I'm not sure how necessary it is that I'm here. In the blogosphere, that is. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's completely unnecessary. It's even more unnecessary that I start with the whole "here's why I decided to start a blog" post. And yet here I am.
I've sort of dropped off social media lately. Not exactly on purpose. Not the "I'm taking a break from social media for my mental health" thing that I see so often (which, while totally valid, somehow manages to make everyone reading it feel a little guilty for being so dependent on social media, even while the poster themselves is using social media to do it). I've just gradually started using it less and less, which has left me with both a slightly clearer head and a slight case of FOMO. Slowing your use of social media is kind of like moving to a remote cabin in the woods-- no one is going to bother to get in touch with you unless they really care about where you went. It feels like a kind of loss because you have less interaction on a day-to-day basis, then an even bigger loss when you realize those interactions didn't mean much to begin with.
The thing is, I still love the Internet. I've always loved the Internet, and I have no problem admitting it. So why haven't I lately?
I’ve been online as long as I can remember— I have fond memories of using dial-up to painstakingly load Americangirl.com, Neopets, and fan sites for stuff like Rugrats or the Olsen twins. But my favorite phase was when I was 13 or 14. Remember the urgency of the Internet in 2004? Staying up till 2 in the morning, eyes bleary from the glow of the screen, hands icy on the keyboard from typing in the air conditioning without a break-- or was that just me? Back then, my medium of choice was LiveJournal, a simple blogging site where you could follow other blogs and join discussion communities of like-minded people. I loved it. I poured my heart into my posts. When I was on LiveJournal, the Internet felt like such a meaningful part of my life.
Facebook came around a few years later. I first joined in 2006, when I was 16 and in my senior year of high school. At the time, it felt like a MySpace ripoff, but cleaner-looking and full of college students, which made it trendy. Then, in a tidal wave, it evolved to this omnipresent phone book of the Internet, where anyone and everyone (Grandparents! Coworkers! Elementary school teachers!) could be reached at a moment's notice.
This was 12 years ago. On some level, I can’t believe Facebook is even still around. But it’s somehow more essential than ever. It's not just a part of the Internet-- for some people, it is where the Internet begins and ends. It’s a public square, a news source, a utility. You can find everybody there, but most people aren't saying anything.
This isn't a particularly insightful observation. Everyone knows that social media is usually surface level-- you post your baby pictures, your engagement photos, maybe your vacation shots or a fancy lunch you ate. Above all, you make your life look terrific. And then, for some reason, even though you're creating a highlight reel yourself, you look at everyone else's posts and come away convinced that they all have fantastic lives and you're the only one flailing.
In a lot of ways, I know I’m complicit in this, and if there’s been a “change” in the way I interact with the internet, it was partly just me. I'm a little less effusive, a little more guarded online at 28 than I was at 18. That’s probably not a bad thing. My friends have changed, too-- their vague posts about various emotional turmoils have shifted to polished, curated updates, mostly emphasizing their successes. And this probably would have happened anyway. It's nothing new for people in their mid to late twenties to be preoccupied with their careers and growing families, or to be concerned with where they're "at" in life and how much they've accomplished compared to their peers. I imagine the 1988 version of me would have had similar feelings while opening those Christmas card newsletters from my college friends. Social media amplified what was already there.
In other ways, it’s clear how the Internet itself has changed. Blogging, for example, went from a thing to a Thing, and a very intimidating Thing at that. It seems like every blog out there now has a *purpose.* Bloggers understand things like Google AdWords and are all aiming for 100,000 followers and book deals. A blog can't just be a blog, it has to be a whole persona and a business. It becomes, in a word, daunting.
I'm not waxing poetic for the Olde Internet or anything like that. LiveJournal is still around, waiting for me to return to its beckoning arms. And I know that the Internet is not just social media; it can be whatever you want it to be. But that’s the crux of it: I don't like how I’m existing on the Internet anymore. I don't like that it's a compulsion for me to scroll through Instagram before I go to bed. I don't like condensing my life into a highlight reel.
So this is what it comes down to, really. I'm starting this blog, and I don't expect it to "go" anywhere or "do" anything. I just came to the conclusion that if I'm going to interact with people online, I would rather it be in a somewhat meaningful way. I want people to come away from the interaction happy they decided to talk to me, feeling like they got something good or at least something real out of it.
I can't promise I'll never get political. I can't promise I won't get super personal. In fact, I know anything I write will be both of these things in varying degrees, and that’s kind of the point. I also can’t promise that my posts will be insightful or “good,” funny or touching, or that I won’t post too often or too little. I can only promise that I’m going to be here for a while, existing on the Internet, in a way that feels meaningful to me now. That I’ll write the kind of stuff that my 13-year-old self wouldn’t think was phony or lame (although considering that I spent a lot of time in Degrassi RPG communities back then, that may be a pretty low bar to set).
If you’d like, feel free to come along for the ride.