Reading The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens mostly makes me very glad that I first encountered the internet long before the term 'social media' showed up.
When Pizza reached 100,000 followers on Tumblr, she posted a picture of a pizza box, takeout chicken wings, and an orange soda spread out on her bed: "pizza and chicken wings 2 celebrate." One fan replied, "CONGRATULATIONS GIRL! YOU DESERVE IT!" Another: "MOTHER OF GOD 100K?!?!" An anonymous user was unimpressed: "you only have 100k because of ur url." But Pizza shot that down: "uh no i had 93k before i got this url so excuse u."
It had taken Pizza more than two years to reach this milestone. In late 2010 she had signed up for Tumblr, the then-three-year-old social network, and secured the URL IWantMyFairyTaleEnding.tumblr.com. At first, she mostly posted photos of party outfits - hipster photos, she thought. They were the kind of images you might find under the "summery" Tumblr tag: poolside drinks, sunsets, sundresses, palm trees, tiny succulents; a shopping list of the things she wanted to buy, if only she had the money. Pizza also wrote some funny one-liners, but otherwise she reblogged jokes, switching back and forth between fashion and comedy. She tried out new names, new personas, changing her URL a few times; after a couple of years, she went all-joke. By the end of 2012, she had amassed 90,000 followers, a respectable number for a Tumblr, a sign she'd earned a certain amount of fame in her circle - the teens who reblogged her jokes. She then changed her domain to pizza.tumblr.com, her followers started to call her Pizza, and her numbers began to climb. That same year, she turned 15. […]
I can't help but think that one aspect to this story that the article doesn't explore as I'd have liked is the real money issue: not the one about the individual teenagers and the sums their Tumblrs could generate from one month to the next,1 but the one about about how much of the money the various advertising/affiliate marketing/sponsored content schemes that are supposed to generate as payments to bloggers isn't getting paid, especially given that apparently these businesses can so easily fail to pay up just when an inconveniently large monthly payment is due. 2
Finally, there's a small part of me that wants to build a time machine, go back to 1962, and see if I can get this article published as a short story in Galaxy Science Fiction. I think Frederik Pohl would have gone for it.
Eye-popping as these figures are from the perspective of the individual bloggers. ↩
I suspect that's partly because the story ends up being something along the lines of 'If you don't like it, sue us and see if there's any money left to collect once you've paid for the lawyers.' and that would be a very different type of story, but I'd still have liked to hear more. ↩