warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Into The Hive Mind: Down The Dashboard We Go

Christine Bancroft |
December 4, 2012 | 10:44 a.m. PST


Armed with ettiquette, jargon and a healthy sense of enthusiasm, you decide to make your way into the fandom—make your grand entrance. Prepared to profess your love for all things fandom, but unsure as to how exactly to go about it, you look to Tumblr's sign-up page for answers. 

So begins a possibly precarious journey rife with procrastinatory potholes, inside jokes, even more slang, all of which must be known backwards and forwards (not to mention, another healthy dose of unspoken rules), and overall complexity that can turn off a new user at the very start. There's some doubts starting to form in your mind: "I don't know how to HTML, and was that possible nudity that just flashed by my eye, and really, what am I doing, blogging is something I did on MySpace in 2004 and now have selectively forgotten, right?" 

First of all, MySpace is the annoying little sibling of the blogosphere whom we ignore in public. We do not talk about MySpace. It does not exist. Tumblr does not care about your MySpace from years ago, no matter how awesome your autoplay music was. 

And yes, that was probably nudity. 

Tumblr was founded by David Karp in February 2007 and is now home to over 77 million separate blogs. In all likelihood, you're going to find something that interests you. 

Author John Green is extremely popular on Tumblr and his fanbase is widespread. His own Tumblr has a huge viewership, like his vlog on Youtube.
Author John Green is extremely popular on Tumblr and his fanbase is widespread. His own Tumblr has a huge viewership, like his vlog on Youtube.
There are six main types of blogs: hipster blogs, which generally feature copious sepia-filtered pictures of rain, flowers or couples with text overlaying it; diary blogs, posts dedicated to the blogger's life and personal ideas or feelings; creative blogs, where users posts their own original artwork, stories, videos or other creations; celebrity blogs, the few and far between actors, musicians or writers who grace Tumblr with their presence (including actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Dianna Agron and Wil Wheaton, authors Neil Gaiman and John Green, cartoonists Kate Beaton and Pen Ward) or publications (Entertainment Weekly, the official "Doctor Who blog); fifth, the social justice blogs, who decry almost anything and everything as some form of "-ism": racism, sexism, ableism, cis-sexism (prejudice against those who do not identify with the traditional gender binary or the transgendered community; however, some social justice bloggers tend to overreact and attack anyone who identifies with the gender to which they were born and "reinforce" cisgender roles created by society). 

Finally, the fandom blogs make up an extremely active part of Tumblr. While many adhere to the Holy Trinity of fandoms ("Sherlock" and all "Sherlock Holmes" adapatations, "Doctor Who" and "Supernatural", otherwise known as the portmanteau "Superwholock"), those are not the only fandoms represented. In fact, almost every subject, from Shakespearean texts to off-beat French nouveau cinema, has at least a small fandom. Extremely popular are the Holy Trinity, Marvel and DC comics and their related TV shows or films, "Harry Potter", "The Lord of the Rings", "The Hunger Games" and the actors who portray characters (favored actors include Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Martin Freeman, Jennifer Lawrence and the cast of "The Avengers", such as Robert Downey Jr. and these actors' related films.)

A suggestion for new users is to go around in the tags (which can be located at the search bar at the top of the dashboard, the home page) and look for the blogs whose posts receive the most notes (reblogs, likes, replies) because those often are the BNFs who create original content and are widely admired. 

Note: do not put hate in the fandom tags. It is not appreciated nor is it welcome. Criticism of a subject is one thing, but blatant expression of hate is just seen as rude and unnecessary. People are welcome to their opinions, negative or otherwise, so long as those opinions are well-expressed and warranted. Attacking another person's passions is impolite.

Some other helpful hints for the new Tumblr user: 

While there may be a few extremely popular, well-represented fandoms on Tumblr, they are by no means the only ones nor are the exclusive. You are welcome to enjoy whatever you want and do not have to partake in any or all of the Holy Trinity or the more popular fandoms. 

Many fandoms have resting periods if they are not constantly updated or some of the most popular fandoms. Don't be surprised if your fandom-related posts are a bit on the low-side during the off-season or in between publications or films.

Social justice bloggers aren't all bad, nor are the ubiquitous. Many have extremely well-thought-out opinions and do not take offense to every idea that contradicts their personal worldviews. However, the most viewed are usually the most controversial, so it may be necessary to search a bit for the social justice blogs that fit with your ideas (for example, lgbtlaughs or fandomandfeminism tend towards the moderate, while forfuturereferenceonly has recently been in the spotlight for rather extreme opinions of society and gender.

Fandoms tend to find hipster posts and ruin them by relating them to fandom. They probably are irritated with this, but most fandom bloggers don't really care too much. 

Hipster posts also occasionally take a fandom post by accident, without realizing that it is related to a show or book. Hilarity usually ensues. 

A lot of Tumblr is NSFW, meaning "not safe for work", due to sexual or violent content, explicit language or simply because it's probably generally unacceptable for workplace or public viewing. Take this as you will. 

There are inside jokes everywhere. Don't feel left out if you don't get it immediately, or ever.


—n also dont use punctuation correctly??? if at all???

No one is really sure where this meme came from, but the star and all its versions are hilarious and are often seen online.
No one is really sure where this meme came from, but the star and all its versions are hilarious and are often seen online.
Some memes, such as the "you tried" star, pictured right, have evolved to be used by almost all Tumblr users. 

Tumblr-speak occasionally seeps into real life. 

Procrastination is a terrible problem, especially as you begin to follow more and more blogs. The dashboard occasionally seems endless. Prioritizing is difficult, but it has to be done. 

Generally, don't link your Tumblr to your Facebook. Tumblr is meant to be a safe haven, an escape from real life. No one can stop you, but many find that the idea of people they know following their blogs is somewhat uncomfortable. 

David Karp is not, and should not be referred to, as Tumblr's "dad". 

Some common phrases found in gifs or memes on Tumblr include: "I can't", "I'm (100% or more) done", "I regret nothing", something about "feels" (check back to the previous column), and keysmashes ("askdjlgjlakj") which simply represent overwhelming emotions. 

Don't put autoplay music on your blog. This is not MySpace; it is irritating at best and terrifying at worst. 

Also, always remember: your/you're, there/they're/their, less/fewer/many/more/much—just remember grammar rules. Even if u r typin like this, never forget the your/you're rule. You're. Your.

While they won't be covered in this column series, Reddit and 9Gag are somewhat akin to Tumblr in terms of meme propagation (also, there are some fandom related forums there). Pinterest is somewhat similar to having an entire site of art, photo and hipster blogs.

Tumblr is overwhelming, but it is generally very accessible. It has an 80% user retention rate, which means they must be doing something right to keep these people coming back for more. Perhaps it is because it's naturally inclusive—as previously stated, hate of any kind is unwelcome, so people feel the opportunity to be open in a way they may not feel in the real world. It can be used as a form of escapism, a form of procrastination, a cure for boredom, a source of inspiration or simply another social network (and therefore, another threat to your GPA). So feel free to have fun, keep calm and Tumble on with my blessing. 

Next week's column, in honor of finals week, will focus on reference material for fandom life, namely wikia and TVTropes.

Reach Columnist Christine Bancroft here. Follow her on Twitter here



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.