I began using xanga in the summer of 2004. Before that, I had been using the relatively primitive diaryland to write and post my diaries and writings. I moved to xanga for a number of reasons, first being an unfortunate event involving a friend, when I wrote and posted something about her that caused some uproar among our group, and shortly afterwards I locked and closed my originally open and public diaryland. That event made me think a lot about the nature of online diaries, or as they were beginning to be called, blogs. At the same time, compared to diaryland or opendiary or the like, xanga was getting more and more popular among young people in Hong Kong, celebrating many new features including social functions such as subscriptions and groups, which were new and very appealing at the time. And so marking a new stage of life – my graduating from HKU and diaryland, I opened a free account with xanga, and began customizing and posting on my new blog page, which was to accompany me for a total of 10 years. I never thought I would stop using it, so essential it had become to my everyday life, or I should say, to my private and sentimental life. I can go so far as to say that my sanity depended solely upon it, being the one refuge for my youthful anguish and melancholy.
In many ways my xanga has been a portrait of me as a young woman. What I wrote, how I wrote, the language I used, the proportion of text and image, the photographs I posted, the online resources I posted from, the book quotations I posted, the purposeful posts intended for somebody, the meaningless posts intended for my own gratification, the public and private and semi-private posts, how I named my xanga, how I designed my xanga, the xangas I subscribed to, the groups I joined, the people I befriended through xanga, the people I stalked, how I spied the people who stalked me, the frequency of the posts, the panic to archive, the eventual negligence… all these mapped the internal changes and development through my turbulent twenties.
It is true that xanga has become less important to me now than in the beginning. Probably growing up has something to do with it – I am no longer that angry and melancholic youth to need this refuge anymore. With the advent of facebook, people stopped reading blog posts and turned to the much easier social network functions such as instant status posts and the like button. While hundreds of people viewed my xanga per day, now I can hardly find one footprint even if I shared my xanga post on facebook to boost traffic, while all the former xanga acquaintances either turned into facebook friends or simply vanished into thin air, never to be heard of again. This is just the trend: people are not willing to read or write text based blog posts anymore. When xanga first appeared, people joyed in discovering interesting anonymous blog writers that they can subscribe to and connect with, and it seemed that books and the traditional text based media were being substituted.
So, though I feel sad about this turn of events, it is perhaps just another historical stage we must face in this age of racing information technology. It is also time for us to reflect on the relationship between this fleeting technology, self-publishing on the internet and our own private histories. To me, I have always delighted in the interactions that revolved around my xanga, but at the end of the day, it is still this personal archive of me as a living individual. I read somewhere (not a xanga post) somebody was commenting on the fall of xanga, that even if he archived all his previous posts, he would not have the courage to look at them again, as the brazenness of one’s former self would be unbearable. Indeed, it might prove a difficult task to stand face to face with the past self, this self who was so ignorant and selfish, so pathetic and narcissist, so devoted and mistaken. But still, I would not for the world give up this sad little person who is also myself, without who I will never be who I am today. Very likely, after I have archived this 10 years of history, I would print it all out and have in bound into a personal copy. After 10 years of relationship with the digital and virtual, in the beginning of my thirties, I have finally decided that I prefer the more grounded, archaic form of the printed text on paper, which is, surprisingly, way more enduring than many of our contemporary digital containers. That this long and wordy xanga post in English, without embedding any internet language in vogue now, must be the testimony.