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Social media emphasize individuality
Posted: Monday, November 2, 2009 11:40 pm
Joe Dellosa, Alligator Columnist
Do you remember LiveJournal?
LiveJournal is a hybrid blogging and social networking service started by Brad Fitzpatrick in 1999. Users could create a blog that usually served as a public diary, and then they could add people they know who also set up LiveJournal blogs as "friends." Friends' blog entries are aggregated on a single page, allowing users to see at a glance what their buddies are up to, like a proto-News Feed.
The service was many people's first experience with a Web 2.0 application, and, in particular, the first for many teens. LiveJournal quickly acquired a reputation as a clearinghouse for suburban, adolescent angst - collections of lengthy, startlingly sincere lamentations of broken hearts, occasionally interspersed with awful, copied-and-pasted Dashboard Confessional lyrics and "Which 'Hey Arnold!' Character Are You?" quizzes. (I always shot for Gerald, but I'd always wind up being Eugene - or, on a good day, Mr. Hyunh. This was a source of mild consternation.)
LiveJournal was, in many ways, a forerunner of much of the purportedly revolutionary social media environment we're in right now. After all, it was started before the word "blog" was even coined and before the phrase "Web 2.0" gained any sort of currency, and it predates both MySpace and Facebook by about half a decade.
It was also among the first social media to receive the same flak that Facebook and Twitter catch on a regular basis now. You know the criticism: It's narcissistic. It's self-important. Nobody really cares how hilarious your cat looks when he's asleep.
But I've never thought that the self-absorption was what we were supposed to take away from social media. And I'll go as far as to say, without any irony, that LiveJournal and its successors have made me sort of a better person.
The most important thing LiveJournal did for me - and I say this as someone who...

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