Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Writing online when nobody is reading

On all of the various websites I have had (starting with free Geocities and Angelfire hosted sites in the late 1990's/early 2000's and continuing through this site) I have done very little promotion of my internet presence. I have told a few friends and family members about some specific things over the years, but almost all of the things I've written or put online (including this site) were always just meant to be a creative and technical outlet for myself.

Before the widespread use of the internet to post every minute of every day from your smartphone, I (probably like many others around my age) had notebooks of doodles and stuff I wrote that nobody had ever seen. I had physical photographs of myself with people I'd met and places I'd been. It was amazing to be able to put some of the stuff out somewhere (somewhat anonymously) to share with people that I didn't know in real life and didn't feel like were judging me. When I put things up back then I always assumed that nobody was looking at it (and nobody really cared) but still posted somewhat cautiously because anyone could be looking at it.

There was a brief time in the early 2000's where I was a member of an online community that had journals. Through that site I met a ton of really cool people. People that I didn't know IRL, before I got to know them online. People would come around to your journal on the site and ask for updates and share stories and recommendations for things (movies, music, what to do after a breakup, how to cope with a shitty job). They'd come around just to say they missed you and ask how life was. I'd regularly make posts with boring little life updates. When I had nothing to write about I'd ask people to share random things with me and people really did. I'd spend hours reading what my friends has posted and commenting back to them individually. Towards the end of that time period I was busy with work and real life relationships (spending less time online) and short on cash (paying back student loans) and I stopped paying to be a member and very quickly lost touch with everyone there. For a short time after leaving, I tried to keep in touch with people by email and later I tried to keep that online community feeling going briefly with free options like LiveJournal, Friendster and MySpace (remember them?) but they never really went anywhere and I struggled with posting anything regularly enough to keep people interested in coming back on those other platforms.

During the early part of those years, though, I remember chatting in various chat rooms and ICQ (and later, AIM) with people from all around the US and Canada, all hours of the day and night. People I met online who were interested in stuff I'd written or profiles I had on websites that just randomly reached out for whatever reason and we started talking. It felt less weird back then to just randomly say "Hello. I really like your [picture]/[poem]/[story]/[profile]/[whatever]." or "I also like [author]/[band]." and then end up talking online sharing stories, pictures, trials and tribulations, relationship and family drama. Pretty much anything you'd end up talking to a good friend about.

People were a little worried about online stalkers and weirdos, but many of the platforms today are tied a little too closely to the real world to feel safe about posting a lot of things or just randomly commenting to strangers. (Not even going to get on the topic of trolls.) Back then, if you wanted to avoid people you just made a different ICQ/AIM name and shared it with a smaller group. I didn't post my phone number, address, where I went to school, hometown, who my real life friends and family were, what I ate for breakfast and where I ate it... and that was the norm. I picked funny city names to live in for profiles like Eek, AK or Boring, OR (real places) but told online friends where (roughly geographically) and eventually real city/state when I had talked to them for a little while. A few even knew my full name and address (as we mailed physical gifts, mix CDs and stuff to each other) but I think what made it fun for all of us was the ability to connect with people easily based on genuine interests instead of primarily based on physical location.

I bring my personal internet history up, because lately I've been thinking about how the internet has changed over my two decades of using (or not using) evolving technologies and platforms. I'm sure a lot of it is just me growing up and out of my teen (and twenties) angst and drama. It's been quite some time since I've ranted about a bad breakup or raved about traveling hours to see my favorite band(s). It's been even longer since I posted an extremely cryptic one line post and had multiple people I've never met in real life who knew instantly what I was talking about (and laughing with me or being supportive, whatever was appropriate). I rarely write about politics or religion due to the fear of offending someone I have to sit near at work on a daily basis. The remainder for me is the fact that online is much more like (and intertwined with) real life now. If I wouldn't talk about it with someone I don't know that well at work, I don't post it on Facebook. I don't like liking things because they're just using the information I give them to sell advertisements. The different groups of people that are friends on these platforms don't overlap on many/most interests and I don't care enough (or have the time) to break them into groups to post to different groups, anyway.

Most of my online friends now are people I actually knew IRL before connecting with them online. Facebook (and Instagram) are shared with family, friends, coworkers, classmates and the occasional person you didn't really know all that well in college/high school/middle school and even probably even some parents of your friends and acquaintances.

There's obviously nothing wrong with any of this, but these days my feeds are primarily posts about real life friend's families and pictures of their children, lots of doom and gloom about politics, and so many pictures of food. Some of it is interesting, some of it is infuriating and some of it is just shares to scroll past, but it just doesn't feel like it used to. It feels like a curated glance into the good parts of someone else's life and things that they want you to be [happy]/[sad]/[angry] at with them. It's nice to have a convenient way to keep up with people's lives but I feel like there's little to no actual interaction short of clicking the thumbs-up (or now long press for the heart, etc...) and typing a quick "Congratulations." post on major life events.

