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ROLL OF THE DEIS: Confessions of a LiveJournal user

By Leah Berkenwald

Section: Opinions

April 15, 2005

I, like many of the students here at Brandeis, am a LiveJournal (LJ) user. I have been using since of 2002. Over the years, LJ has become a more and more important part of my life. And now Im wondering if there are some aspects of life where LJ just doesnt belong.

This past week has been a tricky one for me socially. Relationships, be they friendships or otherwise, always have bumps along the road. We deal with them, and eventually, things are smoothed over. But, I never knew just how much worse a social problem (aka: drama) could be when it becomes public through LJ.

At the very least, LJ is a way to vent your feelings. You begin by writing about how upset you are, then, you begin to check your friends LiveJournals compulsively. Did they post again? Am I posting more than they are? Did he mention me? What did she say? Are they alright? And needless to say, the other parties involved were doing the same thing.

LiveJournal provides a unique posting feature that allows some friends to read your post, and blocks it from others. A few of my posts were locked so that everyone except one person could read them. I, in my LJ-diluted world, thought that I could hide certain feelings from that person while broadcasting them over the internet at the same time. Of course they would find out what I wrote. And they did.

The worst part, however, is the comment posting. Not only did I know exaclty what everyone involved was doing and how they were feeling, I knew how every one of our friends was feeling about our problem. Our personal issue was no longer personal. It was public for all to see on the world wide web. And it was getting ugly.

It can be hard to remember how drama, (which includes fights, breakups, malicious gossip, and more) worked before LiveJournal. If you were fighting with someone, you had to talk to them to their face or at least over AIM. In a conversation, each party can say what they want to say and explain, clarify, and re-form their opinions throughout the discussion. In a LiveJournal discussion, each post is only one point. Though the argument can eventually be resolved, it takes much longer because the posting can go on for days before anything is worked out. You cant have an effective conversation when you must wait hours or days for replies to each of your points.

Breakups were also very different before LiveJournal. After a breakup, you didnt talk to the other person, and you didnt have to see how much they were hurting. You didnt have to hear the opinions of people who barely know you or who dont know the situation well enough to be giving advice. You didnt have to stay in contact with your exs over-protective or vindictive friends. Instead of checking every 2 minutes to see if your ex posted, you were out with your friends, getting through it, moving on.

Though it was painful to stay glued to my screen thoughout this whole ordeal, it was also safe. But last night I took a risk. I talked with a real person, face to face. It was strange. Once it was just the two of us again, all of the chatter of our friends opinions and their well-intentioned advice just disappeared. We had a chance to listen to ourselves and each other– the only people who really know what we feel and what we want.

Meeting didnt solve our problems. We are still hurt and confused. Meeting in person wasnt the easiest thing to do, but either way, it was much better than sending cryptic messages to each other through the prism of the public eye.

When LiveJournal was created, it was not tested or approved for use in every aspect of human interaction. LiveJournal was not designed to handle breakups, or any other social melodramas. It has no conscience. When you are an avid LiveJournaler, I know its hard to imagine not posting when you are upset. But sometimes, just sometimes, regular old human contact is best. And during these times we have to log out, sign off, and remember how to live life the old fashioned way.

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