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The Rank Fakery of LiveJournal

True confession: Sometimes I like to read through my mrkilborn journal. I have to admit, I did some of my better comedy writing just pretending to be a talk show host that no one remembers or cares about now for a bunch of anonymous people who were also pretending to be stars. It was ideal for what I was doing at the time. Maybe I could have put that sort of effort into writing a novel or screenplay or something. Probably. I probably should have! (I am now.)

I am a bit proud (if I can use a Kilbornism from that era) of the stuff I did in that journal, and it makes me feel good that it's still there, mostly, and that it still entertains (at least me, when I occasionally go look at some of the posts).

But, as I was going through the entries a few days ago, and thinking back to those days of 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, I noticed that some random "civilian" girls had posted one of those "You should join..." comments and listed off three communities.

Now, the rules of "MustBePop" (that was the name of the game these fake celebrities populated and interacted with each other within) made it clear that you had to have a disclaimer on your journal, so that people would know and understand that they were not dealing with the actual celebrity portrayed. Also, we tended to not interact with "civilians," people who were not a part of said game, as the world created needed to stay self-contained. We didn't want "real people" crossing over into it (with a couple of very special exceptions) because then things would get very confusing. And we rarely posted as our celebrities to people's "real" journals. Though it would accidentally happen on occasion if you forgot to log out, started reading your actual friendslist and then just posted some response. Then, you had to delete it, but with the email notification, the person still found out some celebrity posted to their journal! Not good!

Typically, when people posted things like "you should join this or that community" comments, Kilborn simply ignored them and kept on doing what he was doing. But I finally started looking at some of those communities, and I have to say, this is going to be a big reason why LiveJournal isn't going to win back a lot of users of a certain age.

These communities, without specifying any one in particular, were designed to "rank" people, in look, in fashion style, in intelligence, in worth. Basically it was "Mean Girls," The LJ Version.

Additionally, community members frequently had to promote their communities wherever they were told, as part of the requirements of becoming a part of that group, which I presume is why they posted something in Kilborn's journal. Point being, you had to be a popular person AND you had to help your community become top ranked. What would the point be of being a popular person in a rarely visited journal? It was the distillation of the worst elements of High School, open for anyone who passes by to see, assuming the photobucket accounts are still up and working. Sadly, some of them are.

We implicitly know (but it's something worth thinking about when discussing how LiveJournal might function better today), that people used LJ to escape their own lives. Heck, that's what that celebrity game was partially about. But people were also doing this without a disclaimer and passing themselves off as someone else, just because they thought it was cool, or to cope with their lives, or for whatever reason they wanted.

I'm not saying impersonating someone is bad. But it can cause harm if people believe in you, and it turns out "you" aren't you. An early example of that was an account known as flashman. He was allegedly a worker at the World Trade Center who apparently was killed in the towers collapse, but was, in fact, just a girl from somewhere other than NYC, who thought the whole thing up and figured it would be interesting if one of the people who died on that horrific day had an El Jay. It worked; dozens of people left comments and remembrances to that journal before the truth was revealed.

But those two elements, the ranking and the faking, are huge and basically connected issues for why many people who used LJ ten or twelve years ago would not feel happy, or even comfortable, coming back. It would be like coming back to your high school, if you were bullied on a regular basis there, or coming back to a place where you had to pretend to be someone else just to be treated kindly.

And let's be honest. This ranking stuff got very personal and torturous. Many of these "rank" journals have been deleted, but there are still enough of them around that you can explore just how horrible people behaved with each other under the auspices of "being the best." Actually, there were similar things going on within that celebrity game, with certain communities within the game being reserved for "certain people," so, even people there were not immune to this kind of treatment.

Looking back on this phenomenon now, from my current POV, I do wish I had mrkilborn make a post or two about how meaningless these communities were. I actually did, within the game for the people playing along, but that was a private entry within the community there. I doubt it would have made a difference, but maybe it could have helped a few users deal with the industrial strength nonsense that was happening at the time, and maybe allow people to understand it's not the place, it's the people you are surrounded with that make your experience what it is.

