I started writing online in 1998. This is before “blogs,” before “Twitter,” before “micro-blogs,” before “tumblr.” This is before “SEO” and “e-books” and “blog monetization.” It was a Wild West of the Internet, and I wanted in.
I learned basic HTML and I picked up a copy of PageMill and I made my own websites with frames and backgrounds that were enormous, blown-up photographs from the lesbionic film High Art. And I found that there were people all over the world, young people, who were doing the same thing. I was living in a small town that I hated and all I wanted was to connect, connect, connect.
I started writing on LiveJournal in 2000. I wrote hard and fierce about everything that a young girl with a knack for wordsmithery and expressing emotion could put on the screen. I wrote about sex, school, politics, depression, my boyfriends. The morning after I was raped I went and posted about it before I told anyone (except for my friend, A., who took me to Planned Parenthood). I met other girls — and a few boys. Over a thousand followers signed on. Cliques formed. Loving, mutual-admiration-society cliques. Friendships came fast. Crises happened and we called with love and support. When I went into the hospital for the first time, I gave H. my password and she posted on my LiveJournal that I was in the ward.
When I got back, I saw comments upon comments: We’re rooting for you. Feel better soon. Love, love.
We commented on one another’s posts, and then we started to meet in person all over the country. Romances formed, though not for me. I only had one negative experience with a girl that I met through LiveJournal, and it wasn’t Bad with a capital B, just Awkward. On that same trip, I met a genius girl (also on LiveJournal) who ended up coming to my wedding and designing all of my wedding paper goods.
H., the friend in the photo above, is one of those friends that I’ve known since I was, what, 13 (she had a web site before I did), and I spent last summer with her in Toronto, drinking wine on the shore and talking about the way things used to be.
Because LiveJournal, as a platform for communication, fell apart with the arrival of blogs and people getting older. Now it gets a bad rap. LiveJournal is reputed to be the home for angsty teens with too much time on their hands and not enough friends. By the time I was a junior in college, LiveJournal was hopelessly passe. Like the end of the Jazz Age, except without the flapper dresses.
And I thought, All right, now I’ve gotta find somewhere new to go, because I went through the hardest years of my life with online community, and writing is still my Thing.
I started this blog — what — a year ago, but I came in to see that the game had changed. Now people were making money off of their online writing. There was such a thing as ProBlogger. There were now blogger job listings. People wrote their posts like they were slight variants on magazine articles. I read things that said, “To drive traffic to your site, make lists. Make How-To articles, because people like How-To articles.”
I was a 27-year-old Internet dinosaur, and I missed the way things were. To be sure: I still miss the way things were. But I gotta move on. Can’t reminisce too much about Ye Olden Days.
I won a Red Shoe Blogger consulting session with the incredible Kelly Diels recently. I want to bring to her my fears about what the world of online writing is like, now. My need to find a new way to build an online community for myself. My everpresent yearning to connect when I fear that all the doors are closed.
Because I know the possibilities of the Internet. I just need to reclaim a space for myself in it.