Ten years ago, around this time of year, I started my first ever online blog. Back then, I was just “SammyStorm,” and not “SammyStorm2″. Times have changed since then. I’m older (but not necessarily more mature), social networking has exploded, and Xanga.com is nearing its end (though it may survive in a different form). I don’t know what is going to happen, but Xanga may indeed cease to exist so I feel that is prudent to post these words while I still can.
I still remember clearly the circumstances surrounding the creation of my blog. I was living in a motel in rural Illinois at the time because we were waiting to close on our townhouse. I had heard about “blogs” but did not know much about them nor did I really read any blogs. One afternoon, I was lying on the bed and browsing the Internet on my laptop. My wife and dog were taking a nap, I believe. It was hot outside. I had searched for something on Google and somehow someone’s Xanga blog was one of the search results. I clicked on the link, and the rest is history.
Xanga made blogging very easy. All you needed is a username and password. Then it was up to you to pour content into your little section of the Internet. The thing that stood out for me was the novelty and satisfaction of being able to post your thoughts and receive feedback from strangers. I must have checked every half hour (who am I kidding? more like every five minutes to be honest) for new comments and eProps. While eProps were cool, the real goal was to receive comments. if someone took the time to leave a comment, it meant that they had read, at a minimum, at least a few of the sentences you had posted.
Xanga led me to have delusions of grandeur. With this new-found blogging tool, I felt like a real writer, a philosopher, a minor celebrity even. I cringe at my foolishness. But it was fun. Very fun.
Perhaps even more so than eProps and comments, the concept of having “friends” (subscribers) on Xanga was amazing. I could not believe that anyone would willingly subject themselves to my crazy ramblings, but somehow I managed to find a fairly close-knit group of Xangans online. There is so much diversity on Xanga, that finding people with interests and sensibilities close to your own was fairly easy — if you did not like someone’s blog you simply clicked through to the next.
Content varied, but some people seemed to have poured their hearts out into their Xanga pages to the point where you learned some fairly intimate details of their lives. I was probably the most guilty of unfiltered expressions of angst on my blog. The anonymity of my blog was a comfort to me. I wrote things on Xanga that I would never dare orally communicate to my real-life friends. As such, not only was Xanga fun, it was therapeutic. Stalkerish as it may sound, eventually it really did feel like your subscribers were your “friends.”
Most, if not all, of my former Xanga “friends” appear to have moved on. Their outdated blog entries are a bitter reminder that the best times of Xanga are long past. Yet I feel a strange sense of comfort, because I assume that they have all moved on to bigger and better things.
I have met three Xangans in person. The first, unbelievably, I ended up working with at a certain nameless place of employment. It was by pure chance that we ended up at the same place. I recognized this person from photos and descriptions of that person’s job they had posted on their blog. At first, I was hesitant in introducing myself because I did not want to scare this individual off. In the end, however, I felt that full disclosure was the best path. We are still friends today. The second individual was in my area for vacation with his family. It rained on the day we met, and I regret not being able to provide a better experience for that person. We still keep in touch on several other social networks though, and I feel lucky to have been able to interact in person. We’ll do it again someday. The third person was @Onigiriman (forgive me sir, for identifying you, hahaha). We met for a couple drinks and it turns out that he is even more of an amazing human being in person. Someday I hope to share another round of drinks with him. I have never met @jerjonji in person, but we have interacted by email. @jerjonji is an amazing writer and reading her blog posts are an inspiration.
There have been a few former Xangans who I have never met, but have gotten to know through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They live in various parts of the world and are living wonderful lives, it seems. Maybe someday I will also meet them in person, or maybe I won’t. Either way, my life is better for having interacted with them, in whatever form.
As for the Xangans who have faded away, perhaps forever, I am curious. Are they happy? Did they achieve their goals? Were they able to overcome the problems which they so often blogged about? I truly wish them the best.
Oh, what fun times we had. I looked forward to logging onto my account every morning. I acknowledge now that I placed far too much importance on Xanga, but perhaps it was necessary for me at the time. Xanga was my escape. It presented a chance for me to vent. I experimented on Xanga. I tried being a “real writer,” with varying degrees of success (mostly failures). Xanga was the therapy that I never sought out in real life. But most of all, it was just plain fun.
