I've been thinking, in response to some queries by friends in person and some recent posts by friends' journals, about the whole concept of the on line journal. Especially, the reasoning behind starting one myself.
I am a voyeur by nature. I suppose it comes from the pseudo-catholic upbringing I had, and the fact that my parents always emphasized sheltering me from the "bad" things in the world. It was a good theory they had, and I appreciate their efforts on my behalf. But I believe that because I was sheltered in this fashion, I took a longer time to "grow up" than many of my friends. The problem is that since I was not guided through some parts of life, they remained a mystery for far too long. I was so sheltered then that when reality hit later on, it was difficult to deal with.
This is exactly the same sort of thing which can be applied to American society as a whole at this moment in time. Look at all the "official concern" raised by violent videogames, sex in the media, and other topics. What is their solution? To add more regulations, rules, laws, penalties, fines, and generally avoid the real issue. Young people are not being educated to deal with problems, facts, and "adult" topics. Instead, they are supposed to be protected from them without explanation. What a load of crap that is. We've all been young. What's the first thing you do when you find out something has been forbidden? Naturally, you go and try to immerse yourself in it. And since you've done it on your own, you have no guidance on it, and are free to interpret it however you will. I'm not saying we have to indoctrinate our young into a particular way of thinking... But come on, give them some credit. We know they'll need to deal with every aspect of life eventually - why delay it until a "magical" age like 18 or 21?
Anyway, that is my favored theory on why I'm such a voyeur. Not having the experience of immersion in many things, I seek out those things, sit back, and watch. I am not a conversationalist. I can be part of a group and still feel separated, and often do. Further damage was done when I started on a broad path of learning, which taught me to view many things in life with a critical eye. I can no longer watch most broadcast tv programs, for example. I simply get too caught up in the critiques of plot, camera, lighting, etc to sit back and enjoy. Besides, they're made for sheep to enjoy, not people who take the time to think every day.
So, being a voyeur, a few years ago I found an online diary or three to read. It was amazing, how blunt people could be about topics I still considered to be "sensitive." I loved being able to peer through that window into someone's life. It was all anonymous enough to give an air of mystery, while being real enough to have the normal cycles and rhythms of life.
I have always kept my own counsel. No need to externalize feelings that could be potentially embarrassing. When I finally found a true SO, I was amazed that I could speak freely... finally. Then I realized it was not all roses. Truth has its place in relationships, but tact outweighs it by a small margin.
If anyone knows Strawberry Sunshine, then maybe you know more than I about the reasons behind our sudden split. All I know is that it was sudden, and shitty.
I been through some strange events since, and part of an off-and-on relationship I've had for about 4 years now is the pillow talk, in which I can speak freely to another human about events in life. That is hard to give up. But the it is very bad otherwise.
So when a friend of mine showed my LJ, I thought "finally." This is a place where I can organize my thoughts, put them down for posterity, and if someone wants to make a comment on them, fine. But it's really about me forcing myself to organize the random thoughts I have into something coherent. It's also a place for me to practice writing, since I haven't been doing so. Perhaps I'll go on to write the next definitive cyberpunk novel, or at least something amusing. I've done (and still do) monthly columns for e-zines and such, but this daily writing is the only way to keep in practice and not do everything on deadline day, then forget about it until the next month.
So, now we come to comments. From the start, I disallowed anonymous comments. Why? It's rather complex. I am a jealous guardian of my privacy - on and offline. I went through 4 roommates in 4 semesters of college because I couldn't stand the lack of privacy. Ever since, I have lived on my own. I have several nicks/handles/pseudonyms that I use online - some are known to friends in RL, some not. I choose very carefully who I let know my true identity. And, for that matter, how many of my online personas they know as well.
So the questions comes that, if I'm such a private person.. Why do I have a journal? What would motivate me to share my thoughts and feelings with a mass public? And, more importantly, who knows that it even exists? Well, I've told most of my closest RL friends, and of course my LJ friends know. And that's about it. I've seen the stupid tales of "he said she said she said he said you said in your journal that..." Bah, what a crock. Respect what the person is doing, and look at it on their terms. True, it's posted for the world to see - but do you really want to know everything they're thinking? If it's all pure, unadulterated truth - can you handle it? I remember one comedian taking on the topic of truth, and saying that pure truth without limits, without tact, would not be good. He proceeded to have a conversation with himself as if he were a group of racists, all calling each other by stereotypical racial slurs... And he was right. The truth is a good thing, and it should be highly valued. But people need to be responsible with using it. Another example is yesterday/today with Haha. Her mother called not too long after I found out she was in the hospital - and told me that her sister was also in the hospital. We agreed to not tell either of them until they were both out. Why? Because the last thing either of them needed was the stress of knowing the other was in the hospital, when they were already worried about their own future. Haha now knows, and she saw the wisdom in keeping it from her - especially considering the pain may have been brought on by stress in the first place. So I'll take tact (not Political Correctness, just simple tact) over truth in most cases.
One of the most useful things I've learned after 10+ years of discussing topics in online forums is that there are Trolls. It seems some people, usually either 6 years old or the mental equivalent thereof, thrive on pissing people off and getting hate mail in return. Sometimes, they're just bored, and feel like they have some small amount of power because they can make someone mad. It's stupid, it's petty, and it's all over. The only things you can do to avoid this are to either prevent them from having true anonymity, and ignore them. Man, does that piss them off in return. If they can spend a few minutes and get you so mad you can't breathe, they feel great. But if they spend a few minutes and nothing happens, they start to wonder.. so they keep going, trying to push your limits. If they waste a good chunk of time on you and you don't respond, then they don't get the rush, they get pissed instead. And perhaps, if enough people just ignore the assholes, they'll realize what they're doing and stop. Nothing is quite as effective as them having nothing to brag about.
I really love the sense of community LJ has, and the open arms welcome a new user has here. It's amazing, and I hope it continues. And if someone posts a nasty comment on your journal, just realize that they don't have what it takes to bare their soul to the public eye - they're just stopping by to bask in their own stupidity.