(n.) A popular online community before Tumblr, before Facebook, before Instagram. Or maybe, it was popular only to a some niche groups (namely, individuals who were a fan of something). At sixteen, this was the place to be (online) — the place to make friends, the place to download music, manga, and movies, the place to digitally record puberty with no shame (thanks to the concept of friends-only posts). I’ve always believed that its communities held it together. You can find almost any fandom, and if you didn’t it was so easy to create one. Unlike Facebook groups where people post statuses or share links, on LJ communities you publish work: fan icons, fan sound tracks, fan fiction, etc. etc. all hidden behind the anonymity of usernames.
Last week, I tried to tell my Singaporean friend that I used to write on ‘LJ’, only to find myself clarifying: No, I don’t mean penis. I certainly mean LiveJournal. Which goes to show how old I am, or how young my friend is.
That part of my life was like most teenagers in my circle: unfiltered, boring, embarrassing. I wrote about school papers and projects, about doing nothing, about the smallest immature and negative moments I had to mentally process and digitally express. And I’d have friends who would either praise, pity, or scold me in the comments of these posts, and from here I’d get a false sense of friendship. A little more substantial than being a Facebook connection but less stable than offline relationships.
I also found a lot of writing prompt communities, especially way back when in high school I still had dreams of being a published writer. It was inspiring and challenging, and my favorite moments were finding one or two kindred spirits, strangers, with whom I was never ashamed of sharing half-baked drafts.
But the people back then (who probably were also around my age) have grown up. When I check back now, it seemed like we’ve all stopped writing on LJ around the same time. When I was busy with my last half of college, it seemed like the communities I was part of were all slowly staying offline, too. Everyone may have moved to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram where thoughts are published sooner than deemed wise and long-form blogging seemed to evolve into reblogs, tweets, and status messages. Why write a friends-only blog post these days when you can send a group message on WhatsApp or Messenger about something that irked you at work? Why create a fan sound track, complete with a curated track list and cover art when Spotify automatically creates playlists with music you’ll probably love, complete with colourful generated covers? Maybe if you’ve matured in blogging, you would’ve moved on to WordPress, Medium, or your own website — the last two are more advantageous for your professional digital footprint after all.
So, like most of my online friends, I started to spend less of my free time writing in a walled garden and more of it on dates, building a different online identity, moving overseas, playing Guild Wars 2, and work (work, work, and work).
(n.) An online community similar to LiveJournal. I’ve discovered that some people still write about the mundane. I found writing communities soldiering on amidst the new publishing platforms that mushroomed online. I also see some fan writers who share their work here (and, usually, cross-posting to Archive of Our Own — a better Fanfiction.net).
The recent porn purge from Tumblr seemed to have re-ignited some interest in DW but it’s only temporary. The site feels very old — even the design is so 2000’s (gradient headers, anyone?), unlike LiveJournal who’d taken a step to refresh and redesign to match modern design palettes. I keep imagining some really young kids exploring a platform that isn’t as snazzy as Tumblr and learning a bit about the ‘old internet’ as they do so (whaaaaat?! There’s no reblog?!). Nobody I know has an LJ anymore, and no one I know would ever write on Dreamwidth. But here I am.
It’s been 8 years and 22 days since I last wrote a little piece of fictional work. When I picked it up again on the 1st day of this year, I felt like I wrote worse than a twenty-year old. I’m painfully rusty, but the awareness that I’m so, so bad now had been a good motivator to regularly write drabbles (100-word format) and respond to creative prompts this past week. It’s a healthier alternative to moping here on my blog, where I feel like I need to balance the honesty in the posts I publish. How <insert negative emotion here> should I say I am, here, where people I know could read it? Social media had done a great job in conditioning me to think of always putting a positive spin on anything tied to my offline identity.
I don’t have the same fears and worries with my short stories. Only my closest friends would know fact from fiction, and even my old friends no longer know me so well.
Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and I’ve come to plant those first footprints. Dreamwidth feels curated but human, a gated garden but not a monopoly. It’s a sweet spot to find and reconnect with an old hobby and it seems like a healthy space to start (a creative life outside of work?) while I struggle with the little things in life.