Well, that’s the end of that. I’ve had a play with LiveJournal, but not found it that interesting. That’s not strictly true—certainly not for some of the better writers on there—but it at least explains why, when flicking between the most recent issue of The Onion and the most recent posts of those I know on LJ, I concentrated on The Onion first. I’ll try and itemize what I felt was lacking in LJ, if only to explain to myself why it wasn’t for me.
The concept of the journal is strictly linear. That’s fine as far as “Dear Diary” journals go. But it lacks any kind of organization of past thoughts, and seems to deny the fact of LiveJournal being broadcast in hypertext rather than as printed matter. There’s the rather clumsy (and irritatingly named) “memories” where one can archive interesting posts. But the format still resists any kind of categorization or threading, whereby a coherent set of thoughts can be built up over time. Worse still, after a month or so one’s posts can only be accessed through a strict calendar view: they disappear from the end of the single thread, only to be chunked up with chronology as arbitrator.
As user j4 mentions in a different context, “the only future I can see is the inevitable continuation of the present.” LiveJournal reinforces this, with every day becoming like the last: identically formatted, with no aggregation of history or experience behind it.
As with USENET, the web, and bulletin boards like Monochrome, most people come across as either idiots or characters in a bad novel. It’s easy to filter out almost immediately the brightest people, but even then arguments tend to occur between embodiments of the popular stereotype of compsci’s, while the rhetoric, flow and interest of the discussions carried out by the remaining fraction of a fraction being buried under formulaic nit-picking.
Now I know lots of very bright compsci’s, and their powers of logical rationalization are impressive. But, God! arguing with them is sometimes like going to a meeting of Reductivists Anonymous. People will assume that the validity of a given opinion hangs Damocles-like on the meaning of a single word, or use trite, naive attemts at ab initio thinking in arenas that simply don’t benefit from it: the humanities, the arts…. And if anyone ever tries to argue by leafing through dictionary definitions—well, someone ought to tell them what dictionaries are for.
I once had a friend (sadly no longer) who would reply to one’s e-mails by splitting paragraphs up into the smallest chunks possible. Often she would reply to individual words as if they were answerable to outside of the rest of their paragraph. It made for a complete impossibility of any kind of online conversation. Arguing with people who think that everything runs on science fumes is sometimes like that. It’s just boring.
I found that I have no interest in a journal of my own, personal experiences. When I had a diary on Mono I tried my hardest to make it nothing like any other kind of online diary that I had seen, because all the ones I had seen that became at all personal, simultaneously became lame. There’s something vaguely grotesque about putting one’s harrowing inner thoughts into a public arena that truly anyone can read. The horror of it solidifies when two or three people reply to it, completely missing the point. Finding a comment on one’s heartfelt fears along the lines of “this is too profond for me!!!1!” or “The same thing happened to me. I recommend some Ayurvedic tea and perhaps a spot of Feng Shui” is such a blatant Mars/Venus misunderstanding that only a single occurrence is needed to prove that, if anything, LJ has inhibited the communication that it might hope to promote.
Online diaries are a little like public masturbation. They let off steam and expose bits of you that might need some air, but ultimately are embarrassing and a carry-over from days when it was thought that arbitrary and uninhibited expression of one’s inner thoughts and desires whenever the urge arose, was in any way healthy. And a response to such a display of self-abasement and self-abuse of “… So, anyway…” is as insulting as it is inappropriate, as the original public revelation was inappropriate.
Most prosaically I found, and still find, the interface very uneven. It feels like every different script is written by a different person. The configuration is spread oddly between pages, and options are often not at all where you expect to find them. The downloadable clients rectify this a bit, but then there’s reduced functionality to cope with.
I have deleted all the content that was on the journal, but am still maintaining a user account. I could be just trying to keep in touch with people I know, or I could be succumbing to deep voyeuristic instincts. When I’ve figured it out, then you can bet that this weblog, and hence the rest of the world, will be the first six billion to know.