One day, a 15-year-old girl started a Tumblr. Not a particularly original story, in and of itself. But this Tumblr—like its founder, Emily Trunko—was far from ordinary. Titling it "The Last Message Received," Trunko put out a call for submissions for the final texts, emails, and letters that users had received from loved ones. Some were from exes, some from estranged parents; the more heartbreaking were from friends and family who passed away shortly after sending the messages. Within a month, Trunko's new Tumblr had 40,000 followers. Today, Trunko (now 16) releases a book, The Last Message Received, of her favorite submissions to the Tumblr, with tender illustrations by Zoë Ingram.
Below, Trunk shares 10 messages from The Last Message Received and tells Sweet why Tumblr is such an important platform for vulnerability and human connection.
"I wanted to start 'The Last Message Received' because it's something people normally are very private about; you don't normally talk about the last message you received or your breakup with someone other than your close friends. I feel like, to both the readers and the people who submit, it provides a big sense of closure. People can submit their messages and have them be out somewhere, not just on their phones. Readers find a lot of relatability in the messages. They realize they're not alone in a horrid relationship they went through or a sudden death of someone they love."
"There have always been posts that have resonated with me a lot because of personal things I've gone through that the posts touched upon. My editor and I went through and found the most powerful posts that covered a wide variety of topics. Anyone who picks up The Last Message Received is going to be able to relate to at least one message in there."
"If you think that the project could help people, then do it." —Emily Trunko, on creating new spaces for conversation.
Advice to other young people with ideas for internet projects: "Go ahead and do it. There are going to be a lot of reasons not to. People are going to think that it's not going to take off. People are going to think that you might be in it for the wrong reasons, but if you think that the project could help people, then do it."
The Last Message Received (Penguin Random House), $15, penguinrandomhouse.com.