2013-09-13 / Columnists

Your Life And Privacy

Some Teens Say Move Over Facebook
By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US

Question: What social networking site do some teens prefer over Facebook?

Answer: Tumblr.

For teens, a Facebook page is largely about showing off their popularity (“look how many friends I have!”). Their Facebook activity, or social networking, revolves around their lives (real, or fictional as portrayed by their pages).

Facebook allows for short postings on one’s “wall,” but is not intended to be a blogging site. In contrast, Tumblr is a combination blogging and social networking site. The social networking that occurs is about the user’s blog, which can comprise text, photos, video and audio -- anything that can be digitally posted.

To gain a deeper understanding of the differences, I interviewed a teen having both Facebook and Tumblr accounts.

-- What are the main differences between Facebook and Tumblr?

Who you are is not Tumblr’s main focus. Many users remain anonymous unless they identify themselves in their bios. On Facebook everybody knows who you are or thinks they do. That’s why you friend people and they friend you. On Facebook you mostly talk to friends and look at their pictures. Tumblr is all about content, not what party you are going to next weekend.

-- What do you like best about Facebook? About Tumblr?

With Facebook, I can connect with people I don’t see often. It’s nice to be able to chat with somebody you haven’t seen in a while. I love the creativity on Tumblr. I can post whatever I want. It’s like indulging in every single guilty pleasure I have (movies, books, television shows, bands, artwork, photography…anything!) with millions of others who are interested in the same thing. You don’t have to pretend to be cool or popular or perfect.

-- Which site do most teens use?

I think teens that have a Tumblr spend more time there. For every 20 minutes I spend on Tumblr, I spend one on Facebook. Tumblr is way more entertaining. Many people play games on Facebook, but how much Candy Crush Saga can one human play? On Tumblr, I have an endless amount of content on things I am interested in.

-- Have you seen things on Tumblr that make you uncomfortable?

Of course, but nothing that’s made me seriously upset. I ignore things I don’t want to see.

-- If you had to give up either Facebook or Tumblr, which one would it be?

It would be Facebook. There are other ways to communicate with my friends, but there really is only one way to get the content and community that’s on Tumblr. Facebook can’t compete.

* * *

Both Facebook and Tumblr come with exposure to the Internet. Facebook’s privacy issues are legion, and include the ability of creeps and stalkers to friend your teen and reach out. Tumblr allows some password protection of blogs, but only secondary blogs; you can’t prevent somebody from following your main blog, but you can block them from interacting with you. You can, however, make particular posts private.

Probably the scariest part of Tumblr is that your teen can search for (and find) anything, from “NY Yankees” to “bondage.” There is no way to block content.

If your teen is on Tumblr, be mindful.

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