Why I Hate LiveJournal

Too much time on my computer makes me angry. It gets in the way of my life. I was slapped in the face with how much computers intercept my life last week when I learned that friend of almost 18 years died. I spend so much time working and some time blogging so that some whole days disappear into the computer. Whenever this happens and I realize it, it's like I've come off a bender-- a digital drunk. When I was desperately trying to save my family from financial ruin, entire months disappeared into desperate attempts to earn my way out of ruin. During this people, I stayed at home. My daughter got secondhand attention. I used to see my friends every day of every week. That changed into one every week or so. Then once every couple of months. Before I knew it, friends were piling up the anniversaries, their parents and grandparents were dying, they were moving on with their life. I wasn't a part of their lives, so their lives moved on without me. I went from being frequent flyer in their photo albums to being a UFO photo. This wasn't their doing: it was combo of my actions and my situation. They understood and kept a chair open for me. I could never express how grateful I was to all of them that they understood. As I came to realize this week that if I waited too long I may never have the chance to thank some of my friends.

I fear that I have learned to screen my friends from my life like a real life version of Tivo. If so, it's a skill I need to shed.

We shelter ourselves from sensory bombardment. As soon as something is familiar and common, it's subconsciously logged for exclusion. It blocks out rain splatters. Forget the hum of the microwave. When you lose a sense, the other senses become more accurate. Your shelter from bombardment and your ability to gain input are both diminished.

Unfamiliar communication tools overwhelm our sensory protection. When radio came out, you could crank the volume. Instead, people gathered around the set. While Pop could sit in the dining room and listen to his wife ramble from the kitchen, he'd pull a chair up to the radio. When TV came out, people became glued to the TV sets-- they advertise fridges; you buy fridges; they run good TV at the dinner hour and you buy TV dinners so you don't waste time making real food.

Computers come out and people get sucked into video. Linux aficionados tinker with the operating systems (how about use your computer?). When email came into vogue, you would perch in front of the computer looking for the next email (why not phone the person?). Instant messenger came out and suddenly you're like Washo the Chimp hitting the treat button for gratification. What if you could amplify the annoyance of instant messenger by 10 fold or 1000 fold? Then you'd have LiveJournal.

I hate LiveJournal because it pretends to be a means of communication with people but it's not-- no more than a $50 bill is money. That cash is legal tender-- a surrogate for the real article. When your friends want to meet up, you have to get your pants on. You have to drive somewhere to meet them. You have to sit through their inane conversations for the nuggets. While one friend is giving you a swell anecdote, another friend is giving someone else a moment not to be repeated. You can't pause. You can't save those moments to your favorites list. LiveJournal is spam: pinkish processed protein that is a mockery of genuine meat. Life is all about the bumpy unprocessed bits that sit off to the side of the real deal.

If I hate LiveJournal, why don't I hate Blogger? LiveJournal acts like a discussion; Blogger acts like a publishing tool. They're both tools of alienation, but while Blogger invites comments and participation, LiveJournal tugs at your leash. LiveJournal pretends to be a forum tool, but it isn't it's a shadow of a discussion forum. Instead of making mail-to-forum work, it forces people log in contribute and (try to) get on with their lives.

LiveJournal processes and distills people. Their annoying mannerisms; talking to you naked and aroused; typing to you while their own child cries in the background; rushing to type to you while their own friends are left cold. We think all of the input available is all that there is of a person. We fill in the blanks with what we can. That's why we dream of whole people and not your last memory. LiveJournal, IM, email: they're giving you 2% of the person. The other 98% of missing mass is being filled in. At the end of the day you form up your whole impression based on almost nothing. This is how Internet romances take root: a man screams at women, hires prostitutes, kicks cats and fantasizes about blowing up a score of people. He leaves those traits off of his resume and posts to LJ about his love of sonnets and the torments of the creative process. You think you're basking in the glow of Shakespeare. Are you cuddling up to Manson?

Maybe people are anticipating this missing mass of personality. Once they're tuned into online life, they treat everyone else like a post. The problem is: you can't pause real people. You can't put a real person onto an ignore list. When someone can't be filed for later reading, its grating like a Windows error. Live with it: Life Happens AFK.

LiveJournal gives me the chance to interact with people who I wouldn't give the time of day to. Because this is a new medium, we aren't well equipped to shield it out. You've learned to play radio in the background. You've learned to mute the TV. You know how to turn off Outlook. Crap like LiveJournal is coming through an unfiltered avenue-- a combo move of communication. Meanwhile, while you're caught in Sauron's gaze of LiveJournal, the real world happens. You can't be annoyed by 20 minutes of unpaused discussion with a real person, but you'll dash to read the comments of people who hide behind pseudonyms and wax on about sidewalk gum. If you try to subsist on a diet of distilled people you'll find that the real world has given up on you. You lose your stomach for the genuine article. Some of them have moved on. Some of them have passed on.

You ever notice that there's a flood of crap on the Internet, but your brain holds about the right amount of information for you to get by? Given the chance, your brain is an ideal filter and storehouse. But it's made for interaction with the real world. When you give it a diet of distilled information, you're giving your brain digital McDonalds.


Tim said…
I agree with you for the most part about LiveJournal. I've never really been able to get into it, but I do have a few friends who use it. It's probably because my usual intent is to put a stand-alone "something" out there, rather than a seed for a conversation about that thing. LJ seems to be heavily weighted towards the rolling discussion.

From what I can see, though, it isn't LJ specifically that's the problem. The problem is that most people have nothing to say, and now have almost unlimited resources in which to say it.
Mike DeWolfe said…
Don't get started on MySpace. ;)

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