November 13, 2000

A Roundabout Way of Getting There

Towards the conclusion of the November 6 entry


One of the biggest challenges of maintaining a journal site such as this is deciding on a topic.

It's an embarrassment of riches. One can write about anything, which makes it difficult to narrow down one's choices.

Sometimes the decision is easier, for instance if there has been a significant personal or public event worth commenting on; holidays provide ready topics; and so do "collabs" but I don't want to rely on them too heavily. Part of the process is choosing a topic and taking the easy way out too often makes it more difficult over time.

(In case you're wondering, there is a topic in here somewhere - I'm just taking my time getting there.)

I have a notepad text file where I metaphorically scribble reminders to myself about topics I intend to pursue. I almost never follow up on them, because once the inspiration is gone, it's gone. I do want to follow up on one set of scribbles - further to an entry from September about social isolation and the concept of "bowling alone" (bowling when and with whom one pleases, as opposed to bowling regularly in an organized league).

I've probably mentioned before that I'm a loner... sort of. I'm content with my own company and prefer it to that of the unruly crowd. I'd rather be alone than with people for whom it's an effort to behave in a civilized fashion (read: most people) but my first choice is to be with people that I like. I'm not really proud of this trait but it's the way I am. I'm not rude (usually) but I can be reclusive. My father and my younger son Rob are like this too. Luckily we all enjoy each other's company.

I'm exactly the same way on the internet.

The internet is said to bring people together.. and it does.. but most often each individual person is physically alone. Is it "chatting" when noone else is there - or is it a way of avoiding more substantial human contact? I guess the answer varies person by person and depends on the balance of the rest of one's life. If I'm chatting alone in place of watching television, then I'd say it is an improvement, socially. If I'm there in place of being out with a group of people, it isn't.

After the initial novelty of IRC wore off, I hung around because friends were there. When that group fell apart, I found others but had difficulty finding one that fit well. At the same time (spring of 1999) I realized I wanted to have a web page. I had no idea what to put on said page but I wanted a permanent web presence.

I tried the various "communities" that were available then, such as xoom.com and msn.com and a variety of chatrooms, looking for a theme or a spark of recognition, but found nothing. In frustration one day I went browsing in yahoo and let my subconscious choose the path. (click here.. this looks good..) I ended up in this section, which at the time led me to the Open Pages Webring.

I'd never heard of online diaries or journals.

I don't think it really hit me, what I'd stumbled across, until I saw this article, referenced on the Open Pages site. It appears to be a newspaper or magazine report on the phenomenon (which at the time of that writing was in its infancy). It begins,

Dear Diary:

I've spent the past few days reading other people's diaries. They don't necessarily know this nor do they care . They publish their diaries on the World Wide Web. Anyone on the Internet can access them.

If there was a moment of epiphany in this story, that was it.

I went on to take a look at these online diaries, to see if this was something I could (or would want to) do. I don't remember which one was the first that I read, but this one probably influenced me the most: I liked the title - Streams of Consciousness - and I liked that the author talked about his own life at times but also wrote about his outlook and opinions.

What happened after that is a bit of a blur. The next thing I knew I was learning HTML, courtesy of several online tutorials, and delving further into the diary phenomenon, mostly guided by diarist.net. I had to do this. I didn't know why exactly (still don't) but since it's rare that I actually generate a goal for myself, I went with it. My first entry was July 2, 1999.

I'm writing alone. But that's it. Once my page is uploaded, I'm part of the virtual diarist community, and one or two subsets thereof. I've made friends, who are as real to me as the people I bowl with, attend committees with, and stop to yack with in the grocery, even though I would not recognize most of my internet friends if I passed them on the street.

I feel at home here. I feel like I belong. I'm staying.

Linque Du Jour:   Any of the above

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