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From Xanga to Facebook to Tumblr: How have you grown up through social networks?

By Katie Rogers
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(Washington Post illustration)

By Katie Rogers

Updated! Your blog entries are at the end of this post.

Somewhere between the birth of that first gymnasium-size computer and the half-inch-thin iPad, humans have figured out how to expedite the formerly tedious processes of interaction, courtship and self-expression using social networks and blogs.

Going wired is now easier than ever, but is digital attachment necessarily a good thing? Writer and Washington Post Style Tumblr-er Monica Hesse observes this week that the aggressive onslaught of new-and-not-so-improved networking options might actually end up inspiring an Amish lifestyle -- or whatever the millennial equivalent would be. (Analog?)

From Friendster to Xanga to Google Wave to Tumblr, we're constantly presented with sites that seem to advertise themselves as solutions. Not that there was ever really a problem in the first place.

Yet each new incarnation of the next big thing drives people to dive in to the latest, greatest site.

I thought I'd pause for a minute to examine the social networks I've adopted over the course of my digital life. Though similar in purpose, each one feels like its own little incarnation.

For instance, the first blog site I joined was called Diaryland. The site was (and is) horrible to look at and the content is equally as embarrassing -- it tells me that in high school, I was obsessed with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, horrible knitted outerwear and boxed hair dye.

I switched to LiveJournal, where I behaved a little differently, posting pictures of ridiculous college antics, ex-boyfriends and, well, future ex-friends.

The same pattern goes for MySpace, Facebook, WordPress and anything else that came after -- a little older, and only marginally wiser.

How different were we when social networks were just getting started, and who are we now? Participate in this experiment (a very unscientific study in digital breadcrumbs, if you will) and we'll round up some of the most creative responses, then-and-now style. Use #digitalbreadcrumbs on Twitter to send us your short thoughts about social media. (Ironic, I know.)

To get you started, here's mine:
Then: "I want to go dancing around in a big goofy hat and scarf. This is the only positive thing I can see about winter, wearing ridiculous, huge knitted things from H & M."
Diaryland, Oct. 15, 2003

Now: "I just kind of want to cancel my Internet, buy a rotary phone and sit around waiting for people to call me."
Tumblr, Oct. 19, 2010

Update: Some of you completed this experiment, and the responses were as quirky and interesting as I'd hoped. Here are some of my favorites:


  • First line of your first blog: "My friend Jen is selling Christmas cookies." Movable Type December 2001
    Last line of your most recent blog: "This would have changed my life when I was 10" Tumblr, Oct. 19, 2010
    How have you changed? "I'm pretty sure this shows no evolution whatsoever."



  • First line of your first blog:"Hello online journal! I'm gonna tell you about my day today. Today was hectic if anything. I'm gonna get the negative aspects out of the way first..." LiveJournal, Sept. 22, 2002
    Last line of your most recent blog: "DMV inspection station. [Luck is ethereal.]" Tumblr, Feb. 4, 2010
    How have you changed?
    "My first blog was an online journal, my newest is a photoblog. I've also graduated from high school and college so I've changed quite a bit. There are threads of myself I recognize but all in all I'm a completely different people. I think you can say that would happen no matter what type of social media a person used...given how much time has passed."



  • First line of your first blog:"Hey everyone whats up?...jut chillin in comp class..but yea i just wantd to post my first and say that the musicla FAME! KICKS ASS!!!!" LiveJournal, March 2004
    Last line of your most recent blog:"However, I would love to hear your thoughts on this trend of testosterone and predictions for the next big thing." WordPress, September 2010
    How have you changed?"Wow, I haven't been to my livejournal in years! I have grown up considerably! I may not feel grown up but WOW, that a change. Also I can apparently spell better now."



  • First line of your first blog:"The first "social network" I joined was Neopets when I was eight. I don't even remember by username to log in and check..."
    Last line of your most recent blog:" 'Love isn't real,' my editor said, and I disagree." Tumblr 2010
    How have you changed?"My melodramatic tendencies have a more colorful language attached."



  • First line of your first blog:"Hey everyone! , well i read lindsey g's so i decided i needed one too!" Xanga, Aug. 8, 2002
    Last line of your most recent blog: New names were acquired- lobster legs, two toned (bright red shins, pale calves), tourist legs." Tumblr, January 2010
    How have you changed?"WOW. First of all, it took some major mind picking (and perhaps a facebook message to a friend) to find my old xanga... My writing style is dramatically different--I was entering 8th grade, and now, I am a senior in college. Oh, and apparently I thought it was cool to use curse words."



  • First line of your first blog:"This is Gertrude. [Accompanied by photo of our cat, I'm sorry to say.]" Blogger, August 2004
    Last line of your most recent blog: "Who wants to read this book with me?" Twitter
    How have you changed?"Enormously! My job today is much more like my dream job that I ever thought it could be. I am pursuing a graduate degree. I have a book contract and my husband just published his first book; both creative ventures are supported by our blogs. We still have the cat, and I still take too many photos of her, but I don't post them on the web any more."

By Katie Rogers  | October 21, 2010; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  Your Take  
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