LJ and Me

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Title: LJ and Me
Creator: Arduinna
Date(s): 2004 and November 2005
Medium: online
Fandom: multi
Topic: Livejournal, the erosion of the line between public and personal space
External Links: online here; WebCite
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LJ and Me is an essay by Arduinna. The subject is Livejournal as it relates to fandom.

The essay was posted to Essays: Rants and Rambles.

"Based in part on several emails I sent to mailing lists in the spring and summer of 2004, edited and expanded into essay form."

Some topics covered: the inability to search for topics, the inability to filter out offensive and useless information, the erosion of the line between public and personal space, the rampant egotism, the loss of fannish spaces and community, and being forced to be a witness to everyone's personal lives.

The Short Version

Man, can I not deal with Livejournal. At all.

I've been trying to deal for four years or more now, and the more I try to come to grips with it, the worse my reaction gets. I understand how it works, I'm not afraid of it, I'm not stupid or a loser or a technophobe or anything else I've heard non-LJ users called. I just. Can't. Stand. It.

The way it's set up to function leaves me insanely frustrated, while the social structure leaves me feeling alienated, shamed, embarrassed, angry -- pick a negative reaction, I've had it regularly with LJ. I also inevitably get bored or squicked by a significant percentage of the posts I see. The negativity cocktail is severe enough that I simply can't take part in it.

I read LJ posts only when someone I trust tells me I should read a specific entry for a specific reason, and I'm not thrilled about doing even that.

Excerpts from The Long Version

The social aspect, while a huge part of why I avoid LJ like crazy, is only one part. Even if I stopped being uncomfortable with non-fannish material, it still wouldn't be what I wanted to see.

Fandom for me is an immersive thing -- I want to be able to immerse myself in fannish discussion, without worrying about being pulled out of that headspace. Heck, I want to be able to immerse myself in one fandom at a time, without being yanked hither and yon in a different direction with every post.

I want conversations with a lot of people talking to each other, not every individual fan posting individual soliloquies that have nothing to do with anything or anyone else.
There's no easy way to read posts from oldest to newest. You're forced to either read backwards in time (newest to oldest) or scroll past things in hopes of finding the beginning, so you can read up through everything you just skimmed. I like to watch a conversation build, not watch it deconstruct from end to beginning.

There's no way to sort by subject. If, like me, you prefer to immerse yourself in one topic at a time, you're screwed. To find all the posts about, say, last night's House, you also have to wade through god knows how many posts on god knows how many subjects, from other fandoms to politics to intensely personal TMI to the incredibly boring minutiae of people's lives to the meaningless droves of quizzes, surveys, and 'memes'.

There's no way to exclude subjects no matter how boring, offensive, or squicky you find them, other than by excluding every single person who might ever mention that subject in one of their posts. Which is still no guarantee that you'll never see them. All it does is make sure that you'll never see anything interesting that those people say, either.
I haven't even touched on the rampant egotism, the widespread passive-aggressiveness, the lack of consideration for others, the infantile behavior patterns, and half a dozen other things I can't stand about LJ and the way fans use it.

I know that there's no going back. The mailing lists I'm on are either largely dead or full of hyperactive idiocy -- the passionate, intelligent, far-ranging discussions that I used to live for are long gone, barring an occasional burst of activity on FCA-L and Prospect-L. Even people who agree with me that mailing lists are better for actual discussions, and mourn their loss, still prefer to post to their LJs if they have anything to say -- why wouldn't they, when they're the queens of their domains and can demand that everyone be nice to them all the time?

But I miss common fannish spaces, and equal footing, and personal privacy (both of my life and from others' lives), and earned intimacy. I miss fannish discussions, with people posting to the same place from every direction and arguing and getting passionate and talking at length in equally shared space, instead of 'commenting' briefly in reply to someone else's 'entry' in their personal space, always aware that the owner of the space can delete anything she doesn't like; or deciding that they don't want to 'comment' in someone else's space, and simply posting their own soliloquy on the subject in their personal space in front of their own approving audience.

I miss the way my friends (and my culture) used to grimace at TMI in public places; I mourn the way they now embrace it.

I miss the boundaries that defined fandom and gave me a place in it.