I felt like writing something. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.
This spring, my sister showed me a certain person whose tumblr she was apparently very fond of. After going through a couple [dozen] pages, I found myself crying tears over various images and smirking at the clever memes that this person had posted or reblogged, and I too became a follower of their work.
I learned very quickly that this person was — and knew they were — what people referred to as “tumblr famous” and therefore very popular. The person often posted photos of themself, revealing that they were indeed very pretty, and coupled with the personality they had assumed (at least while on tumblr), they seemed like a really fun person to hang out with.
I’ll admit I was envious, both because of my obsessive need to be well-known, and also because my sister obviously idolized this person — a lot more than could be said about her feelings towards me. As much as my sister and I don’t get along, I couldn’t help but yearn for her approval. It was then that I set out to become “tumblr famous”.
I began by submitting my own creations — funny photos, self-made bandwagon-jumping comic strips — but it soon became apparent to me that my goal wouldn’t be as easy as I’d thought. In order to keep up with the competition, I realized I would have to be on tumblr nearly 24/7 — a lifestyle that, given my class schedule and the fact that I was abroad in Japan, which was demanding enough as it was, I could simply not keep up with. I decided that for the time being I would just sit back and learn all I could from popular tumblrs, lurking in the shadows before I felt myself able to strike.
Every day, with all the free time I was given, I ventured deeper and deeper into the archives of these high-ranking deities. I blew off countless invitations from my friends and peers to go out and explore Japan, insisting that it was my “day off” and that I would join them the next time. I had convinced myself that internet popularity was more worthwhile, and continued on with my obsession.
It was during one of these plunders that I uncovered some information about my main tumblr target. The person claimed to have no friends outside the internet, to have been an outcast, and despite their obvious looks and personality, to never have had a boyfriend. At first I assumed they were trolling — a probability I had become more aware of thanks to a certain someone I met during my travels — but then took into consideration the possibility that this person was telling the truth, which to be honest, judging by their constant posting and seemingly endless knowledge of internet memes, was not such so hard to believe.
Then, perhaps in a bout of extreme fortune, a few of my fellow dorm mates started skipping out on events and explorations, and instead joined me in the lounge. Feeling the need to entertain my peers, I would put my computer away and talk to them; making jokes about the TV, or jabbering on about the wacky antics of my everyday life. This went on for about three days, and I formed a bond with my developing company.
At this point, I really started to weigh my values. Was I really having more fun talking to people face-to-face than looking at funny photos? How could that be? I was never one to be chatty with others, but here I was, the center of attention among a group of people I barely knew. In a way, my goal had been achieved.
Over the next few weeks, I began to abandon my computer more and more to hang out with my new friends. There were still times when I would check tumblr or other social networking sites, but the fear of becoming distant from my posse kept me at a healthy balance. When I did feel the need to laugh at something on the web, I would invite my friends to laugh along with me, and in turn they shared some of their favorites with me too, many of which I went on to share with my family back home. It was like I was reblogging.
A lot of our conversations and banter lead to phrases that we would repeat amongst one another to get a quick laugh. Each time a person who was new to the joke was involved, they too became part of our circle, and would contribute to making new altercations to keep the party laughing. We had our own memes.
I guess I could go on to say that because I had a habit of walking faster than these people in a group, they became my followers, but the real point I am trying to make is that the internet persona I had been trying to create for myself had become my real world persona right before my eyes. I didn’t need pageviews or notes to tell me how much other people enjoyed my presence — I could see easily that everyone was having a good time around me, and I felt the same way around them.
What I want you to take away from this, whether you made it to the end or just skipped down here to see if I ended my story with “the game” (haha, gotcha), is that not everybody has the opportunity to create a friend base outside the internet, but those of you who do have that chance should grasp it and hold tight, because it’s very easy to grow apart from your friends. And to those who still think the internet ruins a person’s social life, well look at me. I have a disability hindering my social skills, I’ve been growing up on the internet since I was 12 — that’s over 7 years — and I hate to leave the house, but put me in a room with people I’m meeting for the first time and I light up like a star. If anything, the internet has helped me become a better person, both socially and morally, so before you say someone who spends their life in front of a computer doesn’t have a “real life”, I can assure you, they’re working on building one.