22 Jun An ode to LiveJournal and spilling our guts on the Internet
Whenever I hear a nonfiction writer or memoirist talk about referring to their old journals and diaries that they kept religiously, I almost always take a moment to curse past Megan who always had trouble with self-discipline and therefore was a spotty journal keeper. She tried, she really did. So much money was spent on really pretty diaries and journals from the Papery. But after maybe 15 or 20 pages were filled, they were tossed in the back of the closet with the clothes I shouldn’t have bought from Le Chateau.
Enter LiveJournal. I was slightly more devoted to sharing all my teenaged/YA angst on the Internet. There was some anonymity because, like with Instagram and Twitter, you could have handles that weren’t your own, content that didn’t exactly point back in your direction and identify you. But someone always found your account. “Is this you?” sent on MSN Messenger.
Monday was National Selfie Day. Confession: Until about three years ago, I hated selfies. I would scroll past pictures of my friends, make-up perfectly applied, great outfits, luminous hair and the swirl of all the body shaming (body terrorism as Sonya Renee Taylor says) would take over my mind and I would find ways to target my body. Comparing their bodies, their skin, their hair to mine. And then three years ago I put on one of my favourite outfits on and set the timer on my iPhone camera and stood in my kitchen, gaze focused away from the camera. A small act perhaps, one that probably vanished into the noise and blur of a life lived online, but it was a big step for me, one that grew day by day, but really it started when I opened my LiveJournal account.
LiveJournal was a place where I could spill my guts, as cringy as it might have been (I’m glad I don’t have access to that account any more.) I could tap away on my family’s desktop computer between messages sent back and forth on MSN Messenger about the weird space I hovered in where I felt like I didn’t belong (which is an evergreen feeling of teen girls). I didn’t feel like I belonged in my body, I didn’t feel like I belonged in my friend group, and I had very few spaces where I felt safe to share all these thoughts, and some how the Internet became that space.
Since those days on LiveJournal and then MySpace and then the early days of Facebook when you had to be a university student to have an account, I’ve been sending feelers out trying to find ways to claim space, to stretch a little and find myself in the world around me.
As most marginalized bodies know, the Internet isn’t always a safe space for bodies that don’t fit the definition of “normal” (but remember there aren’t normal bodies). There’s always someone to police you on the Internet (sometimes it’s me.) Even back in the days of LiveJournal I often deleted posts before anyone would read them because I’d already decided it was horrible, awful, embarrassing. Delete. Delete. Delete. I do the same thing with my social media now (“People are going to think I’m vain,” “No one wants to see pictures of me and my fat body,) but as strange as it may seem my selfies are a small act of revolution and self love. I’m trying to carve out space for my marginalized body, my fat body, my female body, and the critic I’m constantly in battle with is my own.
This week I finished reading The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor. I wish I had enough money to buy copies for all of you because we all need to hear (read) what Sonya has to say. Dismantling the systems that promote body terrorism aren’t going anywhere soon, and sharing pictures of myself on Instagram aren’t a game changer, but with each picture I take, I’m looking at past Megan, her fingers on the keyboard, typing about herself and her desire for smallness, to disappear, and am giving her permission to take all the space she needs to glow, grow and thrive. So, even though I had some pretty weird LiveJournal experiences (I’ll save those for another post), and that the Internet has place where I’ve experienced hate, I’ve also found community and friends in a battle for our bodies, and the bodies of the kids and teens who need more space, all the space really, to be themselves.