A few months ago, I ran across a post on Tumblr that declared that anyone who hit 1,000+ followers without following back was “Tumblr famous”. Which was news to me, because that means I’m Tumblr famous four times over! With a Tumblr that, for now, shall go unmentioned. This listicle is being posted on the decidedly-not-at-all-famous Tumblr that I run with a friend (a friend who’s going to read over this for typos, right, ARTICHOKE? Love you!), because, now that I know that I’m a famous person, I have some thoughts to share…
1. That standard for fame is not especially high.
I’ve been kicking around this blue monster of a site since 2011, which that puts me at a (very rough) average of a thousand people per year, with about 4,000 followers. The thing is, when you’re actually at that number, it doesn’t feel like very much. For one thing, four years is a long time to collect notes and people, one by one. For another, I’m aware of people who have tens, or even hundreds of thousands of followers; that’s what actual Tumblr fame is. Perhaps most importantly, mine is a themed art blog. I post pictures and quotes, and there’s no illusion in my mind that my followers are crowding around for glimpses of me, rather than the content I post.
While the two might not be mutually exclusive, it’s best not to confuse a follower for a fan, and it would be conceited— to say nothing of idiotic— to mistake followers who are moderately interested in the content for fans who are very interested in the moderator.
2. No, you don’t love all of your followers.
Generously, let’s say you love like… 99% of your followers. But, if you are like me, and you love to procrastinate doing anything that could be procrastinated in these past four years, including but not limited to college homework, job applications, and feeding oneself, then the fact that you just gained a new follower really means that you just gained a new spot on the internet to stare at slack-jawed for an hour and 250 pages of archived content.
So, to go back to that 99% number; about 99% of my followers are, by all appearances I can reasonably observe, perfectly great people. They like art. They like quotes. They like Disney, and the Avengers, and assorted other fandoms. A bunch of them are really into social justice. A much, much higher number than I ever would have guessed are into BDSM, but hey— you do you, kids. Safe, sane, and consensual all the way.
And then there’s that other 1%: they’re white supremacists. Or they’re MRAs, or they’re virulently pro-life, or they’ve drunk the Ayn Rand kool-aid which cannot be undrunk. To some extent, we expect hate on the Internet; it’s a little weird when it’s someone’s like which has you wanting to crawl under a table.
3. It’s work.
Piggybacking on that, one thing I want to make perfectly clear is that I don’t do this for the followers, because if I did this for the followers, I would have quit a long time ago. The reward (for me) is cooing over all the pretty, pretty pictures on the screen, the pictures that I collected together, and that everyone is invited to share (even you, Neo-Nazi Joe… unfortunately). And while there’s a certain endorphin rush with every new follower at the beginning, a certain “Oh, can it be? Someone appreciates me!”, I’ve been doing this for four years. The honeymoon period wore off a long time ago, and the truth of the matter is that getting three posts up per day, every day (why did I do this to myself) is fucking work, man.
I don’t think I would have looked at it this way if Tumblr were around when I was fifteen (instead, we just had Livejournal, but I won’t go into that), but: followers don’t put money in your bank account or food on your plate or a roof over your head. I suppose you could ask them for money, but I don’t, so. They offer community and camaraderie, which is great, but still no reason to make your blog for anyone but you. The compliments always make your day better, of course, but about that…
4. Every time you get a message, anxiety will punch you in the gut, because you might get one of these fuckers in your inbox.
Trolls, take note.
The worst message is not someone threatening to [use your imagination for the rest of this sentence]. The person who gets most under my skin is…
There’s a fine line between a person making a request, and a person who assumes that your blog is public space and should cater to them. The difference can usually be found in the language: both will be peppered with please, thank you, and :), but the entitlement complex is going to work their way around to asking what they want, usually with some qualifying language that hints at why they think you owe them what they want, and maybe some negging thrown in for spice. They’re not going to come out and state “Follow me back, please”, they’re going to start with “I like your blog a lot, and I’ve been following for some time…” Theirs is the principle that if they don’t ask, they won’t get. It’s a principle that’s great for people who are timid and absolute disaster for people who have an overblown sense of entitlement.
Follow backs are the least of it. The worst offenders, like in the comment above, want you to change your very content. As rosalarian goes on to say…
I imagine this is a much larger issue in the art and comics world where, rather than merely asking you to post content according to their specific tastes and interests, these randos are asking you to create content according to their tastes and interests.
I want to emphasize how incredibly rare these messages are. They are not the majority of messages I get, nor even the majority of messages I get asking for me to do or post something. But hell if they don’t stand out. They put the moderator in an uncomfortable bind, because you have the distinct feeling that no matter how gently you try to phrase your no, things are going to turn nasty, quickly; after all, the only thing you know about this person is that they’re a little so-so with boundaries and social niceties. And you’re sure as fuck not going to say yes.
But the thing that’s wonderful about these people, no matter how much they make you see red seconds after you’ve finished reading their little fan mail, is that they actually lead to a great moment of self-actualization…
5. IT’S MINE, MOTHERFUCKERS, MINE
Tumblr.com may own the real estate, but they gave me the keys for now, bitches. While remaining within the parameters of legality, anything I decide to fucking do with my blog is fine. Because it’s fucking mine. If I decide to delete it tomorrow, then that’s that. If I decide that from now on it’s going to be a gay porn blog, then by Jove, that’s what’s going to happen. This isn’t public space; you can change the number of notes on a post, you can send me all the hatemail you like, you can post rants about me on your stupid blog (which is, by the way, your very own, just like this one is mine), but you can’t change a thing, because IT’S ALL MINE
To call back to our beginning title, what I learned is that I’m a girl. Even when you’ve made a platform someone still wants to advertise on, you still get to be “Sweetie”.