A few days ago, Taylor Swift did something surprising: She logged in to Tumblr and began posting.
For real. As if delivered unto us from 2011, the pop star embraced her online persona yet again, reblogging posts from fans, adding her self-deprecating two cents to discussion threads, and interacting with users like Victoria (who just wanted Taylor to know her name).
Which raises a big question: Why?
To an extent, we probably know. Back in December, we were given a few warning signs of her digital comeback when she posted her Fifty Shades ballad with Zayn, and then again at the end of the month when she presented us with a single cat meme. Plus, January 5 marked the day Swift’s BFF, Ed Sheeran, dropped two new singles, which meant she had content to share.
But still: She’s Taylor Swift. Simply a tweet or an Instagram post would suffice in this, the Year of Our Lord 2017 — especially since the last few years have been an exercise in watching her rise from the ashes of normalcy and into a position of world domination. Ultimately, Taylor doesn’t need Tumblr anymore. As she’s gone from precocious teen to the biggest name in pop, she’s no longer as relatable as she once was (or as Tumblr had made her seem); Taylor Swift is, in many regards, peerless. She’s echelons above the rest of us in terms of success, notoriety, and income. And, notably, while she’s not someone we can identify with, she’s presented us with an image that is aspirational in a different way — that of a universal BFF.
We know she hangs mostly with famouses, and she’s not baking for fans anymore, but as we can glean from her choice to surprise a 96-year-old veteran back in December, she’s also trying to make it seem like the girl we used to know isn’t really, truly gone.
And the girl we used to know once Tumblr’d like it was nobody’s business. Her pre-1989 online persona put her 2016 self (and its handful of photos) to shame, and made her seem like she was One of Us™. Tumblr is magic like that: Even if you’re not being followed by somebody you think is cool, just reblogging them makes you feel closer. (Or so I tell myself every time Mark Ruffalo posts anything.)
Which is something Taylor seems to really want. While her Instagram posts and tweets have been lacking much of the personality we used to associate with her, her Tumblr self fell right back into old habits. She made fun of herself falling down, stoked the fires of the crazy cat lady mythos, and busted out awards show levels of enthusiasm over a GIF of her and Sheeran sharing the stage. Ultimately, she nestled back into a community where she’s not only been welcomed, but had carved out her own niche. And she used relatability, accessibility, and memories of the good old days to remind those who follow her that she’d never be too far.
Whoever said you can’t go home again clearly wasn’t referring to Tumblr.
Believe it or not, those few posts have made Taylor kind of interesting again. At some point in our late twenties, almost everybody looks back on and makes peace with their former selves and realizes they weren’t actually that terrible. They may revisit their old favorite bands, re-embrace old clothes, or log on to the social media site they once used fervently as a way of reconnecting with who they used to be. Which may be what we’re seeing with Swift right now: As she faces an unknown future, maybe she’s going backward to make sure that stake she claimed still has its place. Maybe she just wants to make sure she hasn’t strayed too far from her true self.
That, or Taylor has opened a time portal sending us all back to 2011. Which, I have to admit, wouldn’t be the worst thing to have happened.