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belenen

June 2017

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Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.

belenen: (oneness)
LJI topic 7, "where I'm from": I am from the Internet, from a little city called Livejournal.
icon: "oneness (the characters Keenan and Joan from "Playing By Heart," sitting very close together, both looking off to the side and laughing)"

My country is the internet; my state is the mid-90s to the mid-00s, and my city is Livejournal, though I have lived in other cities for short periods of time, and I visit other cities often.


My experience with the internet began with AOL on Windows 95. I used the internet to download midi files of music I liked, endlessly search for info on my favorite musical artists, and find people to chat eagerly with about music or about God (my two obsessions at the time). I made some pretty intense friendships, one with a white guy in Canada, and one with a black guy somewhere in the Midwest. I didn't seek out guys, I don't think, but there just weren't any girls my age that I could find (and at that point I didn't know that nonbinary people existed). My friendships with those two highly ethical and thoughtful people allowed me to create healthy expectations of male behavior, rather than accepting selfishness and disrespect as 'normal' which would have been the case if I did not have access to the internet.

During the early days of my interaction with the internet, my use was limited to chatting, searching for information, and exploring the Anotherworld MUD. Then at age 20 I took an intro computer course which was utter shit but one of the assignments changed my life: we had to make a simple webpage with the most basic coding. I found this really fun and started teaching myself HTML, building two websites from bare code. I probably spent more than 200 hours on them over the course of the next three years. No one I knew ever cared much about this project, but I loved it so much I didn't need external interest to keep it going. I did get interesting and meaningful responses in the guestbook of my site, particularly about my anti-racist stance. This is where I developed my ethic of content creation and self-education: I shared what I made, and when I wanted to do something I trained myself on how to do it. This was no small feat, because how-to resources were still scanty at the time.


At the same time, Allison (who is now my oldest friendship) introduced me to LiveJournal. I joined first as a way to stay in touch with Allison and it quickly took on an important role in my life. I met new people through add-me communities and through shared-interest communities. This is where I developed my norm for getting to know people: if I thought they were interesting I added them to my friends list and consumed their online content. If the interest was mutual and they added me back, I would respond to their posts and have turn-based conversations. I rarely had any direct interaction at first -- I only commented if they required it before adding them, and most of the time if they required that I just didn't add them.

That is how I would prefer to be able to get to know anyone; indirectly and not in real time but with intensely intimate levels of sharing. It's a strong enough norm for me that I can rarely have a lasting or nourishing connection with someone who doesn't share intimacies indirectly. It's usually too hard for me to sync up in real time, but I need that level of intense sharing to feel nourished and to maintain investment. But I've realized that in most places, getting to know someone indirectly first is considered 'weird' at best and people often refer to it as 'stalking' which I find utterly baffling. I accept that it's taboo and I don't talk about it to out-of-towners, but where I'm from, that's just how you do it! (obviously I don't look at anything that's not set to 'public' because that's creepy)

Also at this intense time of change, I started going to group therapy. Through the group therapy I started learning to be vulnerable with others, and within a few months I dedicated my journal to openness and honesty. It was a difficult project for a long time, because only a few months into my LJ life I started having flashbacks to childhood sexual abuse (sparked by having consensual penetrative sex for the first time). I began going to therapy weekly, and it got worse before it got better.

So for about two years I could not leave my house without someone by my side, and I had no local friends so I rarely went out. The internet saved me: I built real friendships to a depth I never had before. For the first time in my life, people sharing freely with me happened on a daily basis instead of once or twice a year. This was the first time in my life I truly felt like I belonged and like I understood how to interact in a way that would be appreciated. I rapidly dismantled my inner barriers to openness, and what I didn't dismantle was destroyed for me. It became important to me to share my own story in a public way, because I knew I was not the only one dealing with recovery from abuse. That built my immunity to trolling because when people mock you for being an abuse victim, there's not much lower they can go.


In late 2004 I also came across a community celebrating hourglass shapes and when the owner deleted it due to fighting over what counted, I decided to make a better version. I created a body-positive community with the idea of it being for medium people, like I was at the time (size 10) since there were fat positive communities but they had a minimum size requirement. But as people much smaller and larger than me joined, my idea rapidly changed, because the idea of excluding people for being 'too much' or 'not enough' was not okay to me. Within a few months, it was for anyone who self-identified as curvy, regardless of size or gender. This community was like a commune, a gathering of people who I mostly didn't know but who all were working together on the same beautiful project. It was home and work and family all at once; I took it from one person to more than 1,300, and it remained a thriving community for about four years.

That community was where I learned to love myself, and I got to watch lots of others do it too. It also brought me and Hannah together, which was a whole new experience because for the first time I met someone who was better at questioning and being open than I was. Hannah and I would regularly spend 9+ hours talking and sharing: we'd write on LJ and read each others' writing, we'd explore deviantart and share favorite works with each other, and just talk endlessly on gchat.



