Twitter Tumblr and TikTok logos on blue to purple to pink gradient background Passionfruit Remix

DANIEL CONSTANTE/Shutterstock rvlsoft/Shutterstock satoshi takahata/Shutterstock Font Awesome/Wikimedia Commons (Licensed) by Caterina Cox

The ‘Tumblrification’ of social media

TikTok and Twitter are starting to feel a lot like Tumblr.


Charlotte Colombo

Internet Culture


This story was originally published on Passionfruit.


Between the drama of an Elon Musk-run Twitter and the moral panic surrounding TikTok rotting our children’s brains, 2022 was a big year for social media. We might like to think that the two sites couldn’t be more different. After all, one is often thought of as a dancing app for Gen Z, and the other is a microblogging site where you’re encouraged to share memes, hot takes, and anything in between (except your Linktree and Instagram handle, God forbid). 

However, the one thing these two sites have in common, the thing that sets them apart from other social media platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn, is their capacity for discourse. The Discourse™, as defined and made infamous by Tumblr, refers to “bad discussion of theoretical, political, and social issues” online. When we vote on polls for the most outlandish discourse seen on Twitter this year (like “coffee husband” or “bean dad“) or stitch TikToks lamenting over the most “chronically online takes” we’ve come across on the app, we think we’re being slick and bringing something new to the table. 

In fact, when news first broke of Musk potentially buying Twitter earlier in the year, Tumblr ended up being a trending topic as we lamented over how “nostalgic” we were over this supposedly-dead platform. But you can’t be nostalgic for a platform that physically—and in the way we communicate—is alive and well. Sure, you can argue a big part of the site died when it no longer allowed the posting of porn, but Tumblr’s defining quality wasn’t its copious nudity and smut—it was the Discourse, and users’ collective ability to produce and discuss astonishingly bad and unusual takes about various social issues.

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