Story at a glance
- Tumblr is a microblogging and social networking website founded in 2007 and popularized by teen and college age users.
- The platform has served as an outlet and community for many young internet users, especially the LGBTQ community.
- A new survey by the company found that LGBTQ youth on the platform were struggling not only with their mental health but also the stigma of mental illness.
For many of those who grew up on the internet, the world wide web offered access to a community that may not have been reachable offline. On Tumblr, where users are twice as likely to be lesbian, gay or another sexuality, these connections proved vital to navigating and surviving the mental health struggles that nearly three-fourths of LGBTQ Generation Z users reported in a recent survey.
If you were on Tumblr in its heyday — or still are today — you can skip ahead. For those who weren’t, the microblogging and social networking website founded in 2007 was popularized in the 2010s by teen and college-age users sharing everything from their OTP (One True Pairing) to their deepest and darkest secrets (think a diary, but online and with multimedia).
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Almost half of 1,000 LGBTQ Gen Z users admitted to sharing their mental health journeys online, in a new survey by Tumblr, and another 31 percent said they had considered doing the same. The coronavirus pandemic convinced more than a third of these users to be more willing to talk about mental health despite the stigma that a majority feel in those conversations.
“With 1 in 3 of Tumblr’s Gen Z users identifying as LGBTQIA+, more than double the national average, we work to create a platform that welcomes conversations around mental health while providing resources that some may otherwise not have access to. What we’ve found in our recent research is that this community has struggled with mental health from a young age and has found support in online resources and communities as they grow older, likely because these conversations may not have been openly available at home. Our aim at Tumblr is to create a safe and open space where that can continue to take place," Chinelo Nwosu, Tumblr’s head of social impact, said in a release.
More than three-fourths of LGBTQ Gen Z users on Tumblr grew up up in households where mental health was not spoken about openly or sensitively. And while more than half of them began struggling with their own mental health as children or teens, it wasn’t until high school or later that many were able to talk about it. Part of the problem is that 17 percent of LGBTQ Gen Z users don’t know where to find help and many of those who do say cost is a major obstacle to accessing those resources.
Of course, social media itself can take a toll on mental health and researchers have criticized Tumblr and similar websites for perpetuating negative messaging without promoting recovery. This month, as part of the company's “Mental Wealth month,” it is offering free access to information and services from partners including Trill, Shine, Headspace and Free Black Therapy on their own blog. The Post it Forward campaign began in 2015 to try to counter the stigma of mental health.
"For a lot of people, social media platforms like Tumblr have been a safe haven for openly discussing bullying, self-harm, depression, and other issues that they struggle with in their lives. But too many people still suffer alone, unaware of the caring communities right on the other side of their screen. By creating a channel for people to share their personal stories and positive messages, we hope to turn the community into a support tool for those that may not have one in their daily lives," Tumblr said about its Post it Forward campaign.
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