I am a teenager and also have a fascination with Tumblr. I will try my best to explain this from our perspective as teens.
This site rocks! Why? Because unlike Facebook, I have a clean slate. Instead of being associated with my name and my real life being, I am a newly founded pseudonym if I so choose. No one knows that page is mine except for the selective friends I may choose or ask to follow me. But Tumblr isn’t about seeing what my friends are up to. In fact, I know the creators of less than a handful of the dozens of blogs I follow. Because of this, it turns into a tool for discovery, following members of the community who share my interests versus my friends who can get boring seeing as, at least during the school year, I know what’s going on in their lives every day. But these bloggers, who live lives I don’t see first hand, are neat to read about; they voice opinions that I care about and are hard to find organized anywhere else in such a way, and they share new things that few of my friends know about (which is why I mostly reblog: passing along the things that I love).
Another note on reblogging content: Reblogging is a great and made-easy way to define my newly-established online self. It is how I quickly pass along the things that I care about and keep my followers interested in my blog. Despite it not consisting of all-original content, my blog is the equivalent of making a portfolio to sum myself up. I spend much time and care making my blog unique and look good.
My followers rely on me for discovery, as I rely on the people I follow. So, I feel responsible for doing just this; not doing so would run the risk of me losing followers, which will impact the amount of users who see my original content when I choose to write something myself or post a photo of mine or a video I found. So as I am browsing my feed for hours and hours, I am also looking for things that I think my followers would be interested in, like to see, or content that would go nicely given the other stuff on my blog. And, yeah, it is endless, which only increases the amount of time I spend on the site (the scrolling is set up so that as I near the bottom, more content loads). And I see it as crucial that I search through everything in my feed since my last visit to Tumblr, as I wouldn’t want to miss anything potentially interesting (that may make good blogging material or just suits my own interests).
I for one speak very differently on my Tumblr – I have began to write more original content versus reblogging in the recent weeks. I talk with my friends, on Facebook and face to face, about our lives, our friends, our plans, funny stories, all things that no follower of mine cares about; they have their own Facebook and social lives for that – Tumblr is something different. I voice my opinions on Tech that few of my friends would care about, but my followers are intrigued by. I operate under a name other than my own and appeal to and associate with an entirely different group of people, hoping to become ‘popular,’ if you will, in a completely new setting. I use ‘popularity’ with discretion, though, because it’s not about being impressive and cool and manipulative, but rather about becoming a blogger more and more people enjoy reading and value the opinion of.
So that all is the “why?” factor. But yeah, it’s wasteful, no doubt about it. I cannot put this on a resume and it doesn’t earn me benefits later in life. That said, as I sit infront of my Tumblr, with an opinion and defined set of interests, it seems like a freedom, as weird as that may sound. I do not think of it as wasteful by any means while I am writing a post, but instead as a way of voicing my opinion to those who are most likely to care or value it. I can’t vote, I can’t even – like your daughter – drive yet as of this writing, so this is how I say what I have to say. I don’t do it with the intention of making an impact or changing anything, but instead just to say what I have to say for the sake of saying it; I like the idea of my voice being heard somewhere where people care, so I make it heard in an environment with users who will curiously read what I have to say solely out of interest. Doing so brings me a sort of joy, that people care or agree with the things I say, that I really can’t get anywhere else.
This may sound like shenanigans from a parent perspective, but as a teenager, I really have found myself starting to have my own opinions. These, in some cases, greatly differ from relatives or friends, people who used to greatly influence my opinions. My Tumblr is my way of sharing my new opinion with people who are interested in hearing it, if that makes more sense, so they don’t go completely unheard and leave me feeling useless. Socially and productivity-wise, this may be less than productive, but in the short term and while living in the present it makes me feel good and of importance.