Don’t Look Back

I was going to save this post for June, but I just can’t wait. June will be my 8th anniversary as a blogger (if you don’t count the personal “tilde” website I put up in 1998 on earthlink, in which case this is probably my 10th anniversary of being on the web). BUT as I start this new phase of my life – new job, new theater, new projects and, in October, a new personal decade, I feel compelled to look back in dismay.

I first started blogging in June 2000 when my friend Tom told me about it. His boyfriend was living down in New Orleans at the time and I think had run into or heard about Jonno and Richard. I was working as an interactive producer at an ad agency at the time and working on my solo show POTTY MOUTH. I had a comfortable income, access to good computers, high speed internet and a not-very-demanding work schedule. Pretty soon I was blog-addicted and had started to get out and meet all the other bloggers out there. The early days were a lot of fun, with a lot of drinking and silliness. I met Dan and Choire and Blaise and, eventually, Chris and Mark and lots of other people in NYC and across the country. It was a ton of fun. When I went to San Francisco with my friend Scott in the Spring of 2002 we had a big blog gathering organized by Bill, and I got to meet the folks who invented Movable Type and probably 20 other bloggers of varying renown. As I’ve said before, it reminded me a little of the spoken word/poetry scene of the early 90’s – just this weird little niche of quirky and interesting people doing fun stuff. Of course, we had no idea what this was going to become. I posted *everything* on my site, usually with names. I never thought about it coming back to haunt me. I was freaked out the first time I met someone and they already knew who I was and knew personal things about me. I became even more freaked out when someone from Chicago e-mailed me and told me they had printed out my entire website and read it. After too many emails that were kind of stalker-y, I finally had to ask the person to back off and stop communicating with me entirely. It’s that kind of stuff that made me stop keeping a personal blog and ending up password protecting all my old entries.

But the good stuff far outweighed the bad stuff:

  • While 9/11 was probably the most horrible thing I’ve ever experienced, the support I got from other bloggers and commenters from around the world was amazing. And made me realize the power of the internet.
  • Starting the WYSIWYG Talent Show with Chris and Dan – and having it go on for over three years – was amazing!
  • Nick Denton parties before Gawker launched and then after the launch for maybe the first year before it all got creepy.
  • Running for Mayor in 2005!!
  • Blogging helped get me my highest-profile writing gigs for Nerve.com and Heeb Magazine.
  • Starting Culturebot!!
  • Meeting tons of awesome and wonderful people!!!!

Writing has always been how I’ve dealt with life. Writing about my personal life in public, doing semi-autobiographical (embellished!) solo shows, performance poetry, spoken word – all of that were ways of creating myself, of trying to sort things out and get a hold on a self that has always seemed elusive and transitory. I think the absolute total saturation was in Spring/Summer of 2005 when I was blogging at three different sites, working on a new solo show, writing for Nerve.com and working, like 70 hours a week at P.S.122. Crazy crazy crazy. And then it just got to be too much and I have sort of tried to pull everything back – but once its on the web its forever! We didn’t know that eight years ago! My, how the world has changed.

Someone asked me recently if I thought that blogging was a fad that would pass. And I think in some ways it is, at least in the sense of people writing personal narrative on the internet. I think that technology, video, social networking, etc. have all changed the Web so profoundly that blogging is not going to be the primary means of self-expression on the web. But I think that using the Web as a venue for self-expression is here to stay. In some ways, I think blogging actually addresses a very primal need. They say it takes a village to raise a child. But in these days where divorce is so common and people move around so much from place to place, it is rare that the people who know us in childhood will still know us in adulthood. It is rare to grow up in a single community and know the same people throughout your entire life. And on some level it is that intimate knowledge of a life lived over time that reaffirms our sense of self and belonging. While being an autonomous individual in a highly mobile society offers endless opportunities for re-invention, it also is uprooting and disorienting. Especially in a city like New York we are expected to present ourselves in soundbytes. I am a this, I do that, etc. etc. We do not live in an age of complexity and nuance. Without the continuity of community, we exist in a state of ephemerality, not as a process but as a product. In some small way I think blogging and creating a personal presence on the internet over a long period of time addresses that. Yes, it is self-edited, yes, it is a creation, yes it is a selective representation of a life lived in the flesh. But is there really any difference between the stories we tell in person and the stories we tell online? Look at the Hillary Clinton thing about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire. Yes, its entirely possible that she calculatedly manufactured the whole story to make herself look more experienced then she actually is. But it is also possible that over time she has come to remember it that way. We all have “memories” from our childhood that our parents told us, that we couldn’t possibly have actually remembered, that we re-tell as our own, because it shapes who we are. Doing that in public, on the internet, the whole world is your Village, watching you grow, change, emerge.

People worry about the death of privacy, but I think the lack of privacy could be a good thing. Maybe we can work towards the end of hypocrisy, say, with politicians who can’t keep their dicks in their pants. Or whatever. That being said, I’m still not going to put my personal life entirely out there again for people to see. I’m much more conscious of the ramifications of that, not to mention the problems you can run into in job interviews! But still, sometimes I miss feeling like the world is just a bunch of cool people I haven’t had a chance to meet yet.

Anyway – its been a great trip so far and I look forward to the next eight-to-ten years!

Rock on with your bad selves!!

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