I feel more disconnected even though I know more about what's going on in friend's lives now compared to when I actually saw a lot of them every day in school, work, etc.

Friday, January 27, 2017

More about simplification

Simplification seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Take this post from January 2010 as an example. I'm writing about wandering around the apartment (early in the new year after Christmas) looking for stuff I don't need to donate or give away to family and friends.

We're in a different apartment in the same apartment complex than we were 7 years ago, but this past week (as I've done on numerous occasions since that post from 2010) I wandered around the apartment and took some time to put stuff in a pile to donate to charity (tea kettle, blanket, fanny pack from my childhood that I'll never use again, etc.) and added some stuff to the recycle bin (saved packaging materials and papers, mostly) and I still have a few things to give family members.

The things I feel like I struggle with are the "collector" mentality and "sentimentality". Things that I collect (CDs mostly) are hard for me to weed out and I have things from my childhood that I'll never use (and some that I don't remember ever using) but for many years, I couldn't seem to part with them.

It seems like the more I move stuff from place to place and have to find new homes for the random stuff I've kept, I wonder more and more why I've actually been keeping things. The more I actually think about it, the less inexplicably attached to things I feel. That makes letting go of things that I don't actually use a little easier.

I've gone through my CD collection and put all of the CDs in sleeves and sold off the jewel cases. I actually took it a step further and donated a small pile of CDs to charity. They take up a lot less room now without the cases and should be easier to move and store. I've sold off all of my guitars except my first one. I sold off or donated most of my computers and accumulated computer stuff. I gave away a few things that I'd been trying to sell on craigslist for quite some time.

I still have to decide what to do with my (>15 year old) snowboard and a box of golf stuff that I may use again someday... ;)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Downsizing Enough to Fit in a Tiny House

Earlier in the year, I found myself thinking fairly often about what it would take for my girlfriend and I to downsize our "stuff" enough that we could comfortably live in a tiny house on wheels. I feel like I would love the freedom to buy property and move the house with us rather than having to try to sell a house and buy another if we should choose to relocate in the future.

We currently live in a 1,000+ square foot apartment with two bedrooms, a large living room, a walk-in storage closet, a small "den", a bathroom with a full size tub and a kitchen with two small closets. One of the bedrooms functions as a craft room and the den is used as a home office but both end up also being used for storage. I'm not going to lie, we have a lot of stuff. Some of this stuff hasn't even been unpacked from the move before last when it went into storage for two years.

So while we do have enough indoor space (and central A/C, which is nice in the summer) we also have horribly loud downstairs neighbors (the second set of them in two years) and we pay too much in rent, especially for the location and the lack of amenities. I have lived within two miles of where I grew up for all but 4 years of my life (2 college years a few hours North and 2 years an hour West) and I'm feeling more and more like it's time for a change of scenery and weather.

If we did decide to try out a tiny house on wheels, we'd need to weed out a lot of our stuff and try to figure out what it is we need to have then take that into consideration when planning of the layout of the space. In our current apartment, most of our time is spent in the living room, so I think that would be the primary space we'd need to plan around. We'd give some extra consideration to the kitchen layout to try to fit a full size oven and sink. I'd also attempt to make the living space flexible enough to occasionally do things other than just sitting around watching TV. Hopefully, having less indoor space (and maybe moving to an area with more mild winters) will help push us outdoors more, though. I miss being outdoors.

I'm thinking that we'd end up getting an additional storage shed for the larger outdoor items that we'd need/want (outdoor tools/bikes, etc.) that are currently in storage with family members but we have a lot of other stuff that would have to be eliminated in order to comfortably fit in a much smaller space. I know, for me at least, that many of the things I have accumulated over the years (mostly CD's, magazines, books, computer parts/equipment, snowboard, skateboard, guitars) could be weeded out a little more aggressively than I've done in the past, but I'm worried that there are things that we'll miss when they're gone. I'm sure a lot of that is just sentimentality (random things from my childhood, souvenirs), but there are things like my girlfriend's sewing machine and books and my desk and CD collection that take up space but we wouldn't really want to part with. Those are probably the biggest things that would be tricky to work into a tiny house floor plan. Then there are some other things that I'm conflicted about. I've always wanted to learn to play guitar and I have two guitars and an amplifier. However, I haven't touched them in the past 5 years except to move apartments twice. Will I make time and the effort to learn someday and wish I kept them? Honestly, probably not, but will I regret getting rid of them and end up buying them again?

I'm really not sure where to start, though, aside from just taking passes through the stuff and selling/donating/recycling/discarding the things that I know I can do without. Then we're left with the more tricky/sentimental things. I don't want to end up moving a bunch of stuff and putting it in storage, so how do you work through getting rid of that kind of stuff?