Hot Social: Anatomy of a Tumblr Post

ed vebell lonliness is dangerous

Ed Vebell illustration to “Loneliness is Dangerous,” a story by Harry Coren. Cutline: “Alone in the midsts of millions, the girl, who longed to talk to someone, stood on her fire escape as the voices of others, enjoying the companionship denied her, drifted up through the night.” Sunday Mirror Magazine, August 14, 1955.

We’ve kept up a ReMIND Tumblr blog called Funnster since early 2012. It’s a great place to share a lot of the cool images we’ve pulled out of our archives, and there are some really hip people at Tumblr who have been doing the same for a lot longer.

In Tumblr, visitors can either Like or Repost one of your images; the two options are both tallied in the Notes count. There’s definitely a popularity pecking order–images of Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor get passed around like hot tomatoes, as do rare images like candids from movie sets.

This magazine cover of Elizabeth Taylor from a Sunday Mirror Magazine cover from Dec. 31, 1950, was posted a few weeks ago and has so far received 458 notes:

Elizabeth Taylor smm 123150

Elizabeth Taylor, cover of Sunday Mirror Magazine, Dec. 31, 1950.

Frequently we’ll post a scan of a magazine illustration from the 1950s from our archives, and some folks seem to like them. This one posted last April has received 244 notes:

tumblr_m2oy28spaV1rnodj0o1_500

Illustration by Victor Guise for true crime article, “Clue At The Ringside” — “The Young Boxer Handily Beat HIs Opponent, Only to Find His Profession Had Led Police to Him,” Sunday Mirror Magazine, Feb. 25, 1951.

Tumblr is a social medium that is awash in oceans of images, so it’s not surprising that stuff that you might think would be popular gets missed, like this one:

M Monroe SMM 032154

Marilyn Monroe, Sunday Mirror Magazine cover, March 21, 1954.

Total notes for a vintage and what I would think rare Marilyn:  Five.

Go figure.

(For a peek at pix from the inside spread, click here.)

* * *

So last September I posted the Ed Vebell illustration that leads this post, and it got hardly a flicker of attention, maybe 10 or 15 notes. Then last Wednesday, something weird happened. I started seeing notifications of activity (likes or re-posts) of that image again and again. By day’s end there were over 1,000 notes.

By the end of the next day, 3,000 notes.

By the end of Friday, 5,000 notes.

Current tally: 6,225 notes.

What is it about one image that catches the social wave? I’ve posted many others like it. It’s not especially artful (I scanned from newsprint archives in this case, where in others I have the original artboard).

Tumblr seems most popular with young women. Maybe there’s something in the vibe of retro ennui that is archetypal.  You know — that there were lonely women in the city Back Then adds a certain retro grace to the fact that many still feel that way.

Maybe it got picked up on a popular Tumblr site that flung the image up into one of the big social waves

Maybe it was just pure random luck.

Comments, anyone?

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Filed under Social Media Hoodoo, Vintage Illustration

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