You aren’t reading this. Once, you did. Here’s why.
In 2001 I started a LiveJournal entirely as a social networking tool. My friends were all signing up. We had a lot of fun sharing a circle of friends on LJ, and most of us ended up at least reading if not posting every day.
The social network expanded rapidly, and I made new connections. And I wrote more. I have a background in journalism and I’ve always written compulsively. With the spigot open, things sputtered out: personal confession, satire, sociopolitical conversations, culture, an avalanche of ephemera. It was mostly a good time, although the madness of myself and others provided some spectacular low points as well. (None of the madness has been removed. Good thing you’re not reading it.)
A few years into this I had a decent audience for someone who hadn’t tried. At best estimate the thing had 300 regular readers. If I wrote something interesting or challenging or unusually annoying I always got a few comments. Even a couple of my literary heroes showed up to say nice things about my writing. And the writing got better. There was a deadline feel to working on that LJ. I would think: “what should I write today?” rather than “should I write?”
Like others, I messed around with syndication and linking other services. There were all these ways you could stuff your LJ and photo service and other crap into one feed, but those weren’t popular in this case. A couple of times I started up a separate blog intending to put longer stuff there but didn’t use it enough or try to promote it really, and it sat there. This should have been a warning.
I never wanted to leave LJ, despite its “uncool” teen-angst image. It was a great platform for us, and a decent place to write. I had a built-in audience and a lot of daily reading for myself. But LJ started to get weird. Its ownership got passed around a few times, and the infrastructure and policies looked wobblier every day. When it was inhaled by an opaque Russian company it was looking like a worse and worse place to do anything a person might care about.
So, I made a WordPress blog and slurped up all the old LJ posts into it, and kept going here.
The social element is gone. Comments are rare and telegraphic. If I send a link to a friend I’ll get friendly and useful responses. Syndication to Facebook gets comments there. When comments are enabled on the syndication to the old LJ I get some responses from my friends there. But in general the thing is just dead. Traffic is awful.
As a result, I don’t write as much either. I never had too much invested in a big audience (good thing, because I didn’t have one!) but without any audience at all… Well, it’s like doing a late night shift on a radio station nobody hears. (Another story.) It’s boring and a little depressing.
I wasn’t the only one to abandon LJ, but it looks like most of the others went to Facebook for ephemera and socializing. That makes sense because the whole world is on FB, and because people don’t like uncool things (LJ). A lot of LJ’s benefits, like semi-anonymity and great filtering for audiences, are gone. But if your friends aren’t there, it’s not a social network, so, that’s the end of that.
Part of me wants to go back to LJ, but it’s not the same thing now. Mostly I want to keep the energy going with my own little thing, because I want to write and I need to control where it lives. Perhaps enforced write-every-day discipline would help.
In any case, I trashed something useful. LiveJournal was a good audience of friends and strangers and a wonderful conversation space, where I learned more about public writing than I had working full-time at a newspaper. Where did we go wrong? In any case, I met a lot (more than 50) of great new people I still have to talk to.
Anyway that’s how I killed my blog. If you’re reading this, something must be terribly wrong.