Was thinking earlier about why I read my Dreamwidth friends list regularly but never seem to participate. Part of it is that I have some notion I'm supposed to post, like, life updates and "things I accomplished this [time period]" roundups and mini-review catalogues of Things Read/Watched/Played. Which seems to be what most other people on my flist use theirs for. But Christ
that sounds like homework to my brain, and also a great way to kick off a depression spiral even though RL is going fine right now, so I lurk rather than show my face without having done the homework.
I realize, rationally, and also in my gut now that I've written it out, that that is dumb. Blogging is freeform. I could hit-and-run with random shower thoughts every two weeks, say nary a word about life or activity roundups, and pass it off as ~maintaining my mystique~ if anyone says anything, which they won't. But the other thing I'm realizing as I haunt various platforms in the wake of the Tumblrpocalypse is that the culture of a platform matters
. You can
post whatever the hell you want, but you get more out of the space if you use it in dialogue with what the existing userbase is doing there.
Back when the Tumblr exodus was still actively underway, I found myself in various Discord servers trying to Explain Dreamwidth to stressed-out Tumblr users. These were smart people who were happy to explore the features, but unsure how those features translated into norms of interaction, content discovery, and what-to-post-where. And I remember being baffled
by how intimidated many of them were about posting to communities. To them, friending individual blogs was the natural first step, but comms were A Whole Fucking Thing they were wary to intrude on, like submitting yourself for the approval of judgemental classmates. And I was going "?!?!?!" It's a complete inversion of how seriousness and intimacy worked on LJ, right? Your journal was your combination front porch/living room/blanket fort in the bedroom, a personal space with varying degrees of privacy and choosiness about audience, because it was About You. One of those degrees was "public," but a version of "public" that rude guests would still be intruding on. A "public" where introductions weren't really required, but it still wasn't uncommon for random strangers who'd stumbled across your post to preface their comments with "Hi, I found you through X, hope it's not creepy that I'm butting in," and in fact friendships were frequently made that way. Comms were where you slapped your fandom shitposts and casual discussion about topics of common interest, where random people with no prior acquaintance could interact with it on the basis of shared interest alone. Where it wasn't About You, it was about the thing everyone was there to talk about.
But then the shitposts, and memes, and shower thoughts, and reactions to newly-released canon, and casual discussion threads... moved to Tumblr. And the people who were attached to LJ-style fandoming moved to Dreamwidth. And trickled away by attrition as more and more fans sucked it up and moved to where the center of gravity was, no matter how hatefully obtuse Tumblr-as-a-platform was for their (okay, our) purposes. The more this happened, the more overwhelmingly DW got skewed towards people and activities that relied heavily on the LJ features Tumblr lacked. And the more that
happened, the less DW actually resembled old-school LJ in the ways it was functionally used. Which I didn't notice, or didn't see the full implications of, even as it happened under my nose.
So those stressed-out Tumblr refugees were reading the room way better than I was. If all the low-friction, casual fan activity has migrated to Tumblr, what's left in Dreamwidth communities? Mostly things that Dreamwidth has the infrastructure to support and Tumblr is iffy for:
- Events with lots of logistics and participant-wrangling: fests, bangs, exchanges, etc.
- Structured mod-run activities like weekly prompt challenges and roundup newsletters.
- "Submit stuff on a particular theme in a specified format" communities like fandomsecrets
that had built their momentum in the LJ days.
- (Kinkmemes and anon memes, which depend on unorthodox use of a very specific set of comment features. And also need to be checked on their own rather than having their activity integrated into your feed, so even though they're major activity hubs, they don't really function as comms.)
- And promos. Promos for comms, for events, for fic and fanart and graphics, for friending memes, always for ways to find and produce content somewhere else
than the comm they're posted to.Dreamwidth comms are a communal noticeboard and sign-up sheet for structured, supervised activities
. Of course
Tumblr-native fans were intimidated and clocked them as a formal, official Thing. I missed it, because LiveJournal comms skewed more towards rowdy after-school sci-fi clubs. But the culture of a platform resides in how it's used.
I don't know where I'm going with this, except that I miss LJ comm culture and it doesn't exist on DW. The features exist, but the critical mass of people using them that way
doesn't. And the old LJ norms of public/private, intimacy, openness to public comment, what to post where, and where to look for what... just don't apply anymore. They haven't for a long time, thanks to modern social media. It's seductive to assume DW is a holdover version of oldschool LJ culture because it looks and sounds familiar, but the surface continuity masks huge changes in the norms of everyday usage.
My point here is not that any particular group of fans--Tumblr natives, DW holdouts, LJ-to-Tumblr migrants, Tumblr-to-DW migrants--is "to blame" for the most off-putting differences between the various platform cultures. People went where they went, and usage was most heavily shaped by platform features in combination with what kind of activity was concentrated there. I guess it's more... wistfulness, that LJ along with forums were my native mode of fandoming, to the point where following the center of fan activity over to Tumblr and adapting to its alien methods of interaction was extremely painful and frustrating. And now the DW mode of fandoming that evolved away from the center of activity turns out to be just as alien to me.
I can't do activity round-ups and regular mini-reviews of my Recently Read/Watched list. I'm not up for RL updates that are actually meant to keep anyone up-to-date. I can't do structured fanwork exchanges. I'm not wired for it--it's the most efficient way to turn what I do for fun into one massive stress/guilt/inferiority complex. Yeah, blogging is freeform, be the change you want to see, etc, and believe me if I end up with a project burning a hole in my head that's suited for Dreamwidth, I'll be delighted to post it here. If half a dozen other people want to make a DW comm just for fandom shitposting and casual discussion, I'll give it a go.
But I'm starting to accept that there's a reason I don't post here anymore. I don't like
that that's so--I want a fandom home. Discord as the emerging hub of casual discussion is an ephemeral, undiscoverable nightmare, even though it's a really good chat system. Dreamwidth is open-source, self-funded, somewhat interoperable with other sites, has both personal and moderated-communal spaces, balances discoverability with privacy controls, is fantastic for durable threaded discussion... but I can't do fandom the way it seems to be done here right now. And I'm not sure how hard I want to swim against the tide.
(Comments welcome, you are not butting in, etc. But bear in mind that this is more personal musing than any kind of coherent declaration about fandom cultures. If it gets linked to as meta, so be it, but indignant attempts to rebut whatever axe you imagine I'm grinding will be accorded exactly as much patience as they deserve.)