May 7th, 2001

Frog Wizard

Journals and stuff. [Updated]

This is some thoughts I had after reading mintygreen's entry here.

I've found myself posting less often than I used to, in large part because I don't want to post pointless drivel. This is my journal, and I want it to reflect me. Describing a few meaningless things I did is a waste of my time, and a waste of time for anyone reading it.

I think one of the reasons we see this so much, is that LiveJournal can be so multi-purpose. Traditionally, journals or diaries are a way to record your thoughts or opinions, a personal accounting of your life. LiveJournal, however, extends that into a multi-user communication forum. No longer is the primary focus for many people communication with themselves, but sharing with the community. It becomes less of a personal exploration or history, and more of an entertainment medium.

When done properly, this can be a great thing. You "meet" and get to know new and interesting people, are offered and provide some level of (virtual) support, and you can received opinions and thoughts of others through the process.

I see more and more entries, however, that are what I think of "telephone entries". They contain the same small talk chatty nothingness that occurs when two people aren't willing, or able, to make the effort to talk about something "real". Occasionally done, this isn't a bad thing. It's exhausting to discussing meaningful and through provoking topics all the time, but now we're seeing full journals of nothing but "I woke up, I'm tired, work sucks, boyfriend/girlfriend isn't treating me perfectly, got home, going to bed".

I guess this just seems to be a waste of time to me. Of course, I've also made posts like this myself. So it goes.

Updated: Bleh, this sucks. I had a really nice addendum here, and when I tried to post it, the LJ client harfed, couldn't connect to server, and closed the freakin' window. So, I just lost the update.

In short. . . oh, screw it. If you're interested in what I have to say on this, check my next entry. I'm just gonna write it there.
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Frog Wizard

Thoughts on the journaling community.

Reading back through my earlier entry, I see right off I did a poor job of expressing the ideas I intended. I guess that's what happens when I oversleep a little and I'm not entirely awake or coherent and I'm rushed when I post. ;-)

First of all, for the record, I want to say that I'm not telling anyone that they should stop writing short[1] or meaningless posts (Note that one does not necessarily imply the other), if that's what they want to do. Everyone's journal is their own journal[2], and they not only can, but should, post whatever they want. No one has a right to tell them otherwise. Blah, blah, blah.

Also, most of the thoughts here, though expressed as if I were talking to you, are directed at me. I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do, but just providing my opinion. If you don't agree with me, feel free to ignore me. (In fact, you can even insult me, if you feel that strongly about it. My only request is that if you insult me, please be creative about it. Simple name calling is boring.) It won't hurt my feelings, and you won't be the first. ;-)

I guess my point, which was made very poorly earlier, is that LiveJournal is unusual because of the varied people it attracts, with different perspectives on it's purpose, and the different uses it adapts to.

This is a great thing, as it makes for a very versatile and useful tool for many people. Some people like to detail their thoughts and ideas, others use it as a billboard to communicate with others. I've seen it used for project development, topic debate, question and answer help, and more.

Now, I want to point out what I mean by "meaningless" posts, or "telephone entries" as I mentioned in my previous entry.

This has nothing to do with the length of an entry, the specific content, or even at times, the style. It's not necessarily how intense, pre-planned, pre-thought out, emotionally or intellectually stimulating, or anything else, that an entry is. What I'm referring to is the meaning behind it, and if there is any meaning behind it.

I'm sure everyone has been in a situation where they were talking to someone, and didn't have anything to say. So, instead of being silent, they start chattering. We seem to have a sociological need to avoid conversational silences. They make us uncomfortable. Many people get embarrassed and some truly can't stand to be with someone quietly.

So, what do they do? They chatter about nothing. Meaningless drivel. They're not saying it because they want to, or to make a point, convey an idea, enhance communication, or anything else. They're doing it because they feel obligated to do it. Because it wouldn't be meeting expectations if they didn't say something.

"So, what do you think about them Knicks?"

"Awful warm weather we're having this year, isn't it?"

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

If you were to make a journal entry, and five minutes later someone asked you what you posted about, would you respond with, "I don't remember.", or "Nothing."? Have you ever posted an entry saying nothing more than, "I don't have anything to post right now."?

I have. I would guess I'm not the only one. And it makes me wonder why. Why do we feel this obligation to entertain everyone else, to the point where we post because we feel we should, instead of because we have something to say?

And, why do we feel the need to be entertained by everyone else?

I saw someone last week who was upset because they went 3 days without posting an entry (they normally post half a dozen entries a day), and when they were catching back up, they discovered someone had actually insulted them, in their own journal, for not "posting to expectations".

This was when I realized that the simple statement, "everyone's journal is their own" isn't adequate anymore. It isn't that it's incorrect, but that it's too limited. It does provide an accurate statement of how things are today, for people who use LiveJournal as more than their own private diary.

Where does the community end, and the individual begin? Does the community have any obligations to the individual, and does the individual have any obligations to the community? If it is true that everyone's journal is their own, period, then why do we feel the need to make comments? And why do we get into arguments and debates in the comments of someone's journal?

This still hasn't covered everything I wanted to say, and it's rather more rambling than I'd planned, but I have another meeting to head to shortly, and I'm not sure I'll get time to touch this again for a while.

[1] There seems to be a misconception going around that when I (and I assume others) say "meaningless" that we're referring to short. I'm not positive about everyone else, but there is often no relationship between the two, in my opinion. I've seen entries that were 4 words long which had more meaning than 400 word posts.

[2] I addressed this at least in part above, but I want to say a few more words about it. In theory, everyone's journal is their own, and they're writing it entirely and totally for themselves.

In reality, I don't think that's entirely true anymore. The community aspect of LiveJournal has begun to create expectations and responsibility. As journals move more and more away from being a private repository for personal thoughts, and more towards a community based communication medium, it changes. People change, their attitudes change, and their perspective of their journals, and other people's journals, changes.

It will be very interesting, I think, to compare the LiveJournal of today with the LiveJournal of next year, and five years from now.
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