What do you do when you’re 17, not very sociable, and had the whole world at your fingertips?
I lived in Parañaque, went to school in Katipunan, and was in a long distance relationship with a boy in California. With all the distances I found myself in, the Internet was my best bet at social life. The purr of the connecting modem was my soundtrack. Through the Internet, I discovered other writers, broody girl music like Tori Amos and Ani Difranco. I learned about shows like Felicity.
I had this irrepressible urge to document what was going on because in my melodramatic heart, everything happening to me was “right in the feels.” Although I still had a paper journal, I wanted my words to look pretty, so for a while, I made do with html and writing very poor code on websites like Geocities. Something was missing, though. It felt like my words were bouncing off into cyberspace with no response in sight. I needed a community.
A blogging site that allowed you to become friends with other users, LiveJournal or LJ as we called it, is essentially a social network — or the earliest version of it, at the very least.
It was in 2000, when I came across the LiveJournal account of this American girl whose name I don’t remember anymore. She wrote about books, music, and an unapologetic account of her depression. It was so compelling that I did not want to miss an entry, so I made my own account to keep tabs. I was 18 years old.
LiveJournal was probably the most popular blogging site then. Entries were dense blocks of text, and because I had a propensity for classic literature where whole pages were dedicated to the weather or afternoon tea, it felt like I hit the jackpot. People also had much larger attention spans back then so they were talking about their days down to the most minuscule detail. I read about their relationships with their parents and siblings, how they got together and then broke up with their boyfriends/girlfriends, what they had for breakfast — down to the most minuscule detail, and I absolutely loved it
You could see what songs they were listening to, and what moods they were in. But the best part about it was how other LJ users could leave comments. There was no need to memorize URLs and domains – one click, and you were inside his/her head in turn.
You know the saying “Never judge a book by its cover?” In LiveJournal, people ALWAYS judged a LiveJournal account by its username. I loved the word “gossamer” so that’s the name I used for my LJ blog. My friends, though, had great usernames like “glasswinged” or “digitaldaydream.” Some would reference songs and movies…judging usernames was how I found my tribe, so to speak.
My LiveJournal was full of people sharing a large part of themselves and because there were not much pictures — it was a feature introduced later on — all we had to go by were our words and feelings. I’m talking really detailed stories about heartbreak, family, and what little adventure we could scrounge up. Most of us were college students with too much time on our hands. We were unapologetically self-centered and we loved each other for it.
As expected, I met a number of good friends on LJ, and it was not long before we started meeting up in real life. It was not as awkward as people would suspect. I guess it helped that we got to know each other from the inside out. Admittedly, we were complete strangers but we were connected by our stories and apart from the initial hesitation at calling each other by our real names instead of our LJ handles, it was only natural that we became fast friends.
I remember I wanted to celebrate my 22nd birthday before leaving for the States and, given that LJ was a huge part of my life having been on it for 4 years, I threw an “LJ-oke” at the old Cable Car along Pasay Road. It was heartwarmingly well-attended by my LJ friends. There we were, a big group of LJ-ers like @chickenbarbecue, @checkerberry, @mean_while and @intrigero, people with such different personalities and backgrounds belting out Bon Jovi and Hilary Duff songs.
As dorky as it may seem, it is one of my fondest memories. Who knew I would make friends off a blog? I remember how my LJ friends and I got into some weird situations, including a Valentine’s Day blind date with a politician and his actress-wife, all of it orchestrated by @chickenbarbecue — a dude who now edits one of the biggest news sites in the country.
Apart from the occasional meet-up, some LJ friends evolved into being each other’s business contacts. We wrote for each other’s publications, allowing us to flex our writing muscles beyond our normal journal entries. It was all unheard of at the time.
And then we went our different ways. Most started work, I started law school and, eventually, our LJ frenzy trailed off. I stopped updating because I didn’t have enough time, and LJ started feeling too public. I put up a couple of short-lived blogs where I tried to remain anonymous and return to the habit of writing just for myself. I also tried putting up a book review site which I really loved but had to let that one go eventually because it was impossible to juggle reading law books and novels at the same time.
Only a few maintain their own blogs because for some of us, we just don’t know what to write about anymore. I don’t know what to write about anymore, though I miss it constantly. I miss reading actual stories about actual people, minus sponsored posts.
Sometimes I play around with the idea of putting up another blog but I think that at this point, my words would, again, bounce off into cyberspace with nary a word of comfort or encouragement. It’s just as well – my LJ friends and I still get together and I am lucky because it still always feels like family. I never killed my blog, though. My words are all still there because sometimes, I like going back in time to cringe and wonder at how much I’ve grown (or not) as a person.
So where did our oversharing chip go? Did we lose it to age? Did we reach the level of maturity to actually get over ourselves? Maybe. Or maybe we can’t find the words anymore because miraculously (and naturally), life has taken over, and we have actually gotten more interesting in real life than we ever were online. Long live LiveJournal.
Illustrations: Madel Crudo