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Maybe It's Not Better To Have Loved Than Not To Have Loved At All - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
Maybe It's Not Better To Have Loved Than Not To Have Loved At All
As my Live Journal world continues to collapse in on itself, I keep getting overwhelmed with what I can only call internet depression. Even though I have my blog entries exported to Facebook -- when the RSS function works, that is -- the emotional pay-off is quite different. Most people on my list of Facebook friends either log in irregularly or have so many friends of their own that the likelihood of their reading my longer entries -- or of my reading theirs, obviously -- is slim. And as happy as it has made me to reconnect with friends from graduate school and high-school classmates there, the sense of online community is much more diffuse than was the case when my Live Journal "Friends" list was most robust, between 2005 and 2008.

More troubling to me, though, is what happens when personal connections that Live Journal either made possible or powerfully reinforced start to be cut off. The other day I heard from someone I really like, whom I got to know on Live Journal, that she has pretty much decided not to return to the site. This was hardly the first time that something like this has happened, but especially upsetting because A) she lives close enough to me that I can actually see her in person and B) I feel that the absence of regular contact will make me feel too awkward to sustain a friendship in the absence of social media. Why? Because I have a terrible time communicating with people unless I encounter them regularly, whether on the internet or in person.

Now, I recognize that I could and should work to remedy this deficiency in my character. And I have been trying to do so for quite a while. But the more depressed I get about the state of my Live Journal circle, the less I feel emotionally up to the task of staying in touch. Nor does it help that the indirect connections I had with people through other journals have largely ceased to function, either because someone has stopped using the site or because all traces of my existence have been concealed out of concerns for safety etc.

And then there are the cases of people I have known for a long time to whom I felt much closer because we were in touch through Live Journal. Even if the recent diminishment of contact with them more or less mirrors the state of affairs before the onset of social media, it feels to me like irreparable damage has been done to our relationship. That is, the absence of regular exchange, however innocently it has come about, gets emotionally processed as a "break-up" by that part of me -- let's call it an "it" that I can't really control -- impervious to logical arguments.

Taken together, these two types of internet loss combine to make me think childish thoughts like, "I'd rather have never encountered these people on Live Journal than be awash in this internet depression." Now, I have enough sense still to take a step back from such impulsive conclusions and reflect on their origin and implications, as I'm doing here. But that doesn't make me feel much better about the trajectory of my engagement with Live Journal. Nor does my increasing reliance on Facebook as a support network really make up for the void I'm confronting. Each new love bores its way into a different part of the heart, leaving the holes left behind by previous relationships unfilled.

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Current Location: 85704

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Comments
threestarblue From: threestarblue Date: April 23rd, 2010 07:23 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
well. you've been though a lot lately it's pretty normal to seek out reasons for feeling bad - and it's really easy to blame the lack of contact from people who once spent a lot of time on here. i have had a lot of people drop off and i do wonder about them from time to time but in the end it's a mirror of the real world. people get busy or have their own bad or good things happen and the computer is such a time sucker that it becomes a non priority not really the people "in" the computer but the computer itself.

i spend a lot of time online but i relish the days i find no desire to peek in or see anyone else's thoughts but my own and i love the days i have no desire to purge my feelings here for lack of something more tangible in my life.

try not to be so hard on yourself but look for joy in other avenues when they come and focus on them.
i like to think back before live journal and networking sites when i become overwhelmed or hurt by them.
i think how much of my life did not have the internet in it and i hope that someday too my journal here will be an afterthought and not part of my daily routine.


but when i'm away i'm always wishing my internet friends good vibes.

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 23rd, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
You're right, of course. If I were in the Bay Area or Seattle, where I have a bunch of friends from different circles in my past, or maybe even D.C., where my high-school classmates -- rediscovered through Facebook -- could be seen and I have a good LJ friend, then I would probably feel less depressed about the way things have been going here. The problem with Tucson is that most of the people I know in this area I first encountered through Live Journal. I had good friends here I met in person, but they have mostly moved away. While it should be obvious that I can stay in touch with people nearby even if they aren't using the social media I use anymore, I keep thinking that they have existed my world somehow. That's not rational, of course, but the perception, however deluded, is enough to hold me back.
threestarblue From: threestarblue Date: April 23rd, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
my friends rikki and peter just moved to tucson. i will let you know when peter starts doing performances down there or when rikki hosts a show - peter is a real cool guy and he'll be new with not a lot of people he knows maybe you guys will have stuff in common.
masoo From: masoo Date: April 23rd, 2010 08:25 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This is a great post, because it expresses what you are going through personally, and because it relates that personal experience to what a lot of people are dealing with in their online lives. At least in the context of my primary place of online writing, I don't have the same problems ... a blog, unlike a LiveJournal, is more like a daily column, and I just jabber away without expecting camaraderie. Still, even there, I notice when certain regular commenters are absent for an extended period. Anyway, this is all just my way of saying that those of us who tend to be more insular in our online writing nonetheless tip our caps to those of our friends who continue to believe in community.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 23rd, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I think about your experience a lot. Your audience has fluctuated since I first started following your blog in 2002, but the commenters have remained much more stable than they have for me at Live Journal. I used to think that I was glad to have a more diverse circle of correspondents than you. Now I envy your diverse circle of correspondents!