Today, that MustBePop community is closed and locked to the general public. You can't even see entries created by the people in that game unless you are a part of it, which, I suppose, it the right thing to do, as I'm sure they want the ability to take some of those celebrities to extreme. You just couldn't do that if their handlers, agents and the stars themselves could read along. To me, it's a bit sad, because I actually wanted other people to find my work as that celeb, and at least a few people did.

But I'm continuing my interest in the thought that people can and maybe should be using LJ more. And I hope that the folks running the Western World side of things (the Яussian version has no trouble at all) like tamar are still considering elements to help make LiveJournal grow. Still, when you're discussing ways to promote LiveJournal and/or how to get people to return, these ranking and faking issues are a huge mountain right in the middle of that road, and I don't see any clear way to plow through it, circumnavigate it or most truthfully and poignantly, get over it.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 5th, 2015 05:28 pm (UTC)
I remember those types of promotional journals.

Is livejournal even really still a thing anymore? I mean. Sometimes I'll do an interest search and the results show comms that were last updated years ago.

ONTD is popular but not nearly as popular as it once was. Comments in the 10s... 100s... When it used to be paaages.

ONTDBB is active in the summer but that's a small niche group.

I feel like tumblr is a better LJ. But tumblr is heavy on the teenager side and they're all uppity about being a liberal. Or really into aesthetics (which I enjoy).

Imo... FB and Twitter killed LJ. And long format blogging? Might as well get a blog blog not tied to a "journal" moniker.

The boon of social media really altered this landscape.
Aug. 6th, 2015 03:26 am (UTC)
I was looking at all the reasons why LJ lost its lustre, and this is just the lastest in the series. If you click on my "LJ promotion" tag, you'll see the other posts in the series.

Some people think LJ's demise is in the "long form" journaling, but I always say, you could short form journal on LJ too. LiveJournal is just a really versatile platform. If you only want to post one sentence per entry, you can! And I think we all did at some point.

But stuff like this, these ranking communities that were so important to people at the time, are kind of an invisible reason why many would likely stay away, and there's not a lot anyone can do about it. If you were bullied or tortured as part of your LJ experience, you'll likely leave and never come back, no matter how great the site itself is. And there were quite a few of these sorts of communities, I guess at least a couple for every high school and junior high in most every American suburb. I wonder what other horrors were going on via LJ High?

Communities were a terrific (when used correctly) way to connect with people who shared your interests. It was one of the best elements of LJ which got people in touch with each other in a way that no other site was doing at the time. But now, nobody really knows how to use them, or the administrators of them have abandoned them, or everybody just abandoned everything. I'm sure communities are the key to why people have left LJ - either because they aren't being used or because the were used to abuse.

ohnotheydidnt is one of the most active communities here, but you're right, from thousands of responses to posts, it seems like a few hundred is what you're getting on average, and most users of ONTD have a specific username to post news or comments about news there and use that name for no other purpose, not even ever posting an entry in their own blog. That's why ONTD really isn't helping grow LJ, even though it gets people to the site.

I have posted at length about how first MySpace then Facebook and twitter spirited people away from LJ with the promise of celebrity interaction, and a kind of fresh start on new and hot social media sites that required less of your mind.

But I do want the LJ powers that be, whomever they are currently, to continue to think about ways to get LiveJournal more traffic. I'm only talking about this as one of those elements that likely nobody thought anything about in the early to mid oughts, that would create a huge issue in trying to get users to take up their journals now.

Tumblr to me is the long form twitter. It's about promoting either your causes or yourself... it's not bad, but it's also not LJ. You can't have a conversation on any of these other platforms, the way we're doing here, and have people who just arrived share their thoughts. And to me, that's why LiveJournal could still be a brilliant site.

But if you associate it with your past, a past that isn't perfectly wonderful, maybe there's just too much lead in this balloon.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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