When I was a teenager in the largely pre-digital era, my bedroom walls were my Tumblr. They were plastered in pictures, mostly those I meticulously trimmed from mid-nineties issues of Spin and Rolling Stone: bands I was obsessed with, actresses whose style I wished I could imitate, the occasional photo of my friends. By surrounding myself with images of the people and things I admired, I convinced myself I was that cool, too. That I was one of them, that I could become them.
Now, we are all teen girls. Every time I click the reblog button or stumble across a stranger’s expertly curated Tumblr, I feel like I’m tapping some long-buried version of my teenage self. (Modern teens are also still practicing the ancient art of bedroom decoration — there’s a blog documenting it.) The idea that who you are is shaped by what you like is not a new idea. But now we’ve all got a way of showcasing those influences. A new Pew Research Center study shows that the vast majority of us have uploaded photos to social media — and almost as many have shared photos created by someone else. Women — especially young women — are most likely to do this, but there are big increases in photo sharing across demographic groups. While it’s hard to come by numbers about what percentage of Instagram’s 150 million users (68 percent of whom are female) are teenagers, it’s undisputed that the under-20 set are some of the most prolific ’grammers. It’s not just that teen girls are using these sites in droves. Photo-dominant social media like Instagram and Tumblr and Pinterest and Snapchat bring out the bedroom decorator in all of us.