instagram can’t claim that, so in some ways, it could be far more influential, especially in terms of where it matters — in advertising money.
Its reach is so wide that just a few years ago, which is probably similar today, 10% of all men and 11% of all women who use the internet — which is pretty much everyone — use Tumblr. Not “used” Tumblr, but are users of Tumblr. It’s no joke — Tumblr is being used by a lot of people who just don’t tell all their friends they are looking at porn.
On top of that, Tumblr has the prime demographics that you’d want to have using your platform if you were just sitting in a room picking groups that spend their money. According to Statistc.com, “as of December 2016, almost half of Tumblr users in the United States were aged 34 years and younger, with 18 to 24-year-olds accounting for 25.7 percent of U.S. Tumblr audiences”. What is not said is there is that over half are over 35 years old and very likely under 55, and both groups spend their money, 18–34 and 35–55, and are an advertising wet dream.
The stigma is this — people know Tumblr is largely, and quite possibly primarily, a microblogging platform that has NSFW content.
Porn, in other words. And in America, where more than half its users reside and more importantly the company itself, sexuality still carries a stigma with it. Anyone with a brain understands that it is all for naught as violence spills into our culture in every facet, yet that is somebody else’s junior varsity op-ed to write.
There are currently more than 23 million Tumblr users in the United States. Despite Tumblr being a relatively niche social network, its users are highly engaged — U.S. Tumblr app users spent an average of almost 210 monthly minutes on the social app, ahead of arguably more popular industry leaders Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter
So why would a company like Tumblr (Verizon/Oath/Yahoo) decide to shake up what is clearly a captive audience of spenders? It can’t be because Apple dropped it from the Apple Store, temporarily. Sure, that had to be the impetus to make a decision to jettison the porn over there with the executive team at Oath — but seriously, do you know how hard it is to get that kind of reach into the lives of spending adults? It’s nuts — what is the real reason, Verizon?
It cannot prohibitively expensive to clean up your site of porn. The image analysis algorithm alone to scan using big data image analytics is pretty accurate, even though everyone complains that it is not. Clearly, it could improve, but in the last week alone, the majority of my own blog’s NSFW pictures have automatically and accurately been flagged as explicit, since they started labeling things as such. Using multiple analytics programs and a human eye, Tumblr should able to weed out 99.9% of illegal porn, which is what Apple cares about, to begin with. No other platform is expected to do better, from Google Images to Instagram to Twitter, so clearly, something else is happening. Businesses will sell themselves down the river to make a buck if we know anything about corporations, so what gives? What is really going on over at Verizon/Oath/Yahoo/Tumblr?
The Real Impacted People.
Besides the business angle that leaves us all scratching our heads, the other thing not being spoken about here is the actual personal impact to a clearly substantially large subculture in our society.
But first, the question is really — why do people use Tumblr, to begin with?
What is the actual reason the majority of people use it?
And I’m not talking about the people sharing pictures of cats and their kids. Facebook and Instagram have that self-expression market cornered, so let’s not pretend Tumblr is something that it is not.
The reason is this: it is — above everything else, Tumblr is, for a couple more days, a place for responsible adults to express themselves sexually.
It is a place that people go to open an intimate book with themselves and look at pictures, discuss sex, refine their likes and kinks, but more importantly, to interact and communicate anonymously as they explore their sexuality.
For millions of normal adults — you know, moms and dads and college students — Tumblr is the only mechanism to do this. Twitter and Instagram, and more kink-tailored platforms life FetLife miss the mark in one direction or the other. They are either too personally identifiable, like Facebook, too restrictive in what the platform’s focus is, like Instagram, or too limited, like Twitter.
The reality that nobody using Tumblr wants to realize right now is that there is no other platform out there that enables a free, wide-ranging forum of sexual expression quite like Tumblr.
And sexual expression, especially on this scale, is an important thing. Our sexuality is a huge part of who we are as people. I have seen thousands of people cross my anonymous path since I started writing erotic musings on Tumblr and I know one thing to be true: sexuality is important to all types of people.
I see housewives explore their sexuality and refine their wants and then revitalize their marriage from the thoughts that they have processed, all starting in the platform that is Tumblr. I see men learn how to satisfy their girlfriends, emotionally and sexually and improve their relationships as a result — all from the platform that is Tumblr.
I see women desperately dying inside because of the life they chose when they were twenty and hating the lack of attention they now have to deal with because they are moms, first foremost. I see this — every fucking day, voicing their opinions in droves — and seeing them finally finding a place to feel free to be who they are inside, and finding a home to be that person — in the platform that is Tumblr.
It makes me sick to my stomach to see this forum of expression ripped away from them, more than anything else. It is just downright sad. I hope Verizon takes such a hit for this that all the executives are out on their ass in six months, but I know that won’t happen.
I guess I just hoped that this written piece would make a few people think about this. Hopefully, enough people to actually see what is going on here.
It’s not some company making a policy change — it is a large group of the adult world losing a place to explore their most personal side.
The saddest part is that the majority of people will not seek out a new expression of platform because one will not exist, or they will give up on it because it doesn’t invoke the feelings they had with Tumblr, or they will just get sick of the technical parts, or something else will turn them off.
All I can say is this — I implore you to keep exploring your most personal side.
You will be a better person for it.