The Teen-Girl Tumblr Aesthetic* / Hyperallergic

By Alicia Eler & Kate Durbin

Frida Kahlo with sparkling eyebrows (via, h/t

21-year-old Elisa Lam made national news when her body was uncovered in a water tank on the roof of the infamous Cecil Hotel, near Skid Row in Los Angeles. Not long before that, she was just a barely-no-longer-adolescent girl visiting the United States from Canada, exploring the city of angels whilst on spring break. In the Internet land of immediate responses, reactions, and reprimands via text chatter, reblogs, deleted comments, likes, and unlikes, hearts, and de-hearted emotional Tumblr affirmations, Elisa Lam’s 19-year-old friend Jialin began Tumblr blogging about her friend’s death. Was she a bad friend? How could this have happened to Elisa?

“She’s a real person. Stop it. The autopsy results were inconclusive. I have anger issues,” she writes on the portion of her tumblelog tagged “Elisa Lam.” She poured her emotions out through Tumblr, the simple instant blogging platform founded by young entrepreneur David Karp in 2007 for exactly that purpose. Forbes dubbed it Karp’s $800 million art project, and it does indeed exist for personal expression: “Tumblr experience can be boiled down to people expressing themselves publicly. Like those other two networks, Tumblr is organized in the form of streams of posts,” writes Jeff Bercovici. And like most art projects, money wasn’t the first thing on Karp’s mind when he started it.

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