After answering a couple, I've realized that my responses are somewhat lengthy because I tried to be thorough. In light of that, I am breaking the questions up into five segments, so it's not quite so much to digest at once. I'll post one a day for the next few days. Here's the first one.
You seem to be somewhat stable and well adjusted, a very rare quality in a Live Journal subscriber, so why do you do it? What is Live Journal to you, and is it what you thought it would be when you started? If not why is it different?
First, thank you for the compliment. The short answer to the first part of your question, why do I do it, is primarily to stay in touch with other minds I care about. Communicating my doings, and hearing about theirs. You know, that friendship thing. ;)
The longer answer? I started with LiveJournal back in July of 2001. freakyferret, who, sadly, hasn't posted here for almost a year, referred me. I miss Ferret. Anyway, at that time, we'd become good friends while serving as moderators for the official Vampire: the Masquerade - Redemption forums. The original forums are long gone, but I'm glad to say I'm still in contact with some of the best and brightest from that time.
I was getting burned out after over two years serving as mod, and wanted to dedicate more time to WomenGamers.com, so something had to give. However, I also wanted to stay in touch with some of the great folks I'd met there. In the early days, well before the game's release, it really was one of the most intelligent internet playgrounds I've ever seen.
When Ferret introduced me to LiveJournal, I was instantly hooked. I'd kept a diary back in college, and this synthesis of online communities and personal writing space just seemed a brilliant way to keep up with what everyone was doing.
After three years of using LJ, I still think it's far better than e-mail for sharing thoughts and snippets of daily life, and I really wish more of my friends kept a blog or journal. I know more about how my friend sailormur is doing, for instance, than I know about my friend mumpish, simply because she keeps her journal up to date and he doesn't -- and mumpish lives in the same city I do. Heck, I know more about what's on your mind, streamweaver, because of it. I really like that aspect of LiveJournal -- it brings back an important something that I think we miss frequently in our adult lives. There's a connection, a rapport that we were accustomed to having when we had more free time to socialize, before we shouldered the various responsibilities that are part and parcel of job and family.
However, it seems to take a certain personality trait to be inclined to journal. Some folks don't do it at all, most take it up for a little while and then their interest fades, and a few stick with it. Out of the aforementioned VtMR gang, florindo, freakyferret, gilchrist (one of the best GMs I've ever played with), kerensky, safiiri, tagplazen, and twr all have LiveJournals, but these days, only Tag and WhiteRabbit post with any regularity or frequency. For what it's worth, I'm sure glad they do.
I also e-mailed close personal friends after discovering LJ. There are several people I met in college who remain very dear to me, but they've moved far away. Again, I thought it would be an excellent way to stay in tune with them, but also good for keeping up with friends within the city. Atlanta's big enough that you actually have to schedule social time; one has to make an effort to get together, because otherwise, it doesn't happen. In my small South Carolina hometown, I was in walking distance of friends' houses. In college, our paths all intersected routinely in the dorms or at our debate society. In earlier segments of my life, I could take it for granted that we'd run into each other and chat, but that's no longer the case. In light of that, to keep those ties, it's necessary to find other ways of staying in touch.
Some pundits wail and bemoan that the internet isolates us into our own little boxes. I couldn't disagree more: I think it can be used to keep us connected in a way that no other medium can. The expense of doing the amount of phone outreach, for example, that I can do with one LiveJournal post would be time and cost prohibitive. That's not to say that I don't still make phone calls: I do. Nothing replaces the human voice, but I view this as an additional option, not a substitution or replacement.
I guess, to an extent, I was trying to re-establish a neighborhood - a virtual online community. Out of the ten folks who made journals here, of that group, about five blog or journal on a reasonably regular basis. It may be stating the obvious, but the type of person who blogs or journals tends to have a pretty hefty motivation to write. Definitely people with strong creative streaks; I can say with confidence that the ones I know tend to be leaders and idea originators. I'm talking about the adult LJers, now; not the percentage of LJ that falls into the self-absorbed angsty teenager category. ;) No, we're angsty adults! *chuckles*
In contrast, e-mail is a tool that has become almost as ubiquitous as the telephone, it seems. Not quite -- I know there's still a socioeconomic gap, but still, given the time it's been around, it's been very quickly adopted. It's a means of communication, not necessarily writing, and that's an important difference. I think that difference is likely a key component of why more folks use e-mail than journal, even out of those who are aware of blogs and such.
There's also just a tiny bit of Anne Frank Syndrome in many diarists, I think, and I certainly include myself in that. Vain or not, the idea of leaving a record behind has a certain amount of appeal. We'll likely never have the exposure or relevance of that famous journal, but for the people who care about us, I think it could be something to enjoy when we're gone -- or at least it will give them the opportunity to satisfy their curiosity about how frequently we mentioned them, and in what context! *laughs* Maybe that's overly self-conscious or overly honest, too candid, perhaps, but having written for publication since my very early teens, I can't help but be aware that this is writing for publication. On a conscious level or not, writing for self or for others, having an audience can't help but influence the writing to some degree.
I also use LiveJournal as an information source. I appreciate the communities and RSS feeds. The journalist in me is also, stereotypically, an information junkie. It's also a good way for me to keep my hand in on writing. Although I rarely experience writer's block, I think the regular practice of articulating one's thoughts and utilizing language keeps those mental pathways from stagnating. Use it or lose it, as the saying goes.
Is LJ what I thought it would be when I started? It's more, and it's less.
I'm a bit disappointed that my age group doesn't seem to have adopted it as readily as those who are five to ten years younger than we are. It's gotten better, but still, older users seem to be a minority. I'm selfish enough to admit that I wish a few more of my real life friends participated in it, but honestly, it makes me treasure the folks that do just that much more.
I've gotten to know people better because of it -- I'm really grateful to sailormur, for example, for signing on. Think, Scott -- if we hadn't had LiveJournal, our ships would likely have long since passed in the DragonCon night, as it were. For what it's worth, I'm glad we're still in touch.
Also on the plus side, in my opinion, the RSS feeds are a valuable bonus of a paid account here. Although I also use Abilon, a stand-alone aggregator, it ain't perfect, and there are just certain feeds I prefer to read LJ-style. I like hard news and tech news in Abilon, while I prefer fun feeds, fan stuff like fireflyfansnews, in LJ format.
Tune in tomorrow for the next question and response, and thanks for reading.