Meet the Mollys! Social Network Sweeties Tumbl Upwards

Coquettishness reigns for lissome lit-world lasses seeking writing gigs; "HOW OLD ARE YOU?" befuddled editors wonder.

trans Meet the Mollys! Social Network Sweeties Tumbl UpwardsTumblr happens to be a nearly perfect platform for showcasing a writer’s wry take or sharp attitude while requiring minimal effort. “Sometimes, you see a blogger where they’ve only written two sentences, but they’re really witty,” said Jezebel editor Jessica Coen. “Tumblr’s really easy to read and you can go through 100 entries in ten minutes.”

The coquettish particularities of Tumblr as a platform—which encourages a sort of literary fan dance, in which a writer’s identity remains largely hidden even as she’s laying bare her interior monologue—invite a certain amount of projection from readers. Choire Sicha, proprietor of The Awl and a keen observer of the Molly phenomenon, noted over Gchat that “my problem is that digital presence is weirdly so obscuring? it’s like, you look at someone’s tumblr and you’re like, what the fuck is your name? what’s your email? where DO YOU WORK, HOW OLD ARE YOU?”

Near instant reader feedback also encourages a certain style of writing. “I remember the days of Tumblarity,” said Maura Johnston, music editor of the Village Voice, recalling an early feature of the platform that ranked users based on their readers’ devotion. “If I write something, I do hit the reload button to see if people have responded to it… it’s the blogger’s dilemma: you can work really hard on something that’s thought out and reasoned or you can post about ‘I fell in love today and this is why’—and that greeting card-ready stuff will triumph.”

“One of the things that’s been lost in this new, fast publishing age,” Ms. Johnston added, “is this grooming period for a lot of young writers thrown into the deep end after school. You see things like Thought Catalog”—the website full of glum young boys and girls curating confessions about themselves in a super-breezy tone—“and you don’t have people thinking about things. There are a lot of lazy constructions or lazy ideas.”

Which is not to say that there’s not considerable drive behind the cozy bed-head tics—just that the ambition is tempered by an appealingly easygoing quality. “Mollys just want to have fun,” Mr. Sicha pointed out. “That’s why they’re so endearing, even when they’re glum or emo or sincere… But they’re full of kicks.”

Mr. Wasik said that the kicks are hardly going to damage the writers’ credibility: “We’re entering an era where it’s not as if, if you want to write an essay for The New Yorker, they’re going to be freaked out by the fact that you have this Tumblr devoted to being funny or being silly. People get that writers have different sides to their personality.”

That presumes people can tell the Mollys apart. Ms. McAleer, the 2 Broke Girls writer, said: “It happens to me all the time—people say, ‘I read your stuff on Grantland every day.’” Molly is a memorable name, so people will assume that it’s all the same person.” She and Ms. Lambert, both of whom live in Los Angeles, are friends.

“We’ve all gotten emails for the other Mollys,” said Ms. Lambert. “It’ll go back and forth a few times before you realize it’s meant for someone else.”

Ms. Young, who lives in New York, stands apart, and declined an interview request. She told The Observer via email: “I just don’t think that anyone gives a shit about me, even if I share a name with these cool people.” Super Mollyish thing to say.

And there’s always an up-and-comer. “No molly list now is complete with[out] molly oswaks,” Mr. Sicha told us via Gchat, of a writer whose work (“Mad Men’s Betty Draper Is A Real Bummer,” “The Melodrama of Miley Cyrus”) has been featured on Thought Catalog and in The Believer. “THERE’S A NEW MOLLY,” he told us. “MOVE OVER MOLLIES.”

ddaddario@observer.com :: @DPD_