After almost four years of actively participating in various fandoms on Tumblr, I’ve seen and experienced some awful things, and I’ve finally arrived at a set of best practices for handling the nonsense that I’ve encountered on the platform. I’ve made a bunch of stupid mistakes on Tumblr, and I’ve used those mistakes as a foundation for these guidelines, which are intended to help you protect yourself while avoiding unintentionally hurting other people.
(1) If someone sends you hatemail, report them and then block them. If someone reblogs your post with hateful tags, report them and then block them. If someone tags you on a hateful post, report them and then block them.
(2) If you suspect that a specific person is sending you anonymous hatemail, block them. If it was indeed them, then the hatemail will disappear from your inbox, even if it was sent anonymously. If the anonymous messages don’t disappear, then it’s possible that they weren’t being sent by the person you suspected (although it’s still possible that they were, as there are many ways to mask an IP address). Nevertheless, you should probably keep this person blocked anyway, because there was something about their behavior that made you suspect them in the first place. Trust your instincts!
(3) A vaguepost is a post in which the poster criticizes a type of behavior without specifying who or what has triggered this post. If someone has made a vaguepost that you suspect is about you, block that person. Even if they didn’t intend to hurt you, they intended to hurt someone, and that person ended up being you. You’re not socially obligated to tolerate a hurtful atmosphere, no matter how vague it might be.
(4) If a mutual follower sees someone making hateful posts about you but continues to behave in a friendly manner with that person, unfollow them. They’ve made a conscious choice by remaining friends with the person who has harassed you, and their decision is essentially that it’s okay to harass you. No one who is comfortable watching you being harassed is your friend.
(5) If someone engages in racist, sexist, homophobic, or ableist behavior, or exhibits any other type of discrimination in what they post or reblog, unfollow them. It’s 2018, and they know exactly what they’re doing. Tumblr is a terrible forum to challenge someone’s political position, so don’t try to engage them directly. Even if they seem like a nice person, the best strategy is to unfollow them as soon as they start to make you feel uncomfortable.
(6) Tumblr is a place for people to express their unique interests and opinions, and everyone is entitled to a few vent posts every once in a while. If someone seems to be taking a slow train to Crazytown, however, it’s okay to unfollow them. It’s important to use your best judgment, especially regarding someone you’ve known or followed for a long time, but it’s also valid to unfollow someone as soon as they start to make you feel uncomfortable.
(7) Recognize that mental illness, as well as any other type of neurodivergent positionality, is not an excuse for bad behavior. The assumption that people with mental illnesses and other neurodivergent positionalities are unable to tell the difference between right and wrong (or otherwise unable to control themselves) is not only inaccurate but extremely offensive. Don’t feel that you’re expected to tolerate harassment because of the positionality of the harasser.
(8) This goes without saying, but do your best not to spread hate. Don’t send hatemail, don’t make hateful vagueposts, and don’t reblog people’s posts with offensive tags or comments. If you have to vent, don’t use popular fandom tags to spread negativity. This also goes without saying, but try to stay off social media if you’re drunk, angry and crying, or in an otherwise altered state of mind. If you’re unsure of whether something is offensive, don’t post it.
(9) Do not engage with harassment. Unfollow or block someone, and report them if necessary, but don’t call out their bad behavior on a public forum. This ends up hurting other people, and it never fixes the original problem; no one in the history of the internet has ever stopped harassing people because someone told them it was wrong. As an adult, you’re responsible for demarcating your boundaries, and only you can ensure that they’re respected.
(10) If the harassment you’re experiencing on Tumblr is so pervasive and severe that it’s affecting your mental health, take a break from the platform. There are vibrant fandom communities on sites like Twitter, Discord, DeviantArt, Facebook, and Reddit, and they often don’t have any overlap with communities on Tumblr. The world is wide, and your time and talents are valuable! Don’t let your voice be silenced, and don’t let a bunch of antisocial creeps get you down. Turn your back on hateful negativity, walk away from toxic communities, and keep doing the things that make you happy.