The Stars Of Tumblr – What It’s Like For The Anonymous People Behind The Biggest Tumblrs Of 2014

YouTubers are massive, but what about the people behind 2014's most successful Tumblrs?


by Stevie Martin |
Published on

Remember the last meme you saw, whether it was Cinderella telling the Prince she can 'do whatever the fuck I want' or a gif of Tom Hiddleston looking sensitive, and how much it had been shared. Now name the person who created it. Chances are, you'll have no idea where it was first posted, and chances are, it was on a Tumblr (or Reddit, but let's just concentrate on Tumblr ok?) blog.

In a world where YouTubers get millions of hits on their faces, people have hundreds of thousands of followers for posting selfies on instagram, and you can get Twitter-famous for talking about your own opinions, Tumblr remains way more anonymous. But is this the year it finally breaks the mainstream? Like, actually? At the end of last year, it was the fastest growing social media platform, overtaking instagram, and expanding its active users by a whopping 120%. Despite the popularity, those who dominated the Tumblr scene in 2014 almost relish in their anonymity, using the 'Oh I grew a blog from nought to tens of thousands of subscribers' card when they want to further their careers - or not using it at all.

Certainly, it seems to be a bit more about the creation and the joy of doing what you're doing, than getting famous/rich quick, as with other social media platforms. Although if you want to use it as a platform, you can cross-promote, like internet megastar Danisnotonfire - while he's massive on Tumblr, he's a YouTuber first and foremost, using all his profiles to advertise everything the videos. The guy has 1.1million followers on instagram, for god's sake. But, he's not a Tumblr star per se - famous specifically for his Tumblr profile. Those people tend to stay behind the scenes, probably because it's not 100% clear how to best monetise something as anonymous, sprawling and uncontrollable as Tumblr yet - it has over 100 million users, but generates very little revenue - and the suits in the office buildings have only just got their heads around Facebook pages. In the words of Jessie J: 'Bang Bang into the room'. Just kidding: 'It's not about the money, money' (yawn).

House of Carbs
House of Carbs

We spoke to three big hitters - Stephanie Krivitzky behind House Of Carbs(she superimposed pics of carbohydrates onto scenes from House of Cards before stopping the Tumblr late last year - it might start up again when Season 3 comes out though, so stay tuned), Josh Arter who created Space Beards (He superimposes beards of space onto pictures of celebs - there's also an app so you can submit your own) and the founder of Gender Of The Day (who wishes to remain anonymous, but runs a gender humour blog involving announcing new genders - from Computer Cable Adapter Connectors to bread, cut lengthways), about what it's really like being a massive success on Tumblr.

Josh Arter

**The idea will hit you when you least expect it **

Sitting around planning what Tumblr you can create to ensure it goes viral isn't going to cut it. In fact you're probably already making the gold and you hadn't even realised. 'It started out as a joke to my friend - I would email them to my friend over lunch with pictures of guys with space beards,' says Josh, who works in digital marketing in Milwaukee and gets hundreds of notes and reblogs a day. 'I'd send him email and we'd laugh and joke about it, then he was like 'Dude, you should start a tumblr. This stuff is gold.'. For House of Carbs, Stephanie got the inspiration while out drinking with mates (the best source of inspo): 'We were at a popular Midtown German watering hole – drinking Heifeweizen and snacking on oversized pretzels – while discussing the success of Netflix-exclusive shows. I accidentally said 'House of Carbs',' she remembers. 'Everyone laughed. To be honest, I had actually never seen the show before, but like all advertising creatives, I couldn't ignore a good pun.' The more esoteric Gender Of The Day came from one of their friends who kept joking about his identity: 'He was like "hmmm, today my gender is this monster truck" or "No, no, no, today my gender is this tutu". Every post came from those old educational shows where they would have things like a vocabulary word of the day'.' So stop brainstorming, and start looking at the stuff you're already pissing about with - because that's more likely to hit gold.

Going viral is as cool as you'd expect

Imagine if that weird thing you've been laughing about with your mates was suddenly picked up by Buzzfeed. So, so cool. 'It all happened within the span our 72 hours. I waited to launch the site until the following Wednesday, which was my 25th birthday, and I knew I'd get the most traffic to my facebook wall that day. So I shared it first on my Facebook, and three days later I was spelling my last name to an editor at Buzzfeed,' says Stephanie. 'The next morning, I woke up to an email from Tumblr telling me that my blog was "trending." I didn't know exactly what that meant - I was a tumblr newbie - but I knew it had to be good. I was at work the next day and the PR really started to pick up. I probably missed a few work deadlines, but we all have to make choices. And on that day photoshopping a baguette into Kevin Spacey's hands was just so much more important than the 30 million dollar account I was creating ads for. So yeah, it felt pretty good.'

**Tumblr can help you get a job **

Especially if your job is something to do with the internet, rather than, say, carpentry. 'I would say that Space Beards pretty much helped get me this job - my boss loves the idea, and it's a real resume booster,' says Josh. 'I can go to an interview from the ground up and honestly say that, from the ground up, I started a blog that now has 22,000 followers. It showcases my skills'.' Stephanie, who works as an Art Director, agrees that sticking pictures of carbohydrate onto Kevin Spacey has actually helped her career trajectory: 'Projects like this seem to be quite respected in my line of work, since we're always trying to get PR and media exposure for our clients/campaigns with little money. Having this story to share is a professional accolade I like to highlight'.

Being anonymous is a decision

Mainly because you can turn it on or off at will. The founder of Gender of The Day, for example, has decided to stay out of the spotlight and do it for the joy of doing it - but has occasionally run into problems because of it. 'As far as I'm aware, nobody is aware of my secret identity, it's kind of fun being an enigma on the internet,' they said. 'There was actually a lot of confusion at first over the concept of the blog, and some people thought that I was making fun of transgender people. I am transgender and it seemed obvious to me at the time that it was meant to be humor by and for trans people, so I didn't anticipate that reaction. I've taken more steps to make that clear to people nowadays.' Josh doesn't link his Twitter to Space Beards, preferring to remain separate to his beardy empire: 'I like the anonymity. My profile picture is a space beard, but I'd say its a good thing. There are some funny Twitter accounts where the bio advertises a book and the author and it's a bit... y'know. I'm not trying to get my face in this. I don't want to be all "Oh my god I created this look how great I am!", it's good that I have that choice.'

You can get money if you want... but it's mainly about the love

Go on Space Beards, and there's a shop (as is custom for mega popular meme-y Tumblrs) but nobody we spoke to was able to leave their jobs. Or even wanted to. There was a real sense of integrity, that trying to monetise the concept would be somehow crass. Even Josh, with his online store, felt like this: 'I have a store set up, it's just one of those sites where you pick a design and you can print it on phone case key rings all that kind of stuff. I've had handful of people buy shirts but it's not gone crazy. I'm trying to talk to companies that make beard oil or beard combs and kind of do a promoted post where I review products and post for people. But I don't want people to get the idea that Space Beards has sold out or anything,' he says. The founder of Gender Of The Day agrees: 'I could put ads on the Tumblr I guess, but that would be a little tacky and I'd prefer not to. I do accept donations, and some kind people have sent me a little in the past. I have also considered selling some gender of the day merchandise. Making money from my tumblr is a pretty low priority, I mostly just do it to have fun.'

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Follow Stevie on Twitter: @5tevieM

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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