Tumblr Couples

Love in the Time of Tumblr:

14-year-old Jenna props her head up on her hand and scrolls through her Tumblr feed, stopping to click on an animated gif of a young couple clutched in a embrace. She sighs deeply and says, “God! I wish I had a boyfriend like that. Ugh. I want their life!” She quickly reblogs the post with the comment “this”, and watches in real-time as her friends silently voice their agreement with their own reblogs and likes. Surprisingly enough, the objects of Jenna’s envy and admiration are not a celebrity couple like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, but a pair of loved-up teenagers from Florida, known affectionately by their followers as “Javannah.” Jared and Savannah are Tumblr famous for being “the cutest couple in the world” and are the homecoming king and queen of all “Tumblr couples.” Capitalizing on the raw emotional power of first loves, Tumblr couples is a term used by youth to describe the process in which teen lovebirds publicly chronicle their romantic moments via videos and photos, across social networks like Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Equal parts sweet and saccharine, power Tumblr couples like Jared and Savannah are drawing in big crowds and giving a whole new meaning to the phrase public displays of affection.

 

Homecoming king and queen of Tumblr couples Jared and Savannah

Homecoming king and queen of Tumblr couples Jared and Savannah

How did this all start?
To understand how these seemingly normal, everyday teens could have such a powerful hold over youth, we first need to take a look at how Jared and Savannah’s Internet stardom took off. Early last year Savannah uploaded a series of “aww!” inducing videos to YouTube showcasing affectionate moments of her and Jared playfully romping, and mugging for the camera. Although they were not the first to upload such videos, their photogenic smiles, silly personalities and widespread presence across popular social media networks soon differentiated them from the rest. Quickly amassing followers and reblogs, their fans utilized inter-platform sharing to remix their content and rapidly spread their popularity.  Fans took the photos that Jared and Savannah had put on Tumblr and Instagram, set them to music and uploaded them YouTube. Their YouTube videos were turned into animated gifs and then reposted back on to Tumblr and Twitter.  Soon after that, Jared and Savannah were popping up in everyone’s news feed.

 

The video that launched a thousand Tumblr ‘ships

 

What motivates teens to become a Tumblr Couple?
Amassing millions of followers and fans, Jared and Savannah have become the poster-children of teenaged love in the age of social media. No longer satisfied with being just Facebook official, young couples have begun to follow Jared and Savannah’s lead, building their own Tumblr altars to their blossoming love story. Certainly not all teenaged couples are sharing their romance stories online, but the numbers are staggering– just search for ‘Tumblr Couple’ and you will find 80,000+ results on YouTube, 400,000+ on Instagram and an infinite amount on Tumblr.

Boyfriend? Check! Facebook official? Check! Okay, let's make a video!

Boyfriend? Check! Facebook official? Check! Okay, let’s make a video!

For this generation of digital native teens, sharing personal content online is just second nature—every moment, every kiss, and every frozen yogurt date is worth recording, snapping and posting. But what motivates teens to share their private moments publicly? The teen couples we interviewed all seemed to have the same answer– they started posting photos to share with their friends, but due to the open nature of these social apps, other people outside of their personal networks began to take notice and follow them. Most agreed that they didn’t mind other people on Tumblr or Instagram looking at their photos or following them, and welcomed their support and admiration.

“Omg you are cutest couple ever ehhh”

 

While their original goal may not have been to achieve “cute Tumblr couple” status, it is apparent that for these teen couples a large part of their motivation is validation. They want their friends and family, and yes even Internet strangers, to acknowledge the happiness that they are experiencing. Their fans in turn become vocal supporters and re-posters of their relationship, cheering them on and praising their relationship as their own personal ideal of high school romance. This attention seeking behavior also seeks to dissuade love rivals. Simply put, it tells others “we’re meant to be, so you better back off!”

In love and off the market

In love and off the market

 

Why are teens so fascinated by Tumblr Couples?
While Tumblr couples may invoke eye rolls among their fellow classmates, there are teens (albeit mostly girls) all over the world clamoring for the next installment in their love epic. Despite the fact that none of these teens have real-world celebrity, they have been able to achieve a level of online admiration, once reserved exclusively for actors, musicians and athletes. And it is for this reason, that they’re not famous, that appeals the most to teens. Unlike their celebrity contemporaries who fly all over the world, take world class vacations, and can rent out Madison Square Garden for a dinner date, Tumblr couples are refreshingly real. Their experiences with love are far more relatable and attainable. They might never have their very own 1-Directioner, but the world is full of very lovable boys next door– whose love can be just as magical. Simply put, the interest in Tumblr couples over celebrity pairings reflects today’s teens beliefs that an extraordinary love, is far more important than extraordinary life.

Teens see an ideal relationship in Jared and Savannah

Teens see an ideal relationship in Jared and Savannah

 

An education
But what is a gal to do when she does find the right guy? High school relationships are a emotional battlefield full of awkward firsts. What are you supposed to do? How are you supposed act? These questions are full of conflicting answers supplied by a lifetime of observation, from media such as films, shows and music to covertly watching other couples interact at school. And now from the comfort of their homes, through the personal lens of Tumblr couples. By studying the nuances of their relationship dynamics teens can learn not only how to act but what their standards are for a healthy loving relationship. An extension of the Tumblr couple trend is text overlaying. Using apps like Overgram, teens add stylized text typography to photos they feel represent their romantic ideals and share them across their social networks. Some of the more popular typography enhanced images have become almost like teenaged dating commandments, setting the standard for romantic expectations.

Text overlays and quotes over couple photos illustrate romantic ideals

Text overlays and quotes over couple photos illustrate romantic ideals

Sharer beware!
Tumblr relationships will undoubtedly bring up renewed discussions about online safety and privacy. While teens may have some control of what content they choose to share across the social web, they are completely powerless when it comes to what people choose to do with it or how they interpret it. Furthermore, as social communication continues to evolve and the line between what is pubic and what is private becomes blurrier, greater action must be taken to educate youth about the consequences of opening up their life to strangers. Leaving yourself open to admiration, is also leaving the door open for condemnation. What is sent out into the great wilds of the Internet, is out there for good, long past those inevitable pre-college breakups.  But cynicism aside, if there is one thing that Tumblr couples can teach us, it is that there is nothing like the heart-bursting joy of falling in love for the first time.