When controversial news is being discussed in the college setting, a lot of the time there is some great discourse. During this discourse, however, you have to have some substance and evidence. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard people use what they saw on Tumblr as part of their argument.
First and foremost, I do not consider Tumblr a news app. Tumblr has news sources publishing on its platform such as “The Atlantic” and “The New Yorker,” but more often than not, users on Tumblr are far more interested in blogs that are dedicated to their favorite television shows. This is not a problem whatsoever. Tumblr is one of the very few sites left on the Internet that advertising has little effect on, and the site and its users pride themselves in that.
The microblogging platform contains over 225 million blogs and is one of the most used sites by young adults. The variety of users is great, and for a lot of young adults, Tumblr is a safe place for self-expression. More specifically, many blog posts focus on controversial issues we see in the news today. It’s a great place for discussion, but a Tumblr blog is not where you should hope to find facts. When looking into news, it could be the platform you start with, but by no means should it be the first and last place you go for current events.
Because there are so many users who are genuinely invested in their blogs, many times you will hear about events before proper news coverage. For example, in December 2014, user Leelah Alcorn, an American transgender girl whose suicide was blogged about throughout Tumblr, later received international attention from news sources such as ABC News and CNN.
While Tumblr succeeds in cutting-edge, first-person experiences, it fails in accountability. For some reason, when something is so good and personal as this site is, infamous Internet trolls and hoaxes ruin it. Tumblr infamy is more important than legitimacy to some users, and, unfortunately, a lot of false information is spread on the site. Literally anyone can post on Tumblr, and it is hardly monitored.
However, we can thank the site for one thing regarding news; sources such as “The Washington Post” and “The Atlantic” have paid attention to Tumblr’s popularity and can see the effectiveness of first-person journalism, especially for younger audiences. Since early 2014, news networks have started to integrate first-person accounts into their sites much more frequently. Unlike Tumblr’s first-person narratives, these accounts have been fact-checked and approved by experts for your reading pleasure.
Since Tumblr’s sourcing accountability is so fragile and unreliable, I cannot advocate using it as a source for news. If users see an issue on Tumblr that catches their attention, they should take the next step and look for sources that carry more legitimacy. Users should love it for what it is: a community where an individual can write about their affinity for cats without any judgment. It is fantastic that young adults have a desire to become informed, but Tumblr is not the means by which to do so.