Misc //

Filtering Your Way To The Top

Sam Langford takes arty photos of her desk for worthless, invisible internet points and then writes about it for a meaningless CV line.

Sam Langford takes arty photos of her desk for worthless, invisible internet points and then writes about it for a meaningless CV line.

Art by Aimy Nguyen. 

Low-key internet popularity comes for everyone in different ways. In my case, my legacy is founded on providing easy-to-digest dot point guides for effective calendar usage. According to my mother, I’ve finally made it in the world.

It began by accident[1], in October last year, while procrastinating and scrolling aimlessly through tumblr. I came across a picture of someone’s to-do list. It had over 2000 notes[2]. This is bullshit, I thought, I could do that[3]. So I did.

My first attempt was something of a flop, at around 100 notes (though at the time, my tumblr unpopularity was such that this was a triumph on par with discovering, aged nine, that I was the 999,999th visitor to some Geocities monstrosity and had therefore “won!!!”). In hindsight, I made a number of cardinal errors in that post, in particular the absence of a filter, the presence of a beverage of only middling attractiveness, and taking the picture while actually studying. I corrected most of these in my second post, an artfully staged masterpiece, which passed 1000 notes in its first week. Just under a year later, the blog has 5600 followers[4]. My most popular post to date has 34,954 notes.

It turns out I’d stumbled in on the ground floor of the least impressive, least monetisable internet fad of all time. It’s a community self-styled as #studyblr, a portmanteau of “study” and “tumblr” (formerly mutually exclusive terms). Study, intellect, and critical thinking are elevated to an almighty pedestal by way of sepia pictures of expensive stationery and potted cacti. Devotees pay homage from the coveted table-by-the-wall-plug at Starbucks. This is likely the only place on the internet where you can find IKEA desks described as #inspiring.

At first, I revelled in the private joke of penning treatises on time management while sitting in bed, surrounded by dirty teacup ecosystems-in-the-making, filling out simple extension requests in another tab. One time, I took a picture outdoors, and awoke to a heartfelt private message from a stranger thanking me for inspiring them to venture outside. It was hysterically funny to me, until I found myself on a Saturday night, blear-eyed and exhausted, unable to tear myself away from writing an extensive pro/con analysis of spiral-bound vs. regular notebooks. When asked to rank morning and afternoon study in terms of efficiency, I began to revert naturally to bullet-point lists.

Maybe, I thought, I was onto something incredible. I imagined studyblr-as-revolution, as a profound democratisation of information and knowledge and skill. As a place of free exchange of information, creative expression and skill; a repository of every piece of study-related advice one could possibly need. Except, of course, the one we all needed the most; the cardinal rule of productivity: get the fuck off tumblr.


[1] Some are born unqualified productivity experts. Others achieve unqualified productivity expertise. Others have unqualified productivity expertise thrust upon them one night while making questionable decisions on the internet.

[2] tumblr social currency. The exchange rate into regular social currency is, sadly, very poor.

[3] Making to-do lists is perhaps my primary strength, rivalled only by my equally extraordinary capacity to not complete a single thing on those to-do lists.

[4] The tumblr blog that expressed my actual personality and interests peaked at 200 followers, only about five of whom exhibited signs of life. Losing a popularity contest to your own to-do lists is a sobering experience.