Techopedia describes Tumblr as "a popular microblogging platform designed for creative self-expression. It is considered a mindful alternative to Facebook and other social media websites where users blog on a myriad of topics." Within the Tumblr community, there are users who dedicate their blogs to academics. Their goal is to help other students find the motivation to study and push through their schooling.
I stumbled upon the studyblr community - studyblr being the combination of the words "study" and "Tumblr" - a few semesters ago when a classmate showed me a photo of a desk that was aesthetically pleasing and with notes that I would have died to have in my notebooks. I immediately jumped on Tumblr and lost myself in this community. I was fascinated by the colorful pens from Germany and Japan, washi tape - which I had never heard of before - with different patterns to decorate planners and bullet journal spreads that made me want to track every last detail of my life. I'd already had a Tumblr for some time but had never used it so I made the decision to transform my blog into a study blog. I continued to emerge myself in the community and found it full of high achieving students who live aesthetic lives, have handwriting fit for a greeting card, and have their academic lives on track. Or at least they pretend to.
I'm not saying the study community is toxic; I'd be a hypocrite because I am largely involved in the study community on Tumblr. I feel that it's a positive experience, but there is one thing that irks me: the focus on aesthetics. I do feel that, at times, the community can consume and uninspired the very people it is meant to motivate. I recently experienced this, and it has pushed me towards using online platforms to try to change the way the study community is perceived.
When you look at images on Tumblr, you're immediately overcome with envy. Well, I am anyway. Pristine desks from Ikea, bookshelves lined with literature and mason jars of colorful pens, Mac screens with beautiful and motivational screens, notes that are neat and orderly, and planners that could keep anyone's life in order. Photos like this are known as studyspo, study inspiration. The problem with these photos is that they are staged. To get the perfect, Tumblr-worthy photo of my study space and my work, it took a lot of time trying to find the right angle and to get the lighting just right. I had to take a great deal of time trying to organize my pens and notebooks to make them look aesthetically pleasing even though my study space is constantly an area of complete chaos. I put a lot of time trying to get that "perfect" Tumblr photo, and most of the time I was dissatisfied and discouraged by the final photos I had because they didn't look like the ones on the other study blogs I follow.
Study photos like this puts the focus on the community on aesthetics rather than learning and education. The goal of study blogs, as I mentioned, is to motivate other students; they are there to help, not to hinder. It also makes the community classists; not everyone can afford the fancy stationary in most studyblr pictures. Supplies from companies like Moleskin, Muji, Staedtler, and Leuchtturn are expensive, but they're the study supplies commonly preferred by study bloggers.
The focus of aesthetics is also misleading. It gives the impression that being a student is stress-free and organized. That's not what being a student is like, and I think we've all learned that at one point or another during our school journey. Successful students don't thrive on good vibes and pretty notes. Those things make studying bearable, and of course, that's important, but success is achieved through hard work and failure. To push aside the failures and the real, negative emotions and experiences and replace them with motivational quotes and pictures of colorful pens gives an unrealistic expectation of what being a successful student is about.
Being a part of the study community, to me, is about showing others your journey. This means being honest about when things get rough, and it means showing the real mess of your study space. As I started to struggle with feeling like my contribution to the community was for naught, I realized that my posts could make a difference. My aim is to show that being a student isn't dependent on things being organized and aesthetically pleasing. You don't need to worry about having expensive notebooks and pens in order to be a successful student. All you need to do is find something that works for you. I still continue to be an active part of the study community on a variety of social platforms, and I'm hoping to inspire and help someone out there.
Happy studying, everyone!