I’m sure you’ve seen those viral posts about the chick who took a picture of her diary from childhood and posted it on the internet. It hit a nerve with all of us, especially the ladies, because we had something like that. Even when we were REALLY young we had a locking book from the Dollar Store to hold our innermost dreams and hypothetical pet names.
Back in my day we had “journals” (calling it a “diary” negated the importance; diaries were for children, obviously). Collages made from Seventeen Magazine adorned the cardboard covers of spiral notebooks; if you were smart you’d cover it in packing tape so it would last longer. Every page was filled with TLC lyrics and practice signatures along the lines of “Mrs. Rachel Taylor Thomas” scrawled in glitter gel pen ink. Lisa Frank stickers, nail polish swatches, and “love spells” and perfume samples…they were all accounted for.
Any self-respecting girl had at least three going at one time. We’d say they were for different things: one for sharing with BFFs, one for girly things, and one to hold our DEEPEST DARKEST SECRETS.
But really, they were just a mess of narcissistic musings from junior high girls wanting so badly to be 16 and beautiful and friends with every other beautiful 16 year old in the world.
By the time we made it to 16, though, this new thing called the internet had become a necessity; if you didn’t have access to AOL/AIM, you were socially fucked. All of our communication took place over AIM – the fights, the confessions, the drama, the breakups. (Sidenote: I really really really hope there’s an office somewhere in the desert where people from the NSA are going through millions and millions of AIM messages from preteen/teen girls, and also I want that job.) We abandoned our notebooks for the chimes of incoming instant messages. Our away messages were our new journals.
But somehow that wasn’t enough. AIM became too direct, too confrontational. If you were fighting with your soon-to-be-ex best friend, you only had two choices: talk or block. And blocking would prevent them from seeing your passive-aggressive away message that was obviously meant to cause them PAIN. We were stifled; we had angst that no spiral notebook could ever contain. We were teens.
So what are angsty teens with an internet connection and an affliction for non-confrontational fighting to do? Start online journals, of course!
Several sites were popular at the same time: OpenDiary, LiveJournal, and eventually Xanga. They all offered different features and drew different crowds. OpenDiary was a cattlecall; teenagers, moms, writers, anarchists…they all used OpenDiary. LiveJournal was the Cool
College Kid of the group. People on LJ shared their thoughts and interests in a cool way, because everyone on LJ was cool. Xanga was more for 7th graders and others that refuse to type out complete words. Journals were highly customizable on Xanga, allowing for every wounded junior high student to include a playlist filled with Green Day on his or her page.
The common denominator is that OD, LJ, and Xanga encouraged us to reveal our secrets PUBLICLY and in a very non-confrontational way. By allowing for comments, favorites, and followers, these internet journals were our first exposure to social networking.
If that ASSHOLE Christy wrote an entry on her OD about how slutty “some people” are because they were giving handjobs in the back of the gym after the Foreign Language Fair, you could write an entry in your LJ about how sad it was that “SOME PEOPLE” are obsessed with you when they should be focusing on how NOT to blow every dude on the track team. Whether or not these transgressions actually happened is debatable, of course, but it didn’t matter. Once it was written on the internet it became real.
I lost access to my OpenDiary when the site went dark a few years ago, which I was surprisingly sad about. Every once in awhile I was feeling particularly masochistic, I liked to go through my old entries. I would click through, reliving the days when “drama” was the biggest issue I had to deal with. Cringe-worthy posts filled with swear words (how punk rock!) and drippy song lyrics (thanks, Dashboard Confessional!) would shed light on the emotions a teenager could hardly handle. I would sit there as a 30something and feel anxious; I’d have to remind myself that the predicaments in my OD had long since passed – some resolved and most forgotten.
However, I still have my LiveJournal.
And you guys.
It is way too good not to share.
So guess what I’m going to do for YOU! I plan on BARING ALL. Let’s bask in my late teen/early 20s emotional torment together. It’s what my 19 year old self would have wanted (even though she would say she hates attention and when people are “obsessed” with her).
Stay tuned for Part 2! Here’s a teaser…