Getting To Know You
I started my first online journal my senior year of high school, just before graduation. It was on a site called OpenDiary and I knew several of my friends used it. But I didn’t want anyone to read it, so I created a clever, incognito screen name and started writing. I only wrote a few entries before my friend Josh discovered it and called me out for writing about graduation and the speeches a few of our friends gave (we were the smart kids). I’d created that clever screen name, but hadn’t bothered to change anyone’s names that I was writing about. Whoops.
A few years later, when I was studying abroad in Florence, my friend Dawn convinced me to start a Livejournal account. I thought it would be a good way to keep in touch with friends and keep track of my experiences. Again, I created a highly stylized screen name and started writing, this time openly inviting my friends (many of whom also had LJ accounts) to read my entries. I felt incredibly lonely and isolated in Florence, and writing those entries helped me feel connected not only to my friends back in the States, but to total strangers that began reading (and commenting) on my words as well. We read one another’s journals on a daily basis, but I never met anyone from the site in real life (some of my friends did actually meet people they’d met from the site, though).
The Internet was still relatively new back then, and forming these bonds with strangers was a novel and thrilling concept. I kept up my lj even after I got back to the States and I continued writing in it, on and off, until graduate school. By then, the site was dying and many of the strangers’ journals I’d been reading all those years weren’t updated anymore, the writers off living lives somewhere else. But there was something so appealing about sharing my thoughts with strangers and they, in turn, sharing theirs with me. I’ve kept journals for nearly my whole life, but writing for an audience is completely different from the things I write in my notebooks. The words are more polished, the thoughts more defined.
Around the time Livejournal was dying out, blogs were gaining in popularity. At first, they shared a lot in common with Livejournal–strangers broadcasting their thoughts on the Internet for anyone to see. But they soon grew more sophisticated. You had to have a niche. Some kind of hook. When I started my own blog in the spring of 2009, I didn’t yet have an idea of what I wanted to write about. I just thought it would be fun to write about a mishmash of books and clothes and post pretty pictures.
I’d started reading fashion blogs and become obsessed. Most fashion blogs now are just pictures of impossibly thin women in impossibly expensive clothing that some store sent them in return for publicity, but in the beginning, they were more like photo diaries. Women took pictures of what they wore, posted them online, and wrote about it. They also wrote about their lives. The women I followed posted photos of themselves nearly daily, and during that time, they also fell in love, got married, had kids, moved cities, went through break ups and career changes. They started businesses and published books. And I followed along.
Like Livejournal, blogging and the blogging community has also changed. It’s not as homegrown as it once was. Now, it seems like it’s all about ads and sponsors and monetizing. I wasn’t very good about networking, so I never quite became a part of a blogging community–besides, this blog I’ve cultivated over the years has evolved too, and I’m not really sure there’s really a community of people who produce similar content at this level. But that’s okay. I still write, for many of the same reasons I wrote in that Livejournal all those years ago–the little thrill of having others read your words, of reaching strangers you might never meet. And I keep reading all those blogs, keeping up with women’s lives I will never meet, because there’s an allure in knowing you’re not alone, that we’re all just living our lives, sometimes reaching out across this virtual void to share our experiences.
Do you read blogs and feel like you know the person writing the blog? Or am I a crazy Internet stalker?