March 10, 2010

Bloggin’ Every Day Just to Stay Alive

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Today, my roommate went to Arts and Sciences Career Services for some advice on a future job in speechwriting.  They told her best of luck, check online postings, and, oh yeah, “You should start a blog!”

A blog?  Really? She came home more confused than she was before, and all I could think about was my last blogging experience as an angsty 14-year-old. My LiveJournal from high school is currently floating around somewhere in cyberspace, its last update from 2004. Will this primitive personal blog be the ticket to getting me a job as the president’s speechwriter someday? I can imagine the phone call now:  “Ms. Barbato, we were riveted by your depiction of getting cut from the junior varsity basketball team. Won’t you come in and discuss possible career options over tea with President Obama, Michelle and the kids?”

Before getting too carried away with Obama family fanfic (“Why yes, Sasha, Kirsten is my favorite American Girl Doll!  Yours too!?”), all this recent talk of blogs got me thinking … why do we publish public musings for others to see, anyway? Why are you — esteemed Cornell Daily Sun reader seated on your bench in the Ivy Room, reading the paper to make it seem like you have a perfectly valid reason to be eating alone — so important to me?  I feel, anonymous op-ed article skimmer, that as you gloss over my words and subsequently judge me, that this will ultimately make me feel good. Somehow, you give me some sort of self-validation simply by allowing your eyes to be momentarily assaulted by my words.

Why do I care?  Why are you so great? Where is Malia going to go to college, and will she need a tour of Cornell?And why in G­od’s name was the only advice the career services office had to offer my roommate to start a freaking blog?  There was only one way to get to the bottom of this:  I had to resurrect my own attempt at primitive personal blogging., here I come.

As I peruse the site’s homepage for the first time in five years, I begin thinking about how I first discovered this service. Ah yes, I remember it fondly:  An acquaintance had placed a link to her own LiveJournal in her AIM profile, masked as a hyperlink within some Dashboard Con­fes­sional lyrics she had posted.  In this girl’s startlingly intimate entries, she complained about her parents, her schoolwork, how she spent Friday nights alone taking pictures of herself and her cat.  I was fascinated at the way she bared her soul to the internet as if it was some sort of all-you-can-eat blog-buffet (blogffet?) — and I was asking for seconds.

LiveJournal was like a genetic trigger for some vo­yeur­istic virus that had lain dormant in my system since birth.  I spent all day clicking through the cat girl’s profile to discover comments from other LiveJournals of kids in my grade.  I tried to guess who they were based on their cryptic usernames and grainy default pictures taken from awkward angles.  Before long, I set up my own account, began blogging about inappropriately intimate details of my life and never looked back.

Until now. After an hour of reading my old archived posts on, my high school self has guided my college self through two years of my life.  I cringe at the self-indulgent drama of every entry, as if everyone needed to know that my curfew of 10:30 p.m. sophomore year was ridiculous (it was). As I find myself getting pissed all over again at the boy who played ping—pong with his friends at the ninth grade activity night instead of slow-dancing with me, I stop myself and start thinking about what this experience has revealed (besides that I need to delete my account).

The point of these LiveJournals was to give high school kids an outlet, in a time of awkwardness, transition and emo music — an assurance that maybe someone, somewhere, was reading their thoughts. I think we’ll always have that intrinsic need to hope that someone else is listening to us. But can we ever really be sure that anyone is there? If a LiveJournal entry falls in the woods and no one is there to hear its angst, does it still provide relief and catharsis to the author?

It’s easy to put our faith in cyberspace, launching confirmation of our very existence off the shores of reality and into the sea of the internet with the hopes that someone will see it. But I don’t think we need reciprocation of communication at all to feel comfort — we just need to know that there is the potential for someone else out there to know we’re alive. We may never know that anyone has even seen what we’ve thrown out to the online gods, but at least we know we’ve put ourselves out there, and somewhere there is a little slice of cyberspace devoted just to us. Yay!

This validation of existence by anonymous others wa satisfied for me by LiveJournal in my early high school years; for others, it’s Twitter, or community service or going to church. Now, for me, it’s writing this column. I guess it’s like my own little way of asking the Cornell community for a friend request. And even if you initially reject me, too bad — my column will be back here in two weeks’ time, begging you to confirm my existence once more. So thank you, and please, keep reading — you too, Pres­ident Obama. RLD

Original Author: Lauren Barbato