Anyway, thanks for commenting. I have been thinking about this stuff a lot. When I was teaching a New Media course back in 2008, I was really struck by the sense of loss that students felt with regard to platforms they'd used in junior high or high school and then ceased to use. For them, Live Journal and MySpace -- they had mostly moved on to Facebook -- felt like remote history, much harder to access than memories from earlier in their childhood.
masoo From: masoo Date: April 23rd, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The thing about my "audience" is that it's pretty much the same half-a-dozen people it always was, buttressed by family members, but that my curious ability to be found by Google means there's always somebody stopping by for the first time, adding their two cents worth, and leaving without understanding the context of the blog. I always love those folks ... well, maybe not when they hate me :-) ... but I don't think of them when I write, I think of the "regulars."

But ultimately, for me, it's about audience in a literal sense ... I'm not searching for community, I'm standing on a soap box. You, though, have always made community a central part of what you are creating, leaving the welcome mat on the porch. I think it makes your LJ a richer experience, but it also leaves you vulnerable to the vagaries of online traditions. Me, I work hard at avoiding the feeling of vulnerability.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 23rd, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Maybe I should work harder!

Actually, from what others tell me, I haven't done a good job of putting out that welcome mat much of the time, what with my tendency to be cryptic to the point of absurdity. But I had my reasons.
flw From: flw Date: April 23rd, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The nature of lj has changed... facebook has changed... real "grownup" 'blogs (what defines a "grownup" 'blog versus facebook?) have changed. Everyone is trying to "monetize". Nothing is working. I am embarrassed to write on lj. I certainly don't want anyone on facebook knowing I even have an lj! I don't know what is going on.

Didn't the same sort of thing happen in 2003, 2004, or thereabouts when lj became a repository for "meme" results (Your Harry Potter character is 'Hogworts!')? And didn't the same sort of thing happen when everyone went "private" on lj because of (real or imagined or wished for) stalkers?

Don't you remember the times when you would make a comment on lj to a stranger, and the reply was basically, "Who the hell are you?"

I still think lj is the best game going. And the Russians mean to continue to improve it! So... maybe we should try to create communities instead of... whatever. I don't know what to do. No one really responds to much of anything on fb. The best way to get a response is to post:

I LIKE FOOD. DO YOU LIKE FOOD?

(50 comments...)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 23rd, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yeah, that pretty much sums up the dilemma. I have had a better experience of Facebook than you, so far, with some professional connections coming my way through the platform in addition to the "light" friendships it facilitates. And I do get thoughtful responses sometimes. But the shortness of what I write there makes me feel like the whole enterprise is incapable of the depth I crave. Plus, the absence of comment threading makes it so damned hard to have a real exchange. Perhaps we should just try to find communities here and develop new networks of "Friends" on LJ.
flw From: flw Date: April 24th, 2010 06:00 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I agree: FB = "Friends". LJ = "Connections based on shared intellectual doo-dads"

friendster = ?
myspace = ?
twitter = ?
buzz = ?
Orkut = ?
??? = ???

LJ, as you point out, still has the best comment threading. My "Do you like food?" post on fb was an attempt to illustrate that. On fb, you either get all or nothing. So, if someone posts something clever and you "like" it, all of a sudden you get 200 emails that read "LOL", "Whoa!", "Ha ha!" and "That is the funniest thing EVAR!"

But srsly, perhaps it is your expectations that are warped. I guess that is precisely what you were getting at. Okay, near as I can tell there are several types of lj users. I don't know how to categorize them... There are probably multiple spectra. But one of the spectra is:

I expect to know people who read my lj IRL --- I DON'T want ANYONE I know IRL to even KNOW I have an lj.