Deviantart was, for a time, almost as important as LJ to me. It's where I shared my artistic nudes and developed immunity about people expressing disgust toward my body. I also experienced so many people thanking me for sharing and telling me that it helped them to see their own beauty. DeviantArt is the town where I developed myself as a public artist, and I had some celebrity for a short time, but now my style has evolved so much that no one recognizes it as mine when I put up a new piece. It's a place I visit once in a blue moon to look at my old work on the walls, but all the artists I loved there moved away so even the nostalgia is dusty. I can't bring myself to stay long enough to get invested in the art circles there anymore.

Twitter was paramount for about a year in 2011; I kept up daily and interacted often. I was put off by the lack of reciprocity: I was following and interacting with people who never read my tweets and it felt cliquish. I learned a lot from the feminists there, esp the trans and WOC feminists, but it was more like a newspaper than like a social space. In a lot of ways it reminds me of my college experience: no matter how much effort I put in, no one wanted to connect at more than a surface level. Twitter is a city I drive through almost every day but never stop anymore; the roads where people live are confusing and parking is fucking torture, so I just go on through.



I got a facebook initially due to curiosity, kept it because of its value at organizing gathers, and slowly began spending more time there as my local activist network developed. Over the past two years it has become a more real space for me, as people have begun interacting with me more, but it still feels somewhat alien. Facebook feels like the building where I work: I go there often, but always in costume while leaving my more scandalous self at home. Without ever consciously deciding to, I had developed a habit of restricted my sharing on fb because fb culture is so pro-judgement. Once I realized this, I began working to bring more of myself into my facebook life because I don't actually want to make it more difficult to get to know me. Facebook will never be home, but I am making it into a workplace where I can be more of myself.


There were several shakeups here on LJ over the years and I lost friends to vox, wordpress, blogger, dreamwidth, and even facebook, but still I remain here. My LJ friends list is like a neighborhood where every single house is owned by a friend of mine. The idea of moving is absurd and always will be unless most of my friends move away. Even when it was mostly empty for a few years, I stayed in the hopes people would return, and eventually filled up those houses with new friends. Now, I have a small handful of friends who returned but most of my neighborhood is people I have met within the past three years (and I have been on LJ for more than 13 years).

I get so excited when I meet someone who is also from the internet, and even more so when I meet someone from livejournal. I imagine it is how other people feel when they live far from a hometown that they love, and then they meet someone from there. I might not get along with everyone from LJ, but if they have lived here a while, I immediately know we share similar values in a lot of ways. Especially if they love it here as much as I do.


back to top

Okay, this was a different take on the subject. I like it.
I think, in some ways, all of us are from the internet. I remember when people were "embarrassed" to state that they made a friendship online, like that "wasn't natural." Now, there's nothing more natural, is there? You can really learn a lot about a person's likes, hopes, desires, dreams, psychology, humanity by reading what they write, and no place was better than right here at the old El Jay.

Really, LiveJournal is still, for my money, the best social media site. It can be used like twitter, facebook, instagram, tumblr, and has the superior threaded comment function, which allows people to not just comment to the poster, but to other commenters! That makes LJ the most social site of all!

A very revealing and wonderful entry.
I totally agree about LJ as the best one *smiles widely*

thank you!

That was a good read- thank you. I feel like I too am from the internet in a smaller way. It does feel like home to me.

*nodnod* thank you

>. My LJ friends list is like a neighborhood where every single house is owned by a friend of mine

This is a great way of putting it! I've been on LJ since 2000 & have no intention of giving it up.

I feel ya!
We both responded to the prompt in the same way :) And I am happy to know you better by reading this body of work. It's very relate-able coz I too have online friends and have met them personally and it turned out to be a great experience.

A great read!
I enjoyed your take on this.
Really interesting way of framing home. I definitely saw the parallels to the real world cities, offices and homes I inhabit.
This is a very interesting take on the subject. I remember the days of AOL chat rooms and bulletin boards lol. Although I know some people who were even on Usenet...
<3
I don't think the internet is my home the same way it is yours, but LiveJournal is definitely the place I live inside it. This was a fascinating read to see how you and the internet grew up together, so to speak.
I understand the appeal of meeting and getting to know people on the internet. In fact I met my second husband through a chat room. And we stayed together for seven years after talking and dating for two. I don't find anything odd at all for being more comfortable in cyber reality. This was a great take on the prompt! Thanks for sharing. Hugs and peace~~~
This was a great personal story with an interesting history of social media and your own growth. It was fascinating! I am glad that you have ultimately gotten so much out of it.
I loved this take on the prompt. "Home" is so often more of a feeling than a physical place, and much of your love of LiveJournal mirrors mine except that your experience got you through so many much tougher times, and helped you heal and grow and like yourself more.

The descriptions of Twitter sounded familiar (very little direct interaction, mostly randomness or shouting via 'headlines'), and the "city I drive through" comments cracked me up.

Facebook feels like the building where I work: I go there often, but always in costume while leaving my more scandalous self at home.
Yes, so much yes. There CAN be interaction, but it is usually at a much more superficial level-- partly because that's also the level at which most people post. The "public consumption" filter is so much higher there than at journalling places like LJ.

I'm so glad you found your true home, those 13 years ago, and that it still feels like home. With that, you will make it so for others down the road. :)
This is a very different take on the prompt, which I appreciate, and I like the "from the internet" point.

I feel that way sometimes, too.

Honestly, frequently, my internet existence has been better than my "real world" one.
Fantastic and unique take on the prompt! Brava!!! I enjoyed this very much!
At some points it felt like I was reading my own story ♥.

I think I may steal your "where are you from" if you'd let me <3. I'd definitely love to incorporate that into my everyday seeach and social media.

By the way, can I ask you how LJ idol works? I've never quite get it and I feel like I might be interested in participating ^^.
Yes, it was so depressing, I suppose, to think about moving away from Livejournal that I just stayed, despite all those empty houses on the block. And now the people I interact with regularly are new neighbors. But they are really good neighbors, and I value their company. You are one of those neighbors, even through I've been too occupied with a lot of stuff to be very social lately. Your posts are so often filled with the kind of deep thought and interesting writing that I've always loved so much about LJ, on top of all of it's other functions. I think that I'd really like you if I got to know you better.
i suspect we got online about the same time! for me it was "talkers," but also the occasional MUDs, and the even more bare-bones telnet-based havens, where i met some people who really impacted my life (and some of us even recently reconvened via Slack). (actually i guess technically i started out for a month in AOL chat rooms, but some beautiful soul realized i deserved better and introduced me to my first talker. i canceled AOL (another motivating factor: i didn't know about long distance dialup or AOL's hourly rates, and i borrowed my mother's credit card promising it was just for the free trial-- $800 later, i learned a very serious lesson), got a generic dialup account, and the rest is history.)

the internet saved me... i grew up in rural New Hampshire, and was a total outcast for a variety of reasons, and the internet made me realize the world is much, much bigger than the tiny little bubble that was nearly unbearable. in my darkest nights, it was my havener friends who talked me out of doing something irresponsible. it was my havener friends who saw beauty in me when i only saw ugliness. they literally saved my life more than once.

most of the folks i knew blogged/journaled on their personal sites, which were usually something like geocities or a handful of us would be lucky enough get an account on one of our friends' servers. i didn't think livejournal would be a good fit, and when i heard about it, i ended up joining deadjournal and was there for years. i moved over to LJ after one of my many "fresh starts" (read: the act of running away from a bunch of shit) in life, and i've been here ever since. i worry more than i let on about the fate of LJ... not necessarily the users (but i sure do miss the active communities and lively discussions!) but the company and the servers themselves. everything's just so uncertain right now in the world.

i met my spouse here, and LJ will always have a very very special place in my heart. i hope it never goes anywhere.

in the last year of Jerry's life, he often expressed frustration and disappointment at twitter's one-sided-ness that you also experience. he and i met on twitter, so the site has a special place in my heart in that regard, but i too have found myself frustrated that sometimes it feels like the only replies i get are trolls. but it's my main source of news, which i appreciate a lot, and a fair amount of bay area organizing happened there (i still haven't figured out where phoenix-area organizing happens), but in general, twitter falls flat in a lot of areas. not the least of which being the company's dedication to giving Nazis and other assorted assholes a platform while "coincidentally" banning or suspending activists on the regular. because jerry and i met there, i can still hold out hope for the site to realize its potential, but i'm not sure it'll last long enough for that to happen.

i hope that someday we have more options again. right now it's basically the biggest sites you mentioned: twitter and FB. of course there's other sites, but generally speaking everything ends up crossposted to twitter or FB, and if you want to find people to join your circles, that's where you start. "back in the day," there were literally hundreds of talkers, MUDs, MUSHes, IRC, etc and while it mightve been a little more disjointed and disconnected, it was easier to find kindred spirits and develop communities.
I loved that you made this your home .... I could so resonate with this. I had a lot of internet friends too ... random people from everywhere ... who just accepted you for who you are ... no preconceived notions ... no relationship infused niceties ... no judgemental advises ... just people with whom you bonded. People who stayed because they wanted to and left if they wanted to.

And on the flip side I had people around me who could never understand it .... how can bonds be strengthened with people u have never even met .... I didnt bother explaining ... somethings are way beyond some people. And so I loved this post.
I love this take on the prompt. I started making online friends back when the internet began with bulletin boards and dial-up connections. One person I met on a bulletin board was a very dear friend in Florida until she passed away a few years ago.

Internet people: we are a breed unto ourselves!

Well done!
This was a fantastic take on the prompt - well done!!
Thanks to LJI, I have more friends than I believe I've ever had in my life who always seem to have supportive things to say. That's such a blessing.
I love this entry and how you write about your personal journey with the internet and LJ being your neighbourhood. I too get excited by coming across "internet people" and esp LJ people exactly as you wrote here. I think times have changed, though and it makes it harder to seek out internet interested types in the proper sense as everyone nowadays seems to use the internet in some sense, but they don't seem to share the same value over it as those of us around online before it became more mainstream and the supposed "cool kids" started using it. The internet changed so much for me as well in the sense of connection, openness and that feeling of belonging through meeting more like minded types of people.
LJ will always be home. :-)

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