Tumblr Use and Young People’s Queer (Dis)connections

Most recently we had our article on Tumblr use among LGBTIQ+ young people in Australia published in the International Journal of Communication. This article uses data from our survey and interviews to explore the significance and multiple uses of Tumblr among Scrolling Beyond Binaries participants. This includes use of Tumblr for learning and practicing a range of gender/sexual identities, for engaging with and thinking about queer communities, and using Tumblr as a diary, or ‘somewhere to put things.’ We also explore the intensities of Tumblr – both good and bad – where learning and participation was typically intense and important, but where Tumblr also became difficult to the point of many people needing to leave the platform. Throughout the paper we argue that the concept of ‘queer community’ doesn’t map well onto participants’ experiences of Tumblr and so we propose ‘(dis)connection’ as a more useful concept – connecting (but also disconnecting) with other people, but also with the platform, Tumblr content, self, and future possibilities.

Discussing Tumblr (dis)connections, we draw upon Michael Warner’s concept of counterpublics and Sarah Ahmed’s queer phenomenology to argue that Tumblr use is significant to many young people’s negotiations of queerness – both feeling part of, and feeling disconnected from, ‘queer life’. As 16 year old Jacob* says of Tumblr: “You’re in it, but you’re not in it – I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like you’re at a party, but you’re kind of just sitting in the corner; that would be my level of involvement in the Tumblr community.” For others, Tumblr use was part of a process of connecting to self (more so than connecting to others), as per Jasmine* who states: “Tumblr was originally my diary when I was trying to figure out what my gender was, and it was through Tumblr that I figured out what I was, or at least what I wasn’t.” Lastly, we address the issue of ‘Tumblr toxicity’ that was raised by many participants who said this precipitated their departure from the platform. Despite this, most of these participants spoke of Tumblr’s significance to their queer identities and the platform’s ongoing resonance.

The article is freely accessible and can be downloaded here.

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*pseudonyms have been used for all participants.

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