So, on one end you have little cliques of 13 year old girls and on the other you have 40 year old guys who are preparing to go shoot everyone they work with. I don't know! I can't even think straight.

So... what do you want to DO with lj? Perhaps it has too much inertia. There are several times in the past when I wished I could just do those whacky 'blog things with my lj, but I never got around to it, because I don't want to mix my whacky blog things with my rants. So, I end up with nothing. And who wants to start a new blog every time they have a new thought? The whole thing really pisses me off to tell the truth.
chefxh From: chefxh Date: April 23rd, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

What. He. Said.

Livejournal seems more and more like the "last man on earth" episode of The Twilight Zone. I miss the people. I'm glad you're still here, Charlie, but sad that you have the same grief as I over the depopulation of this community.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 23rd, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: What. He. Said.

The funny this is that I have friends who have actually increased their number of regular correspondents. I think participating in communities is a big factor. But the Bear thing definitely seems to have faded to almost nothing from my "inside" outsider's perspective.
e4q From: e4q Date: April 23rd, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
a friend and a friend of a friend and i think more... recently had a big friending frenzy through their blogs where people who were up for making new lj friends could read a little bit about them and friend if they fancied it. i got a few new friends through it, would you like me to host one on mine? i can't promise much more than a group of women of a certain age bracket and maybe a couple of gay men, but if that would suit then maybe you would enjoy your lj a bit better? it's been nice for me to get some new blood.
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: April 23rd, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Social networking sites are so strange, as are all the ways we mediate our interactions with others, I know. But there are just so many MORE mediations these days, with their own unwritten protocols and potentials for fall-out. I really do wonder what will happen when the next generation of kids grows up, the ones who have never not had the internet, cell phones, etc. I heard an NPR piece the other day about whether an over-reliance on text messaging was hindering the social skills of teenagers.

I sill don't really get facebook and I don't think I'll ever get twitter, although I am getting better at faking it in order to have conversations with my students about the mediations of everyday life--and the monetizing drive someone discusses above. My own use of livejournal has definitely shifted to some degree. I don't write or post comments as frequently as I once did, in part because lower levels of activity from others leave me less motivated but also because I have to limit my computer time--physically, if for no other reason. But the weirdest thing for me is that although I've had friends disappear entirely or move to other platforms, I've also been added in the last couple of years by people I don't know who don't even bother to leave me a comment and don't even seem to know anyone I know or share interests with me, which doesn't motivate me to add them back or even check out more than a profile. I'm not generally freaked out (mostly just confused) but it's still disarming.

But clearly I am rambling now. Which probably means I should just write you an email... :)
st_ranger From: st_ranger Date: April 24th, 2010 09:31 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I totally get where you're coming from. Are people retreating behind grey vague walls in order to snatch back a bit of privacy and losing the communities of fellow writers and thinkers in the process?
From: veggieducksalad Date: April 24th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

I have the opposite problem

I have joining fatigue. I understand the deeply felt connection one can have with people through particular media outlets. Reading this LJ is primarily how I keep in touch with you, for instance. And yet I am sick of new platforms and new websites with social networking options and the chance to expand my "network" and meet new people. Don't get me wrong, I love meeting new people and I like maintaining old relationships (which, like everyone else, I could do a better job of). But I feel like so many of these things are precisely about "monetizing" or leveraging someone else's agenda as if it were economic when I add my "value" to a site by joining it. I can't believe the number of times in just the past few months I've been asked to enter my information, to reveal a little about myself, to select from a drop-down menu of preferences, and on and on, What do people really think I'm going to do once I've joined 12 new sites with social networking features? Indeed, for all my intellectual understanding of the difference between a friend, a LJ friend and a Facebook friend, and I am always open to adding a new cool person to my life, there's a way in which the new push for the next big social networking platform is very high school. Your existing friends and contacts are never numerous or good enough until you're on OUR platform.

So what does this have to do with your heartfelt lament? The fashion-mindedness that drives so much upheaval in blogging and social networking means that old sites and platforms do get killed off, or populations migrate from one to another, leaving those who honestly felt some community in a milieu stranded. It is a logic of planned obsolescence, but it's got a more immediate affective cost than the environmental damage that planned obsolescence usually causes.

Of course all sorts of things change in life. I can pine for my old circle of friends from high school or university but of course we have all moved on and changed and some of us are still in touch but none of us are in the same "place." This, however, is something much different because there's a third kind of actor involved--competing platforms--which distort the process.
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