There aren’t many people who can speak in capslock, but still more rare is the ability to speak in the tumblr dialect. Unlike Facebook, where it is rude to write in all caps, or Twitter, where only malcontents like Drudge make caps a signifier of their tweets, it is totally socially acceptable on tumblr to speak entirely in caps.
But more interesting are the mix of capslock and lowercase. To my mind, the tumblr written dialect most accurately depicts how people speak. Say I am excited about a development–for example, Dean Winchester running around Purgatory demanding to know “Where’s the angel?”–and I wish to express it on Twitter.
On Facebook I might say, though I never would because I don’t live-narrate watching television where my family can see, “So excited to see Dean showing his attachment Cas! I wonder if that’s what Cas said when he was searching Hell for Dean: ‘Where’s the righteous man?’”
On Twitter I might say, “So excited! Dean and Cas forever #destiel” though, again, I never would because it is entirely attached to my web presence, which I generally try to keep adult, traditionally responsible, and only academically fannish.
But on tumblr, where I am most accurately depicting my feelings about 08×01 of Supernatural, I would say: “oH MAH GOD. I aM SO ExCITED! Dean is searching for Cas! He wants to find him! SO eXITED!”
This is precisely how those who have had the experience of watching television with me would describe my reactions.*
The tumblr dialect and use of capslock allows writers to express when they are speaking in a lilting tone. It doesn’t imply angry shouting, as it would on Facebook or Twitter, but excited fangirling.
There are other dialectical differences between Facebook and tumblr, and this gets back to the first point: that it is a particular kind of person who can speak, not type but speak, the tumblr dialect, which I believe most accurately parallels human speech but also introduces its own accepts and variations. Most of the shibboleths in this dialect with which I am familiar come from fandom, but if someone who was fluent in tumblr said:
“I am sQUEEING OVER THAT VID, it was the inspiration for my favorite fic, I’m going to tag my friend so she sees that.”
I would know she was a tumblr native. On tumbr, people don’t say “fanvid”s as often as they say “vid,” though this may have been a carry-over from LiveJournal. They also say “fic” rather than “fanfic” which is a general evolution among online media fandoms in the past 10 years. But the most telling shibboleth is in how she refers to the technological and social norm of tagging friends’ accounts.
While the tumblr dialect was developed for visual and written communication, you see it can be spoken, though the caps are important. These small indicators are to me the clearest signs I am speaking to someone who is a native of a particular online community, rather than any question about shoelaces.
*On tumblr, I would then follow-up with a gif of a screaming child. The subject of how tumblr enables its residents to communicate emotions via the puppetry of gifs is an entirely different writing project.
“A prose writer gets tired of writing prose, and wants to be a poet. So he begins every line with a capital letter, and keeps on writing prose.”–Samuel McChord Crothers, “Every Man’s Natural Desire to Be Somebody Else,” The Dame School of Experience, 1920