Recently, a number of Taylor Swift fans have been asking that I give them my Tumblr. For a few days I was puzzled by this surge in interest as it wasn’t obvious these young women, who had tracked me down on Twitter, were her fans. Today I realized she has new a song out called Bad Blood, which is also the name of my account.
Revisiting the site, with it’s modest 87 followers, I wonder why I refuse to give it up. What does it mean, to change the name? Why bother to maintain it all? It would make some fangirl ecstatic, however briefly. Yet, I feel a pinprick of stubbornness, like a child digging toes into the sand, sinking deeper just so it takes the ocean a few more seconds to fill in my footprints once I finally step away. A small, strange pleasure. I have been on Tumblr over five years, a place where everything sinks to the bottom, by design. Which means I am some kind of fossil, internet ancient. I want a testament to that, for no other reason than having existed; this absentminded, nearly context-less cascade of other people’s images is still there.
I joined Tumblr on the cusp of my mid-to-late 20s, likely older than these women contacting me now. Tumblr was, to me then, just the latest cool new thing to early-adopt. There had been many other website/network/communities prior to Tumblr, that had burned brighter merely because I needed them more at the time of encounter. So vital in shaping who I became, how I connected with others. All of which have since faded. Listing them here would be like reading from the directory of a large cemetery. I will name one though, a precambrian LiveJournal account, existing now only as a massive PDF file on my hard drive. Later, when I was ready to disembark from readymade communities, there was a version of this blog, also called Soft Graffiti, hosted by an ex who let it quietly disappear after our breakup. I was too dumb to back up the posts so it’s really gone, no PDF. Years and years lost to the ether or what bits can be dredged from the Wayback Machine.
That blog, Soft Graffiti V1, let’s call it, was so much more personal and active than what I sporadically maintain today. Not Livejournal personal, not a diary nor a series of pithy status updates. It was something public yet liberating in it’s nicheness; a conscious presentation open to the world, yet innocent of branding. It had even more ancient roots, inspired by a time when I made zines and DJed freeform college radio.
It was, truthfully, a blog very much of it’s time. Roughly five-to-ten years ago, just before the famous bloggers and their ever-widening wake of affiliates, linkbait, and permanent guest contributors. Before it was normal to see double columns of ads, SEO-friendly titles, and the subtle insidiousness of “sponsored content.”
I am not here to hate on making money from your work (though I will judge your style and ethics). Lately I just want to get back to something reminiscent of the old Soft Graffiti, as well as the online miasma it floated through; when the internet still felt like the blank expanses on Medieval maps. Before this compulsion to tie everything back to your LinkedIn or Facebook profile. To revive a soft anonymity that extends beyond Craigslist encounters and torrent sites. Nostalgia plays a part, sure. But so does the thrill of just putting it out there, to be stumbled upon, thoughtful and lightly polished. Like today.
Still from Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo