When I think back to my favorite time on the Internet, I think about blogging on LiveJournal. Yes, I had one; of course I did. I have kept a written journal since I was 12 years old, so naturally, I needed one online, too.
The great thing about LiveJournal was words were more important than pictures. As an aspiring writer, this was significant to me. Sure, imagery was sometimes used to capture a reader’s attention, but then people—young people—actually stopped to read. The focus wasn’t on securing the perfect portrait or humble-bragging about how great your life was at the moment. No—LiveJournal was quite the opposite.
LiveJournal was filled with raw honesty and thoughtful reflections. For this reason, most blogs were locked behind a Friend’s Only filter where you had to knock to get in. I also had one of these Friend’s Only entrances, in the form of a post that simply read “Comment below to be added.”
An acquaintance’s Friend’s Only post was a bit more strict. It read: “Locked. Yes, I’m talking so much shit about you in here.”
LiveJournal (and Xanga, if I’m being honest) was where my love for blogging and personal online documentation began. It was a place to vent and connect with other teenagers who were going through the same thing. (The “same thing” being relationship woes, school troubles, and social anxieties.)
It was also filled with groups, or “communities,” where you could gather with like-minded people and share content. My favorite was the Dear You community. There, you could post a letter to an anonymous person and get whatever you needed to say off your chest. It was cathartic to write them, but even more relatable to read them.
It still exists today, and I hope it exists forever.
A need for connection.
The blogging communities that emerged from LiveJournal resulted from our need to document our lives and connect with others. There was a bit of comfort and reassurance letting unbiased strangers into your private inner world. If, in fact, the people in your offline world didn’t seem to care, at least the people across the country did.
Don’t get me wrong: over the years, online interactivity has only gotten more robust. It has been especially extensive this past year, while many of us were remote during the global pandemic. However, the desire to connect on a deeper level with others has felt less and less genuine to me over time.
Nowadays, most people are more concerned with growing their numbers than establishing personal, thoughtful relationships with their “audience”—or, better put, oftentimes people who just want to be your friends.
And to do that, you have to put your best, most-curated face forward.
This is only part of the problem.
While it’s perfectly natural for trends to come and go as exciting new things take their place, part of me blames “Instagram culture” for the decline in long-form blogging popularity.
Everyone’s favorite visual platform is designed like a slot machine: you keep scrolling until you land on that jackpot content you’ve been waiting for. Its addictive, fast-paced design leaves little room for pause. If you just keep scrolling, then maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Now, I’m no exception from Instagram culture. I do curate my feed into only the things I want to share with strangers online. I only share my most flattering pictures and I enjoy putting together a staged flatlay from time to time.
However, because of the speedy, at-a-glance nature of the platform, most users don’t slow down to read anything anymore. Hell, Instagram even collapses the caption after just two lines, which encourages you to get your point across as quickly as possible.
After years of living with such a speedy mindset, I feel as though everyone feels the need to rush in order to keep up. The “instant” access to information (and quite frankly, each other) has kept everyone moving at such a quick pace, we’re afraid to slow down and fall behind.
Because of this, long-form content has taken a back seat to picture-perfect visuals and snappy 30-second videos. With such an overabundance of content, many people—including me—are feeling burnt out and overwhelmed.
The antidote is slowing down.
I miss having a community of friends who sit down at the computer, reflect about their day, and write about their lives at length. I miss reading thoughtful, personal content from non-celebrities and “average” people I admire. And I especially miss the comments section being more than just a wall of heart-eyed emojis and one-word responses like “Love!” and “Nice!”
What I hope to see more of soon is a return of personal, long-form blogging. What the world needs more of is slow, thoughtful content where the purpose isn’t to sell you something or increase numbers, but to simply connect, tell a story, and let you in.
While I am grateful that blogging can and has become a career for many, so much of it has evolved past what it originated as. Back in my LiveJournal days, no one treated their online journals like money-making machines. Nobody had to blog. We just wanted to. And that’s why it felt the most genuine.
And sometimes, the best content comes from just sheer enjoyment, when there’s nothing in it for you.
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Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.