I laughed at funny anecdotes and stories. I celebrated when fellow bloggers wrote about their life successes. I was saddened when someone used Xanga as a forum to express their grief. We discussed movies, music, and current events. I joined a fantasy football league that some Xangans had organized. I have heard that some Xangas had local “meet-ups.” I never participated in these events because my subscribers were too spread out across the globe. Yet all I had to do was log in and suddenly I had access to all the interaction I needed.
I shared everything. Writing blog posts helped me deal with the stresses of law school, the ups and downs of marriage, and most of all, my inner conflicts — my subscribers were there for every step of the weird journey that has been my life. They were there to see my puppy grow up to be a full-grown dog. They left comforting comments when I vented about the difficulties of maintaining a successful marriage. They saw me move from one part of the country to another. Most of all, and also most embarrassingly, they became privy to some of the most darkest periods of my life. Xanga helped me document what I now realize were the early seeds of a mid-life crisis. Xanga was also my confessional, at times. Xanga was whatever you wanted it to be, really. Each type of blog – comedic, dramatic, photographic, even pornographic – had its merits. Every log-in was a different experience.
Comments were my drug, however. There is a strange satisfaction one feels when receiving feedback to something you have written. Perhaps Xanga fed my ego. Most, if not all, of the comments were supportive. This can be addicting. I looked forward to the positive reinforcement I received on a daily basis. Admittedly, I look back at some of my old blog posts and cringe at my immaturity. Hopefully I have grown a little. If Xanga were starting anew today instead of in 1999, I think I would have had a different experience. I probably would have been a little less dramatic, and been more truthful in my posts (not factually, but tonally). In the end, however, Xanga was the right forum for me at the right time in my life. I hope others feel the same way about their own Xanga experiences.
As time passed, my blogging habits changed. I went from posting multiple times a day, to daily, to once every other day, to weekly, to monthly, and ended up here, today. I had to spend a few minutes earlier trying to remember how to even start this post. I simply couldn’t find the button to click.
I prefer Xanga to Facebook, but everyone and their mother (sometimes literally) seemed to have moved on to Facebook. Twitter is a fun and easy to use microblogging site. LinkedIn is great for work. YouTube dominates the video realm. Instagram makes photo sharing easy. What happened to Xanga? Why did not they release a user-friendly mobile app? I have many questions but I refuse to criticize. It must have taken thousands of hours of work to make Xanga what it is today. I am grateful. It is simply that things have changed, on the Internet especially.
I no longer feel the desire to post “personal diary” type blog entries. Instead, most of my online activity now involves dogs, of all things. I am very active on Tumblr where I post canine-centric news stories on a daily basis. I also conduct interviews with dog shelters, volunteer organizations, and even a few celebrities. Xanga has added new features over recent years, but I feel my needs are met by other networks. I wish that Xanga was as active as it was at it peak, but it is not.
My visits to Xanga became infrequent because, simply put, I moved on with my life. I grew. I changed. I no longer needed to vent, or even if I did, I no longer felt the same satisfaction as I had in the past. Above all, my visits to Xanga became less frequent because other people started to visit less frequently. Updates started to become more sporadic, blog posts started to become abbreviated, and comments started to dwindle. I felt sad, at first, but the void was readily filled with the rise of other social networks. We all moved on.
There is still a chance that Xanga may survive in a different form. If I were to once again feel the urge to post “diary” type entries, then perhaps Xanga 2.0 will be useful. However, I do not know if I will migrate over to this new format, if it ever materializes. Perhaps it is best if I simply say “goodbye” and bring this amazing journey to a close. I am on Tumblr at dogjournal.tumblr.com, on Twitter @HawaiiSammy, and on Instagram @HawaiiSammy. Please reach out to me if you so desire.
I once thought that I would be on Xanga forever. Yet today it appears that through the tears, through the laughter, and through all the crazy, fun, and amazing times, we have finally reached The End.
Thanks for reading.