There was a time before Facebook existed, when MySpace dominated the internet as an outlet for teens and bands to express themselves. But for those of us who were weary of seeing pictures of scantily-clad 14 year olds, there was another option- Xanga. When I first started Xanga in high school, it was my first experience blogging. I wanted to start blogging because all of my friends were doing it, because I wanted to leave somewhat of a legacy behind, and because I liked the idea of traveling through time to fix your mistakes. Over the years, Xanga died down in popularity and many of my friends left (leading me to seriously question my decision to have paid $100 for lifetime Xanga premium). Not only that, but I never got to experience time travel either. None the less, I have to admit that Xanga has served as a great place throughout the years for me to record my memories and express my feelings. Even though looking at past entries usually causes me to shake my head and scoff at myself or feel embarrassed at the person I used to be, Xanga remains to be a collection of memories and emotions expressed from a unique first-person perspective. It allows me to see myself as I once was, and to see the world as I once did. I guess in that way, it kind of is like time travel.
It’s been quite a journey- life, and the reflection of my life recorded on Xanga, and even how Xanga broke through the fourth wall and affected my life in return. Like all interesting journeys, its had its ups and downs; but in hindsight, even the downs become fond nostalgia. In my youth, I lacked insight into the deeper motivations and desires I had for blogging, and I also lacked discretion… and maybe common sense as well. Back then, I didn’t understand the difference between a journal and a blog. Since all teens assume themselves to be the center of the universe do, my friends blogged about themselves, and so did I. I remember many times when the things I wrote caused so much drama or got me into so much trouble. A lot of people got upset at me for sharing the things that I did because it involved them. I remember the pastor from my ultra-conservative, restrictive, controlling Baptist church would go through my entries and use the things that I wrote against me. I remember the frustration and anguish I felt and how I spending hours and hours going through and clicking every entry and changing it to private, before the days of more advanced privacy control were introduced. Xanga has taught me that putting yourself out there means running the risk of offending others or getting hurt, but it has also taught me that it can sometimes be worth it. Some people responded to my raw entries with compassion, appreciation, or being able to identify with me. I became closer friends with people who would have otherwise just passed me by, and I maintained and even strengthened friendships with friends who were far away.
For me, Xanga was a place for me to express myself, update my friends on my life, share amusing stories or my perspective and opinion on certain things, or talk about the things that are interesting to me. But when you start putting all of that together in a chronological order, something magical happens. It becomes more than just a collection of snapshots of my thoughts. Over time it evolves to show progression, and progression is a key element of any story. Xanga tells the story of my life- the things I used to be interested in and how some of those things have changed or new interests have arisen; how I used to view myself and the world and how my perspective has grown and changed as I grew up; and all the ways in which I’m totally different and yet in some core ways, remained essentially the same person. In particular, I’ve noticed how my writing style has developed and improved over the years. I wanted to bring special attention to this because I feel like I owe a lot of that to Xanga. While I’m sure the tens of thousands of dollars my parents poured into my undergrad education had something to do with it, there’s something special about writing on Xanga. In the back of my mind, I know that I am writing for an audience, so, even though I’ve always strived to be completely genuine (out of my own desire for accurate historical documentation), there’s a desire to put out the best work possible. Whether it’s an amusing story I want to share, a personal experience I’m going through, or my thoughts on a particular topic, I want my posts to be as fun and easy to read as possible. Well, I guess I can’t control whether the content of what I have to say would be found interesting to others or not, but at the very least, I didn’t want sloppy presentation to be a hindrance to others being able to understand what I want to share. These desires were lying underneath the surface, unbeknownst to me, but it has propelled me to learn to organize my thoughts, prioritize certain ideas, and be succinct and focused. In essence, most of the Xanga posts were written with effort, and I believe over time that practice has done more for my writing skills then the 23958th psychology paper I half-assed the night before it was due. So thank you, Xanga, for making me a better writer, and helping me refine one of my most cherished skills.
In case you’re wondering where all this feel-good sappy Xanga stuff came from, especially after disappearing for the past year and a half or so and not blogging, it’s because a couple weeks ago I came across this article that said Xanga was shutting down. My
first second thought was that I had to write a post to honor Xanga for all those years of sentimental value, and that I had better start doing some research on the next blog site that I would migrate to. (In case you’re wondering, my first thought was, “OK, now I really feel foolish for buying Lifetime Xanga Premium”.) As I did more research, I discovered that Xanga wasn’t really shutting down after all, but that they had succeeded their fund-easing initiative to transfer Xanga over to WordPress and rename it as Xanga 2.0. Nonetheless, as this is a time of reevaluation and transition for Xanga, it will be so for my blog life as well. When I first started Xanga, I didn’t have a concrete idea what purpose it would serve or what it would accomplish. (Just like how back then, I didn’t have a clear idea of my place in this world or my purpose, but now I do- “dawww”) I now know that I’d like to occasionally update a blog to share my interests, values, and opinions, as well as a place to update others on my life. I also have the discernment to separate that from a journal, which I will probably keep in good old fashioned pen-and-notebook form- a place where I will do all of my soul-searching and reflecting unhindered by the pressure of proper presentation, fear of being judged or offending someone, or the chance of being biased or swayed from knowing that my thoughts would be read. Lacking that distinction in the past has resulted in a very raw and unique Xanga, one which I will always treasure for all the memories associated with it. But perhaps that’s the best place for it now, as a reservoir of memories and an opportunity to feel embarrassed by looking at old posts. Perhaps I will search out something more fitting for my next stage in life and my new purposes for a blog, something more professional and refined. Though I will miss my Xanga’s overly dramatic customization with pictures of myself in the background, rain drops or snowflake gifs falling across the page, and emo music playing in the background.
Maybe I’ll come crawling back to Xanga one day, but for now, you can find my new blog post at WordPress.com or Blogger. I haven’t decided which one to commit to yet, but popularity amongst peers will probably huge sway in my decision.