With everyone wondering what will happen after Twitter dies, I keep thinking back over my internet experience. It doesn’t hurt that I’m also in the middle of an extracurricular essay for March Fadness, which requires me to revisit my high school years in a way that completely consumes me, as the internet consumed high school me twenty years ago.
My family got internet when I was in 8th grade. I’d already experienced AOL via CD-ROM at a friend’s house, popping into chat rooms to lie about A/S/L and pretend we were interested in what strangers had to say. By the time our home desktop wired into Roadrunner cable, I was obsessed with Saturday Night Live, when Jimmy Fallon was merely a featured player and Chris Kattan ruled (shhh, let me have my delusions) as Mango and Mr. Peepers. There was a website, nbc.com/snl, which had bare-bones information about last week’s show and, amazingly, a strange hybrid of a chat room and message board. You didn’t need an account to post, which means anyone could use your screen name and pretend to be you, understandably causing much drama. But it was a fun community, and I made friends (and met my first internet boyfriend!, and just boyfriend-boyfriend!!) on that site.
I eventually found my way to diary-x, where I read so many cool journals that I needed to start one of my own. But since everyone seemed just as untouchable as the classmates I avoided at school, I couldn’t be myself. My time on diary-x marks a major instance of me being what you might call a “catfish” online, though I didn’t do it to try and meet anyone. I just wanted my life to sound more exciting than it was. I wrote about extracurriculars I didn’t participate in and parties I wasn’t invited to.
I found my way to LiveJournal when I was searching for Aerosmith fan sites. I found a user called “RagDoll13,” and, in my 13-year-old mind, I was sure she was a fan of the song from Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation album. (At the time, I did not know what else rag doll could mean.) I excitedly commented on one of her posts detailing an experience she had with a man she met at her job as a drugstore clerk. She immediately posted about not realizing minors were reading her journal and went private. So I started a journal of my own, as myself. And another, when I needed a new username. And again. (It seemed easier to start fresh as opposed to spending money on a rename token.)
I made friends on LiveJournal, two that I’m still close to these days. I liked the sense of community, the way it was so easy to pour your heart out and people would comment kindly and that was that, you were friends. I also liked the literal communities, which you could find based on your interests. I met my two life-long friends on the Seinfeld and Mitch Hedberg groups.
I also connected with real friends on LiveJournal. It was almost our social media site before there was MySpace. A group of seven or eight friends all had LiveJournals and would post about our weekend plans. It was how I found out that no one liked my high school boyfriend, how I learned about privacy settings, how we grew apart. I remember posting on LiveJournal as late as 2008, even while I had a MySpace profile.
I remember trying to make a Facebook account like my new boyfriend had, but he went to a “real” university and I was in community college, so my email address wasn’t eligible. I eventually went to a “real” university and made a Facebook account and posted someecard memes to my friend and later roommate that still make me laugh today. That site was my distraction when I should have been writing papers, which I instead crammed into one all-night session and still got all As, so I’ve never learned my lesson.
Somewhere in the mix of leaving LiveJournal and joining Facebook, I created a blog that was more about writing, or attempting to be a writer. My roommate read it, and yet another boyfriend. Then I started to get more followers, over 100(!!!) at one point, thanks to blogging challenges and guest posts and Google Reader. It was during the time when you stopped using a screen name online and started using your real name. Sometimes I still miss creating a clever name that encapsulates my interests of the moment, but overall, it’s nice to be me.
I joined Twitter somewhere in this time, but I didn’t have a smartphone so I had to text tweets to a five-digit Twitter number while I was at work and hope it posted and made sense. I considered a group of friends there my “morning show” because we tweeted at each other every morning on our ways to work. Then I spent the morning drinking coffee and reading blogs on Google Reader, quickly clicking away when my boss walked by or a coworker poked their head into my cubicle. I spent the day thinking about funny things I could write about for a blog post. As I got more comfortable in that job, I simply started blogging at work—why wait until I got home? There’s something so comforting and cozy thinking about work life and blogs back in 2007-2011, isn’t there?
Google Reader closed and I never got the hang of anything else – Feedly? BlogHer? I can’t even remember now because they couldn’t compare. Some friends still blogged. Some started making podcasts. I got pregnant and didn’t want to be a mommy blogger, so I just… stopped. Stopped writing completely.
I’ve thought about using this space a LiveJournal/Blogger type situation before, when I first started it up. But I had a full-time job outside the home then, and was still healing from my divorce (as wonderful as divorce can be when you initiate it yourself, it’s still a major adjustment), so writing regularly, and personally, was a big ask. But more often than not I find myself thinking about my experience with the internet and the connections I’ve made.
I want LiveJournal again, though it will never be the same as it was when I was 16 and unafraid of spilling my personal life all over the internet. I want a Twitter morning show even though I don’t follow those people anymore. I want a blog where I’m not uncomfortably aware of the myriad ways someone could snark on everything I post about my trivial days. So I’m stuck in this weird limbo where I think this blog should be professional(ish) and only share serious updates and publication news. I go back and forth between treating Twitter like a networking site and a place where I can drunk-tweet every thought that crosses my mind. And I use Instagram to post pictures of books I’ve read and, of course, my cat. I’m left without an outlet to really spill my thoughts, which is probably best for everyone involved.