Tumblr can be a cathartic safe haven for people to vent about their struggles. It can help them realize that they are not alone. It can bring peace and relief but can also cause a counterintuitive cycle of spiraling deeper into depression.
Tumblr.com is a free blogging website that allows members to post whatever they wish. Members design the look of their blog and write content, post pictures, or reblog content according to their interests. Tumblr accounts vary by individual but content usually falls under the following categories: travel/photography, politics, fandom networks, and personal blogging.
On a lot of blogs, grungey depression is an aesthetic. This does not mean that their content is invalid, since many users who dedicate their blog to depressing themes are outwardly manifesting their inner feelings. So, I am not implying to question a blogger’s intention, or assume that they are seeking attention or exaggerating their experiences, although truth be told, some do because they want to follow the “norm” of the site. Posting about mental struggle is sort of indirectly encouraged and romanticized on the site, whether we believe it or not.
As a member of Tumblr myself, it felt cathartic to write about my issues and read related posts. However, I found myself scrolling through the “depression” or “anxiety” tags too frequently, becoming somehow drawn to this self-validation cycle. Sometimes it made me feel better, especially when I was having a moment and needed a safe place to release my feelings. Yet on occasions when I wasn’t necessarily going through those feelings at the moment, I would end up feeling that way because I would be reminded of my own struggles through hopeless-themed posts, spiraling deeper into more negativity than I needed to be. It is fine to search for posts that relate to you; however, it may be unhealthy when you find yourself persistently searching for sad content as a token of self-validation, without even realizing that you are falling into its trap.
Although one may go on Tumblr for release or help, the site’s dark content can sometimes reinforce users that they are “hopeless” ,”complicated”, or “worthless”. This can depend on the type of posts you view and if you can mentally filter them out, but hopeless-themed posts are pretty popular on the site.
There is a scene in the Netflix documentary, “To the Bone”, where the character Ellen, who struggles with anorexia, used to have a popular Tumblr account dedicated to looking thin. She posted drawings portraying the type of body she idolized, which grew popular among her fanbase and even prompted one of her followers to commit suicide. She wasn’t necessarily doing anything wrong by freely posting how she felt, but sharing her self-degrading mindset further perpetuated the danger of the disorder within herself and others.
I have seen this kind of mentality firsthand on many eating disorder blogs. Tumblr has a large community of anorexic/bulimic bloggers, and many of them support each other through their similar battles, yet in negative counterintuitive ways. Instead of encouraging their fellow strugglers that there is hope and that they can all get better, the majority instead encourage each other to keep starving themselves and to work towards their goal of being (unhealthily) thin. It is kind of like a mob mentality, in a self degrading way, and this can apply to all aspects of mental heath on the site whether it be depression or other mental disorders.
This is not a criticism on what people post. We have freedom of expression. Most users are not trying to romanticize their struggles or lure others into a dark hole of depression. Most are not saying to others that they are cool because they have depression or bipolar disorder or autism. To add, there are many positives to sharing personal anecdotes on social media; information gets spread and others realize they are not alone and become informed on their issues. Tumblr can sometimes act as a large support group, and this is great. One just has to know that negative mentalities and stigmas can be created within the site, and so just know the difference between healthy encouragement that works towards progress and unhealthy encouragement that stalls in pity and victimizing.
-Do not fall into the habit of purposefully seeking out sad posts when you are sad.
-Maybe search for posts on hope or recovery, instead of only weighing on the posts that reinforce feelings of doom and hopelessness. I fell into the habit of self pity and became somewhat addicted to reinforcing my struggles. This slowed my recovery at times.
-Do not feel like you have to keep posting about depression to maintain your “theme”; post genuinely. Aesthetics should not be romanticized on Tumblr; authentic expression should be.
-If you want to help people in their struggles, be an uplifter instead of a degrader. Have the mindset that “hey we have this and this sucks, but recovery is possible, and I am working on it.” Or “I personally feel hopeless right now but I know others feel differently and so can you.”
-If you want to help yourself, be cautious of the types of posts you search for, if you have a habit to dwell on them, and if going on will help or hurt the mood you are in.
Most importantly, if mental health issues become compromising in any way, seek professional help.